Opinions expressed on this blog are my own and do not represent any other organization or affiliation I may have.

Thursday 28 February 2013

Cell Phone Graphic Organizer - Cute!

I thought this was neat! It reminds me of social media activities I have done with students in the past. I have done facebook templates with students, where they created a facebook page (fakebook) for a character in a novel. Some students also did twitter feeds and interacted with each other as different characters in the book may have. This takes it one step further in describing the character by what apps they may have on their phone, who's in their address book, etc. etc. Cool printable...

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Busy Work Ideas for TTOCs to try

In the Reality 101 workshop I do for TTOCs we talk about what is in our 'Bag of Tricks' and how we stand out and connect with students in a variety of classes.

I always enjoy hearing some strategies new teachers and TTOCs use. I remember, to this day, a TTOC (sub) I had as a child who drew a parrot on the board. She told us if we worked hard that day she would teach us how to draw the parrot.... and she did! She taught us in a simple, step-by-step way that I still remember and doodle! So, of course, it is something I enjoy doing and when I return to a school, kids REMEMBER me teaching them to draw this parrot!

Another thing I like to pull out from time to time is sign language. As a kid, a boy in my class had a sister who was deaf and I learned some basic signs and the alphabet. My nephew is partially deaf and learns sign language with my sister, so I like to practice with them also. Sometimes I will teach students the letter their name starts with, or colours, or something basic they can use. 

Something else I have seen done by a TTOC friend of mine (though I don't have the skills to make it happen) is teaching the kid origami... love it!

Here are some more Busy Work Ideas:

  • Classroom Contest
  • Teach First Aid
  • Teach About Animals
  • Teach Foreign Phrases
  • Explore Encyclopedias
  • "What if" Talk / Essays
  • Read a Story
  • Draw Pictures
  • Make Improvised Music
  • Write / Read Limericks
  • Write Story
  • View Optical Illusions
  • Perform Magic
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Word Search Puzzle(s)
  • Play Bingo
  • Jigsaw Puzzles
  • Play Hangman
  • Paper Airplanes (Contest)
  • Sing a Song
  • Play 20 Questions
  • Teach Juggling
  • Draw On Chalkboard

  • (From Substitute Teaching Tricks of the Trade) 

    Tuesday 26 February 2013

    Cool Site: Spelling City

    Spelling City allows teachers to upload weekly spelling lists — Awesome, I know! — for free!!!
    1. this allows parents/students quick access to words at home
    2. this creates a wonderful opportunity for independent practice
    3. this website can be used for a center activity
    4. this gives no excuses for students who “forgot their list at school”
    5. this provides games at your fingertips (which you did not have to create!)
    6. this gives substitutes an easy way to create a spelling/language arts center 

    Check this out:


    Day of Pink in British Columbia - Anti-bullying day

    Tomorrow I will wear pink. To stand up to bullies. To celebrate diversity. To teach acceptance. TO raise awareness. To make a positive change. Tomorrow I will wear pink.

    My post last year talked about how I use my experiences being bullied and even bullying as discussion openers with students.

    Tomorrow my class, along with dozens in our district will attend "Kindness Rocks" concert at Gleneagle Secondary School. Also (I stole this idea from a teacher friend on facebook) I am going to fill little candy bags in pink tissue paper with a note that says "Some kids are gay, and that's okay"

    Day of Pink

    February 27, 2013 marks the Day of Pink in British Columbia, and April 10 is the International Day of Pink. It is a day where communities across the province, across the country and across the world can unite to celebrate diversity and raise awareness to stop bullying in all its forms, including homophobic and transphobic bullying.

    The International Day of Pink got its start in Nova Scotia when two straight high school students saw a gay student wearing a pink shirt being bullied. The two students intervened, but wanted to do more to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying. They decided to purchase pink shirts, and a few days later got everyone at school to stand in solidarity by showing up in pink. The result was that an entire school came together to stop homophobic and transphobic bullying.

    People wear pink on these days to remember that positive actions make a difference, and each one of us can make positive change to end bullying. Homophobic and transphobic bullying have not always been addressed as widely as other forms of bullying, but change is possible.

    Respect your parents...

    This made me giggle...

    It raises an interesting topic though... recently I did Public Speaking with my grade 8 class. One students speech sounded quite plagiarized and upon a quick 'google search' the entire paragraph was found, word-for-word. We had the talk about why this was wrong (we had already had the talk before research started, but that is besides the point) the students new speech sounded more like the student and less like a poorly written article on google search.

    Monday 25 February 2013


    As a TTOC you want to have a "Bag of Tricks" and riddles are certainly one way to fill time, stand out, entertain, get students thinking and help with transitions.... 

    5 minute mysteries are also fun and work a bit better with older students.

    Riddles (Answers are at the bottom of the page)
    From a Packet for Substitute Teachers

    1. What goes up and down stairs without moving?
    2. Give it food and it will live; give it water and it will die.
    3. What can you catch but not throw?
    4. I run, yet I have no legs. What am I?
    5. Take one out and scratch my head, I am now black but once was red.
    6. Remove the outside, cook the inside, eat the outside, throw away the inside.
    7. What goes around the world and stays in a corner?
    8. What gets wetter the more it dries?
    9. The more there is, the less you see.
    10. They come at night without being called and are lost in the day without being stolen.
    11. What kind of room has no windows or doors?
    12. I have holes on the top and bottom. I have holes on my left and on my right. And I have holes in the middle, yet I still hold water. What am I?
    13. I look at you, you look at me, I raise my right, you raise your left. What is this object?
    14. It has no top or bottom but it can hold flesh, bones, and blood all at the same time. What is this object?
    15. The more you take the more you leave behind.
    16. Light as a feather, there is nothing in it; the strongest man can't hold it for much more than a minute.
    17. As I walked along the path I saw something with four fingers and one thumb, but it was not flesh, fish, bone, or fowl.
    18. What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps?
    19. I went into the woods and got it, I sat down to seek it, I brought it home with me because I couldn't find it.
    20. What can fill a room but takes up no space?
    21. It is weightless, you can see it, and if you put it in a barrel it will make the barrel lighter?
    22. No sooner spoken than broken. What is it?
    23. Only two backbones and thousands of ribs.
    24. Four jolly men sat down to play, And played all night till the break of day. They played for cash and not for fun, With a separate score for every one. When it came time to square accounts, They all had made quite fair amounts. Now, not one has lost and all have gained, Tell me, now, this can you explain?
    25. Jack and Jill are lying on the floor inside the house, dead. They died from lack of water. There is shattered glass next to them. How did they die?
    26. Why don't lobsters share?
    27. A barrel of water weighs 20 pounds. What must you add to it to make it weigh 12 pounds?
    28. Big as a biscuit, deep as a cup, Even a river can't fill it up. What is it?
    29. Clara Clatter was born on December 27th, yet her birthday is always in the summer. How is this possible?
    30. He has married many women but has never married. Who is he?
    31. If a rooster laid a brown egg and a white egg, what kind of chicks would hatch?
    32. If you have it, you want to share it. If you share it, you don't have it. What is it?
    33. You can't keep this until you have given it.
    34. Take off my skin, I won't cry, but you will. What am I?
    35. What book was once owned by only the wealthy, but now everyone can have it? You can't buy it in a bookstore or take it from the library.
    36. What can go up and come down without moving?
    37. What do you fill with empty hands?
    38. What do you serve that you can't eat?
    39. What do you throw out when you want to use it but take in when you don't want to use it?
    40. What goes up and never comes down?
    41. What has a foot on each side and one in the middle?
    42. What has to be broken before it can be used?
    43. What kind of coat can be put on only when wet?
    44. What question can you never answer "yes" to?
    45. What's the greatest worldwide use of cowhide?
    46. Which is correct to say, "The yolk of the egg are white?" or "The yolk of the egg is white?"
    47. You answer me, although I never ask you questions. What am I?

    1. Carpet
    2. Fire
    3. A cold
    4. A nose
    5. A match
    6. Corn
    7. A stamp
    8. Towel
    9. Darkness
    10. Stars
    11. A mushroom
    12. A sponge
    13. A mirror
    14. A ring
    15. Footsteps
    16. Breath
    17. Glove
    18. River
    19. Splinter
    20. Light
    21. A hole
    22. Silence
    23. Railroad
    24. Four men in a dance band
    25. Jack and Jill are goldfish.
    26. They're shellfish.
    27. Holes
    28. A kitchen strainer
    29. She lives in the Southern Hemisphere.
    30. A priest
    31. None. Roosters don't lay eggs.
    32. A secret
    33. A promise
    34. An onion
    35. A telephone book
    36. The temperature
    37. Gloves
    38. A tennis ball
    39. An anchor
    40. Your age
    41. A yardstick
    42. An egg
    43. A coat of paint
    44. "Are you asleep?"
    45. To hold cows together
    46. Neither, the yolks are yellow.
    47. A telephone  

    Sunday 24 February 2013

    Time Telling Lessons

     There are a number of awesome sites, worksheets, and games to try to teach time-telling. I find these useful if you are teaching primary where this skill is often learned and reviewed. As a TTOC it is an easy math lesson when all else fails.

    Check out:




    This site shares some great ideas:

    • Students can Stop The Clock and record the time displayed. 
    • Can they tell the difference between two times?  Test their skills by playing another game on the same website. 
    • They can also play Bang on the Clock to stop the clock at the correct time.  Adjust the clock hands' speed to make it more challenging. 

    Saturday 23 February 2013

    ipad apps for Story Telling

    Technology Tailgate posted these great ipad stroytelling apps:

    Storytelling apps are one of the most powerful aspects of the iPad. They allows for collaboration and creativity that I couldn't really achieve before using the iPad. Here are some of my favorite Storytelling Apps. 
    Feltboard (examples HERE and HERE)
    Skitch ...for labeling ( example HERE)
    Sock Puppets (example HERE)
    Little Bird Tales (post with examples HERE from web tool but app is similar)

    Friday 22 February 2013

    Time-Filler: Word Chart

    Here is a great time-filler that is educational and fun and can be done in the moment with little planning.

    1. Think of 5 categories for words. Write them down the left side of your paper.
    2. Write a word (preferably with no repeating letters) on the top of the page, each letter is a column
    3. Add lines to make a chart.
    4. Students come up with words that fit the category in the row and start with the letter in the column.

    It is nice to do around themes (this one was around Valentines Day) but you can also do themes for subject areas or random words.

    It's a fun, but educational time-filler you can do with little to no supplies.

    Another added challenge is to give points to people who have words no one else has, this challenges them to come up with less common words and be creative.

    Here is an example

    Thursday 21 February 2013

    Science Cycles...

    There are so many fun ways to teach Science. Two years ago when I was teaching Grade 6/7 at middle school I got a great activity from a teacher in my community. It was the Rock Cycle and each person started off as a rock and would go to different stations and roll dice to see what happened to them as a rock.

    For example they would go down a river and break down or they would erupt from volcano and so on and so forth. They record where they travel to and why, this helps understand how rocks erode or compact and how they move between sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rock.  In the end they did a comic on their journey as a rock.

    Here are some samples:

    I blogged about this project before - see here.

     Well, there is a similar activity for the water cycle that I saw this on a blog:

    I absolutely adore the water cycle simulation game.  There are several free versions of this on the web, but my favorite is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  You put up signs in different parts of your room for lake, soil, river, plants, ocean, etc.  Each station has a cube to roll.  Students travel through the water cycle as a drop of water.

    As a TTOC this would be a fun science lesson to plan and have to use if/when you need it.

    One Member, One Vote in the BCTF?


    The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is reviewing its election procedures and a controversial call for every member to have a vote in leadership races.
    But don’t expect speedy changes.
    A staff report is to be discussed by the BCTF executive during a meeting this week and debated at the union’s annual general meeting in March. The report was ordered after the last AGM when there was a battle for the top job between the incumbent Susan Lambert and former Abbotsford president Rick Guenther.

    Guenther lost for a number of reasons (including the fact the union was in the midst of tense contract talks), but his defeat in 2012 brought calls for a more democratic election process. As it now stands, only delegates to the annual general meeting are entitled to vote. They number about 700 and tend to be activists who back the reigning Coalition faction of the BCTF. All of the union’s table officers have come from the Coalition since David Chudnovsky ousted incumbent president Kit Krieger in 1999. Apart from last year, when it seemed the popular Guenther, an independent candidate, had a chance for victory, the results have been predictable -as they are again this year.

    After Guenther’s loss,  some BCTF members began calling for a more democratic election process that would give all 38,000 members a vote, and they started a Facebook page called One Member One Vote. (It’s a closed group with just over 500 members.)
    The report that will go before the executive during a meeting Thursday and Friday includes a history of BCTF voting procedures and a review of how other unions choose their leaders, second vice-president Glen Hansman told me. I haven’t seen the document and don’t know if it includes recommendations. It’s to go before the AGM in Vancouver on March 16-19 where it might spark motions for change.

    Even if that happens, no immediate impact is expected and the line of succession will continue (barring some totally unexpected event). Jim Iker, who spent three years as second vice-president and three years as first vice-president, is the only candidate to replace Lambert when she retires at the end of June. Hansman, second vice-president, will replace Iker as first vice-president and president-in-waiting.

    Among the three table officer positions, only that of second vice-president is contested. The Coalition’s Denise Moffatt is in competition with Teri Mooring, who is part of the One Member, One Vote group.

     Personally, I am interested in exploring ways to give more teachers a voice.

    As an activist who has attended 6 AGMs (during my Spring Break), I feel it is difficult to fully represent all teachers in my local. Although I am an elected (or acclaimed) delegate, I still feel it is impossible to represent so many teachers.

    700 some-odd teachers across BC go to the AGM and make decisions for all teachers across the Province.... I would love to investigate other ways to handle business that would allow more teachers to have a vote - starting with one member, one vote for our BCTF Executive Committee.

    Often decisions not dealt with at the AGM are moved to Rep Assemblies or to the Executive Committee to handle. If we practice a true democracy and allow one member, one vote, to choose our BCTF EC, then we have all had a say in who will lead us.

    What If....

    Another facebook find.... I wonder sometimes about things like this....

    Wednesday 20 February 2013

    Yahoo Article: Substitute Teacher Bag without breaking the bank

    I saw a block link up to this article. Although it is American and written in 2007, it is worth a read.... Obviously disregard the parts that do not apply...

    In the world of substitute teaching, being prepared is half the battle. Your substitute teaching bag can help make the difference between a smooth day and the day from hell. At the same time, substitute teachers are not known for earning fabulous amounts of money, so packing a substitute teaching bag needs to be inexpensive as well. Here are some tips on how to pack the perfect frugal substitute teacher bag:

    1. Pick the right bag: Pick a bag that looks professional. Your ratty tote back that says "I Love to Shop" on the side may be functional, but it will not look professional. Decide on the type of bag that fits you. Do you want a backpack? There are many professional looking backpacks on the market these days. Would you like a briefcase, or a really large purse? Make sure the bag is roomy enough to hold all your necessities, but not so big that you have to dig through it every time you need a pencil. Take a look in your closet- do you already have a bag that will work? If not, check thrift stores, yard sales, consignment shops, and e-bay. I have a large leather messenger bag that I found at a thrift store for under ten dollars.

    2.Get two small plastic school supply boxes, in two different colors. You can find these at back to school sales and dollar stores.

    3.Pick up some basic school supplies: Never assume that what you need will be available to you in the classroom. I have chalk, dry erase markers, notebook paper, erasers, markers, colored pencils, pencils, pens, gluesticks, a small pencil sharpener, and crayons. I have used every one of these things at least once. One of the most inexpensive ways to get these items is to shop during back to school sales. I paid .20 cents for the name brand crayons, .10 cents for a twelve pack of pencils, and .10 cents for three glue sticks. I spent less than five dollars for all the supplies together. If you teach elementary school, having a digital thermometer and some thermometer covers may also be useful, as many school nurses will only see students if they have a fever or are throwing up. Eliminate having students out of your room unnecessarily by taking their temperature before you write a nurse pass. Having Band-Aids and latex gloves would also be useful, especially if you work with younger ages. Put your school supplies in one of the plastic school supply boxes. If you missed the back to school sales, try the dollar store, discount stores, and thrift stores. Yard sales also have these types of items surprisingly often.

    4. Think about your personal needs: I recommend that you use the second plastic school supply box for small personal items. Keep small change, cough drops, headache medicine, tampons, etc in this box. I recommend getting the no water needed medications, such as Tylenol to Go, as you do not know if you will have water with you or a chance to grab a drink while you are teaching. I also keep a few granola bars and other snack foods in my box to keep the temptation to hit the vending machine down.

    5. Have Something for the Kids To Do: When I started subbing, the district recommend that I buy a few (very expensive) workbooks for different age groups to keep the kids busy in an idle moment. I simply went online and found free worksheets for various age groups. Since I usually do not have access to a copier, I looked for things that I would not need copies. By having lessons and activities that I could easily write on the board, I eliminated the need for having enough copies on hand of something I may or may not use. I also have a few books that appeal to several age groups, like Shel Silverstein poems. Make sure that your books and stories are not too long, as many idle moments are ten minutes or less. Buy the books at yard sales, thrift stores, and Friends of the Library sales. Thrift stores and yard sales are also an excellent place to find flashcards, trivia cards, and other quick and easy small items to keep students occupied.

    6. Get a whistle: You may be taking students out to recess, or subbing for PE. This inexpensive item will make this part of your job much easier.

    Keep your bag packed and ready at all times, and you will be ready for any job at a moment's notice. Whether you just substitute teach here and there for extra money, or make a career of it, the organized substitute bag can make your job much easier. There is no reason that you have to break the bank to be the most organized substitute teacher in your district!

    I have blogged before about a "Bag of Tricks" and while much is listed here I would also include running shoes for teaching gym, waterbottle, some stickers or a stamp, a few easy games - I always have a bean bag ball for various games, a good picture book, a deck of cards, and some dice.


    Teacher's Hall Pass

    Found this cool blog post on some teacher blogs I follow and decided to participate.... HALL PASS for teachers....

    I love my SMARTboard in my class. It allows me to experiment with so many interactive lessons.

    Right now it is the "nobility table" We are doing "The Feudal Games" and each student has a role in the system. The king and queen have a large table in the corner of class where they can oversee everyone and it is near the teachers desk so it is nice.

    Right now it is just a simple "regardez moi" then "ecoutez" because I teach them FSL (French) I like to use those commands throughout the day.

    Is it a cop out to say my prep block? Last block of the day is prep and it is often when I eat my lunch (finally) and update our class website with homework and copy tomorrow (or next weeks) handouts and create SMARTboard lessons and get organized. Also, the SEA in my class is amazing and keeps me sane, it is great having another adult in the room some of the day to work with.

    VIA http://tunstalltimes.blogspot.ca/2013/02/hall-pass-linky.html

    BINGO Trivia

    If you have read my blog long, you will know that one thing I really enjoy is creating engaging activities out of otherwise "boring" classes.

    As a Teacher-Teaching-On-Call (TTOC aka substitute) you often go into a class and are left with students in a "study block" or where they are doing a "review worksheet" Often this has students bored, restless and leads to more opportunity for classroom behaviour concerns.

    Similarly, as a classroom teacher, this is another fun way to review and study.

    I found this activity online and thought it would be another fun way to make a class more engaging. You can use spelling words, facts on the subject they are studying and so on.

    Bingo Facts. This is a fun way to help students learn and recall weekly spelling words, vocabulary, math facts, geography, science facts, or any other information. Before you start, fold a paper so that sixteen squares appear. Cut along the fold lines and number each square; put your squares into a container. Have students create a “bingo sheet” by folding a piece of notebook paper in half repeatedly until sixteen folded squares appear. Ask the students to write a small number in the upper right-hand corner of each square—in random order. Be sure to tell them to leave room within the square for writing an answer.
    Pick a square from your container one at a time, say the number of the square, and ask a question (e.g., a spelling word). Students must write the answer (e.g., the spelling word) in the square corresponding to the number you called. Whoever has completed a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row—with correct answers—wins! Be sure to check for accuracy before declaring a winner. This is an easy game to play with all age groups (perfect for Grades 2–8).

    Other games that can "engage" students when you are left with a "study block"

    Cool Classroom Design and Decor....

    I love all the cool classrooms out there. I need to take more photos of classes I see. My friend Melody had a paper "beaver dam" reading corner built in her class during their study unit on the animal. I also love the green giant fan/leaves from IKEA that many Primary teachers have in their class so students can read under the treeleaves.... Pintrest has lot's of great photos..... I especially love the classroom 'trees'......

    Tuesday 19 February 2013

    Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and why it is so imporant!

    Why Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is important...

    Research shows a number of benefits. One that stands out to me is that SEL improves students' positive behavior and reduces negative behavior.

    It promotes young people’s academic success, health, and well-being at the same time that it prevents a variety of problems such as alcohol and drug use, violence, truancy, and bullying.

     Read more here

    Monday 18 February 2013

    Photo Editing Programs

    I like to take photos in the classroom. Students works, seating plans, bulletin boards, student work, field trips, just everything. September to December I did monthly slideshows for my class but after Christmas break I haven't done one (yet) planning one soon....

    But I love this collage making program, I think I may use it for some of my class photos.

    http://pixlr.com/ is a photo editor that allows you to make collages and such in minutes. Although it doesn't have as many features as photoshop, that is part of what makes it simpler and faster to use.

    Check out Tech Tailgate for step by step instructions and demonstrations   written by http://teachingsuperpower.blogspot.ca/

    •Go to pixlr.com and choose Pixlr Express
    •Select Collage
    •Click on Layout and select your collage style
    •Moving your mouse over any of the boxes will activate the blue plus button.  Click on it and select your picture.  You can click on the picture with your mouse to move it around and adjust it inside the box.
    •Use the Spacing tool to change your border size, the Roundness tool for an Instagram rounded corner effect, or the Proportion tool if you want a more wider/tall layout.  Click on the color box to change the background color.


    Here are some other sites I have seen or heard of (but not tried)






    Words for teenagers...

    A friend shared this on facebook and I found it interesting...

    I think these are just great words for everyone! The someday is now the somebody is you.... don't wait for somebody to do something someday.... just do it! Make a difference, be the change!

    Getting to know students.... in a short amount of time

    Knowing students names, making connections can help a teacher in the classroom. As a TTOC, it is difficult to get to know students when you have one day, sometimes less.

    A strategy I often use is to have them share something about them during attendance. Instead of answering "HERE" or "PRESENT" when I call their name for attendance, I ask them a question "What is your favourite colour?" (primary) or "What is your favourite subject?" or "What song is on replay on you ipod right now?" (high school) then when their name is called they can answer. Usually it is a question that requires only a one word answer.

    Another activity you could do as a warm-up to the morning is a short writing activity....

    Tell students, "I'd like to know you better. Please write a half page (adjust based on grade level) for me on this topic":
    • If I could do anything for one day, it would be . . .
    • If I won a million dollars, I would . . .
    • The best time I ever had was . . .
    • What I like most in a friend is . . .
    • I would like to be an educated/uneducated person because . . .
    • What worries me most in the world is . . .
    • In my spare time I like to . . .
     This is a great way to have students focused on a quiet activity and allows you to get to know them a bit better. This is also a nice way to have a few moments to get acquainted with the room, day plan, and so on. You can circulate and read some of the responses as they write, or read them during recess or when they are working on another activity.

    Asking if anyone wants to share what they wrote is a nice activity also. Leave the writing for their regular teacher to enjoy also!

    Sunday 17 February 2013

    Seating Plans for Classroom Management

    There are so many factors to consider in Classroom Management. Often the focus is on strategies, engagement and discipline, but something I find interesting to explore is physical space. Room design, seating plans and so on.

    This site had some great seating arrangement ideas for tough classes. As a TTOC you likely don't have to worry about this as much, however, there are some classes where students choose their seats. As a new teacher in a class or a temporary assignment, creating classroom seating arrangements will take some time to master. As you get to know the students and the room you may change it often. I like to change it up and always consider a number of factors.

    What this site does is showcase not only various desk arrangements, but also where to place chatty friends, ADD students, unmotivated students, disruptive students and so on.

    For example:

    Saturday 16 February 2013

    Watching Someone... Behaviour Management idea...

    Found this on a website and it reminded me of the "magic spot" (during clean up there is one item and whoever picks it up gets the "prize" or reward) This one, however, deals with behaviour....
    Right before my class leaves for an assembly or a field trip, I tell my students that I am going to be watching 2 students in particular to see how their behavior is. I do not tell them who those 2 students I have chosen will be. I tell them that if these 2 students are behaving well and doing what they are supposed to, the entire class will be given a special treat on our return back to the classroom (10 minutes extra recess, free reading time, a math game, etc.) This really helps ALL of my student behave because no one knows who I am going to have my eye on! If the result is a positive one, I let everyone know at the end who was responsible for the class privilege. High "fives' go up everywhere! If the result is negative, I do not mention the names but let my students know that we will try again the next time.

    Friday 15 February 2013

    Self-Starters.... Daily Activities...

    I remember as a student teacher, my "short practicum" classroom was in a Middle School and the first 15 minutes of the day was "advisory" or "homeroom" It was a mixed class (grades 6, 7, 8) and a time to warm-up for the day and connect with students and staff that were not in your regular classes.

    Some days there was computer lab time, some days was free play, some days was focussed activities.... What I loved about the teacher I worked with was that she had riddles on the board, every day... students had a focal point to think about when they arrived and later in the day she would discuss the riddle and see if anyone got the answer.

    I found this on a website and thought I'd share it as a suggestion for doing something similar in classrooms you teach in as a TTOC:
    Putting a worksheet on each student's desk, or an activity on the board before school starts, will get kids off to a great morning. This also helps prevent potential behavior problems as students come into class. To make it easier, have self-starters according to the following days:
    Monday - "Monday Math" (ex: put 5 math review problems on the board)
    Tuesday - "Talk It Over Tuesday" (ex: write some quotes on the board for kids to edit for punctuations, grammar, etc.)
    Wednesday - "Wacky Word-Wall Wednesday" (ex: put 5 of the words from the word wall in sentences, in tongue twisters, etc.)
    Thursday - "Think it Through Thursday" (ex: put a thought-provoking question on the board for students to respond to in their journals)
    Friday - "Fun Friday" (ex: put afun crossword, wordsearch, coloring sheet, etc. on their desk to complete "just for fun."

    I really love the idea of theme days, but if you are a Teacher-Teaching-On-Call you could potentially do the same activity multiple days since you are in multiple classrooms within a week.

    I find riddles, one-minute mysteries, and word games (liike Boggle) work well.

    this discussion forum  has more ideas for start of day activities

    Thursday 14 February 2013

    Valentine's Day in Middle School

    Valentine's Day in a Middle School is very different than in Elementary. There are less cards, and more goofiness. But, it is still a fun holiday to celebrate.

    This morning was a strange day for my Grade 8 class. Blocks 1 and 2 were speech finals for our community (4 classes) Each class put forth 3-4 students to represent their class. Since I teach two classes Humanities, I put forth 7 students. Topics ranged from Nuclear energy, why telling the truth isn't always the best thing, legalizing marijuana, why Superman is the worst superhero ever and animal cruelty. When we were done we handed out "candy-grams" which is run by the leadership team at our school. Students could send messages to students and a candy - a school-wide but fun event.

    After recess was grade 9 course selection. Counselors from the local high schools came to walk our kids through how to pick electives and credits for next year.

    That brings us to after lunch. After a crazy morning we finally had a regular class.... French. We had a Valentines package yesterday and did vocabulary BINGO today with candy heart markers and hershey kiss prizes. It was a fun way to practice the french vocabulary. (We do this type of game with all our vocabulary units before a test as practice!)

    Another activity we did today as a class was part of  our Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) happening this month. Pink slips of paper say "I am grateful ...." and students each wrote something they are grateful for. The leadership team will link them together in loops like a chain to decorate our foyer. Also, there are hearts where students wrote RAKs they have seen or recieved. Those hearts all go up on the bulletin board in the foyer.

    I really like the focus on RAKs instead of Valentine's Day. 

    There was no PARTY or cartoon Valentine cards like in my daughter class, but still, in Middle School we had a busy but fun day with some Valentine's celebration and appreciation for others.

    Wednesday 13 February 2013

    Conjunctions: Helping students write better sentences

    So a problem I always notice in my Middle Schoolers writing is their sentence structures. Too often it is repetitive, simple sentences. So, how can you teach conjunctions, complex and compound-complex sentences? Well there are some nifty videos you can try....

    Conjunction Junction:

    Flocabulary also has a great video (you can get a free subscription trial to access all of their videos)

    and there are some other catch techniques, like FAN BOYS:

    (You can get this poster from My life as a 3rd grade teacher blog Already, I have introduced FANBOYS to my students and they are using conjunctions excitedly. By middle school, they are familiar with FANBOYS (maybe not calling it FANBOYS or even using it knowingly as a "conjunction" but they are familiar with it) so it's like building off of existing knowledge which seems to catch-on quicker than brand new ideas. I am thrilled to see how it improves their writing as their last writing sample I assessed was very "simple" to say the least (simple sentences, get it? oh funny teacher joke) What other strategies have you used to improve writing and teach the different types of sentences....?

    Tuesday 12 February 2013

    ipad apps for interactive and engaging classroom

    Engaging Presentations using ipad apps writes:

    If you are tired of PowerPoint and Keynote, it's easy to change up your normal routine. As much as I love these presentation tools, it's important to keep my audience engaged, and often a quick deviation from the usual is the perfect trick.
    There are so many fantastic free iPad apps that are great for the classroom. Whether you have access to a single iPad that you use to create presentations for your students, or your students are creating their own presentations in a 1:1 classroom, you'll want to add these to your must-have list!

    1. Haiku Deck - feels a bit like powerpoint slides, but short bits of text
    2. Prezi - Great for presentations, like a slide show but on one page that zooms in and out of sections to show presentation.
    3. Screencasting - copies screen and allows voice integration. Great for showing a lesson.
    4. Educreations - works like a SMARTboard on your ipad
    5. Screenchomp - copy screen easily
    6. Doceri - screencasting, desktop control, and an interactive whiteboard combined into one
    7. Snapguide - create step by step guides
    I have only used two of these before (Prezi and Screenchomp) so I found this list exciting to read about.

    Have you used any of these in  your classroom? Tell us about it!!

    A lot of the new edu-blogs I follow do this link-up thing, so I thought I would give it a try... add your link to a technology blog post you have:

    Monday 11 February 2013

    Before McRae was Minister of Education, he was a concerned teacher....

    I find this incredibly entertaining. The current Minister of Education was once a teacher who wrote a letter to the Minister of Education. The letter has been made public.

    McRae was a teacher at Georges P. Vanier secondary school in Courtenay on Vancouver Island in September 2008 when he wrote the letter, which has since been used as the basis for a YouTube video produced by the B.C. Teachers Federation. In the video, featuring an actor and voiced over by a B.C. drama teacher, the letter writer - McRae - explains to Bond the difficulties of teaching four social studies classes in one semester with 128 students, 18 of whom have learning difficulties that require individualized education plans.
     Once a concerned teacher facing the same struggles teachers across the province face, he is now in a position to make change and advocate for students with first hand experience of what the learning conditions are.... but... doesn't.

    "This is a veteran educator, not somebody new who doesn't know how to manage a classroom. This teacher has so many hair-trigger kids who come into the classroom with needs that are not being met and are expressed through behaviour," said Pearce. "The teachers have done everything they can at the school level to get them addressed and they haven't changed, so that's why we brought it here to the board level."

    The BCTF is taking the government to B.C. Supreme Court in September to grieve the government's actions in stripping the teachers 2002 collective agreement of language that protected the ability of teachers to bargain on class size and class composition. Pearce said because the court already ruled in 2011 the government action was unconstitutional, this time the BCTF will be seeking damages.
    "We gave up salary to get those clauses into our collective agreement because teachers felt strongly about protecting our learning environment," said Pearce. "If you take those away, and do it illegally without compensation, then the argument becomes, 'what was the loss created by your actions.' That loss could certainly be in the hundreds of millions."

    Here is the youtube video:

    Tell me something good...

    I have started to be a more avid reader of edu-blogs from teachers all over North America. There is a great network of teachers that do link-up posts on various topics and I promised myself I would try to participate in some. So here is one from Rowdy in First Grade. Share "something good" from home and school....

    HOME: We got a new puppy and it has really brought us together for more family time together.

    SCHOOL: My teaching partner is doing a VERY cool activity for Socials Studies that I am enjoying learning. We also have finished our public speaking unit *phew* and are going to move onto some debating!

    Sunday 10 February 2013

    Valentine's Day Activities

    Here are some Valentine's Day ideas for multiple grades and subjects.... some are simple and require little to no planning or materials, others require a bit more time and supplies....

    This link as a great list of ideas!

    Math - Estimation

    Have a bag or jar of candy, jelly beans or something and have kids estimate the # inside. Have them explain WHY they estimate that number.

    Math - Graphing

    Have students graph the number of each colour of candy in a pack or jar you bring. Or if you do not have candy, survey the class on their favourite candy or flower (or anything you can tie into Valentine's Day) and graph the results.


    Give students a list of vocabulary words related to the holiday and have them write a story or sentences using the words. Alternatively you can do a memory or BINGO game having students create the cards or game boards to play.

    English - Poetry

    Share some love poems or sonnets with the class and have them write their own using similar patterns or style. This works especially with short and structured styles like Haiku or Cinquian


    Honestly, glue, glitter, scissors and construction paper... the end! ha ha!

    What other ideas do you have?

    Writing Prompts for students who finish work early...

    Literacy is a goal of many schools and as a teacher-teaching-on-call it is a goal you can help work towards, even in a short time at a school. Often lessons don't go as planned and end a bit early. While games can be a fun filler, writing prompts are a way to have students working and focused on something allowing you to circulate and help other students who maybe are not yet done the lesson left by the classroom teacher.

    I like to write a prompt on the board so that students who are done their work have a task to work on, this helps prevent them from becoming bored or disruptive to others working. 

    If there is time, volunteers may wish to read/share what they have written with you or the class.

    This site had a long list of writing prompts you could try, or let students think of their own.

    What is...
    • What is something you dislike about yourself?
    • What is something you do well?
    • What is your favourite room in your home and why?
    • What is a good neighbour?
    • What is the worst thing parents can do to their children?
    • What is your favourite time of day?
    • What is your idea of a dull evening?
    • What is the best way to treat meddlesome people?
    • What is something you are optimistic about?
    • What is something you are pessimistic about?
    • What is your most indispensable possession and why?
    • What is the meaning of "He laughs best who laughs last"?
    • What is your favourite song and why?
    • What is the best birthday present you ever received?
    • What is the best birthday present you could receive?
    • What is something that makes you feel sad?
    • What is your favourite book and why?
    • What is something that really bugs you?
    • What is something that really makes you angry?
    • What is the best advice you ever received?
    • What is your favourite holiday? What makes this holiday special?
    • What is your favourite day of the week?
    • What is your favourite month? Why?
    What if...
    • What would happen if you could fly whenever you wanted? When would you use this ability?
    • What would happen if there were no television? Why would this be good? bad?
    • What would happen if everyone lived in space? What type of houses would they live in? What type of clothing would they wear? What type of food would they eat? How would they travel?
    • What if cows gave root beer instead of milk?
    • What if all the streets were rivers? What would be different?
    • What would happen if people never co-operated? Why do you think it is important to co-operate?
    • What would happen if it really did rain cats and dogs?
    • What would happen if animals could talk? What are some of the questions you would like to ask animals?
    • What would happen if you could become invisible whenever you wanted to? What are some of the things you could do that you cannot do now?
    • What would happen if everyone wore the same clothes?
    • What would happen if you threw a piece of trash on the ground? What if everyone did?
    • What if you could walk up walls and across ceilings?
    • What would happen if you loved your neighbour as yourself? What if everyone did?
    • What would happen if you grew taller than trees? How would this change your life?
    • What would happen if children ruled the world?
    • What would happen if there were no cars, buses, trains, boats, or planes? How would this change your life?
    • What if everyone lived under water? Where would people live? What games would children play? What would school be like?
    • What would happen if you found gold in your backyard?
    • What would you do if a bully bothered you on your way home?
    • What would you do if you did very poorly of a test?
    • What would you do if a friend borrows things from you but never returns them?
    • What would you do if You were the teacher and everyone forgot his homework?
    • What would you do if you were in the middle of the lake and your boat began to leak?
    • What would you do if Your friend had a broken leg? How would you cheer him up?
    • What would you do if you saw little bugs in your salad?
    • What would you do if you woke up in another country and no one could understand you?
    • What would you do if you ordered an ice cream cone and you forgot to bring money?
    • What would you do if someone got in front of you when you were in line at the movies?
    • What would you do if your jelly sandwich fell upside down on the floor?
    • What would you do if only one hot dog is left and neither you nor your friend have had one?
    • What would you do if two of your best friends went to the movies without inviting you?
    • What would you do if the surprise party was for you but you weren't surprised?
    • What would you do if you got a present you didn't like?
    • What would you do if you were at home and your homework was at school?
    • What would you do if you dropped the cookie jar and it broke?
    • What would you do if you were invited to two parties on the same day?
    • What would you do if you promised to feed your pet and you didn't?
    • What would you do if someone said you did something wrong and you didn't?
    • What would you do if your new shoes felt fine in the store but now they are hurting?
    • What would you do if someone told you a joke that you don't think is funny?
    • What would you do if an hour before the party you remember you don't have a gift?
    • What would you do if a friend comes to your house and his/her mom doesn't know he's/she's there?
    • What would you do if you had four math problems marked wrong that were right?
    • What would you do if you found in the street?
    • What would you do if you found a magic wand?
    • What would you do if you wanted to be friends with someone who spoke no English?
    • What would you say if someone told you it was all right to steal from a large department store?
    • What would you do if you saw a friend cheating--report it, confront the friend, nothing--and why?
    • If you could have been someone in history, who would you have been?
    • If you could only take 3 people with you on a trip around the world, who would you take and why?
    • If you could give any gift in the world, what would you give and to whom?
    • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    • If you received any sum of money as a gift, what would you do with it?
    • If you could do whatever you wanted to right now, what would you do?
    • If you were principal of this school, what would you do?
    • If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?
    • If you were five years older you would...
    • If you were lost in the woods and it got dark, what would you do?
    • If it were your job to decide what shows can be on t.v., how would you choose?
    • If there were no rules, what do you think would happen?
    • If you owned a store, what would you do to discourage people from stealing from you?
    • If you could participate in an Olympic event, which one would you choose and why?
    • If you could break the Guiness Book of Records it would be for?
    • If you had to describe yourself as a colour, which would you choose?
    • If your friend told you of a secret plan to run away from home, what would you do and why?
    What do you think...
    • What do you think of 3D movies?
    • What do you think someone your age can do to help reduce the amount of pollution in our environment?
    • What do you think the world needs now?
    • What do you think your friends say to each other when you're not around?
    • What do you think about the amount of violence on T.V.?
    • What do you think about people polluting the environment?
    • What do you think about having set rules for people to follow?
    • What do you think about people who are inconsiderate of others?
    • What do you think should be done to keep people who are under the influence of alcohol off the road?
    • What do you think the world will be like when you are a grown up?
    • What do you think about ghosts?
    • What do you think of someone who has bad manners?
    • What do you think about people who take advantage of others?
    • What do you think about when you can't fall asleep?
    • What do you think courage means?
    • What do you think makes a good friend?
    • What do you think makes a happy family?
    • What pollutants do you think do the most damage and why?
    • What things do you think are beautiful?
    • What do you think about students having to wear school uniforms?
    • What do you like most about yourself?
    • What do you like to do in your free time?
    • What kind of animal would you like to be and why?
    • What kind of trophy would you like to win?
    • What TV or movie star would you like to invite to your birthday party?
    • What does "Clothes make the person" mean to you?
    • What does "Have your cake and eat it too" mean to you?
    • What does "The early bird gets the worm" mean to you?
    • What do we mean when we say, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence"?
    • What does "You can't take it with you" mean?
    • What do we mean when we say, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"?
    • What do we mean when we say, "Hitch your wagon to a star"?
    • What does "still waters run deep" mean to you?
    • What does "There are two sides to every coin" mean to you?
    • What does Canada mean to you?
    • What are you afraid of? Why?
    • What are junk foods?
    • What are some nutritious foods that you like?
    • What are some rules you have to follow at home?
    • What are some examples of prejudice?
    • What is more important to you, appearance or personality?
    • What is most important to you in a friend--loyalty, generosity, honesty--why?
    • What is something that makes you melancholy?
    • What makes your best friend your best friend?
    • What makes you feel safe?
    • What makes you laugh?
    • What would you invent to make life better?
    • What would you do to entertain your family without spending any money?
    • What effects does watching violence have on people?
    • What effects do cigarette and alcohol advertising have on young people?
    • What kind of t.v. commercial would you like to make? Describe it.
    • What kind of pet would you most like to have--monkey, snake, goat--why?
    • What kind of program do you enjoy most on TV--detective shows, comedies, game shows--and why?
    • What advice would you give a new student?
    • What advice would you give to someone who stole something but now feels guilty?
    • What things are better than going to school? Why?
    • What talents do you have?
    • What three words would describe you right now?
    • What four things are most important in your life?
    • What colour makes you think of happiness?
    • What has been the most fun activity at school so far?
    • What quality do you like about yourself--creativity, personality, appearance--why?
    • What eccentric behaviour in a friend disturbs you the most?
    • What parts of nature do you like best?
    • What do you do for exercise?
    • What is the most ludicrous outfit you can think of?
    • What is the funniest dinner you've ever had with your family?
    • How do you feel when it's your birthday? Why?
    • How do you feel on the first day of winter? Why?
    • How would you feel if you were going to be on a show? Why?
    • How do you feel when you do something wrong?
    • How do you feel when you do something that is very good?
    • How do you feel when you play a trick on someone?
    • How would you feel if a new child moved into your neighbourhood?
    • How do you think the new child would feel?
    • How do you feel when you have had a fight with your best friend?
    • How do you think your friend felt?
    • How do you feel when you are in bed with the lights out?
    • How do you feel when you want something very badly and you cannot have it? Why is this so important to have?
    • How do you feel on a warm sunny day?
    • How do you feel when you stay with a babysitter?
    • How do you feel when you're leaving home on vacation?
    • How do you feel when you sleep at someone's house?
    • How do you feel during a thunderstorm?
    • How do you feel on the first day of school?
    • How do you feel when your parents are upset with you? Why do they become upset with you?
    • How do you feel on Thanksgiving? What are you thankful for?
    • How do feel on (any holiday)?
    • How do you feel when something scares you? What do you do when this happens?
    • How would you feel if someone told you that you were his or her best friend?
    • How do you feel about your appearance?
    • How would you change the world to make it better?
    • How do you think eating junk food affects you?
    • How do you have the most fun--alone, with a large group, with a few friends--and why?
    • Explain how to play your favorite game.
    • How would you describe your house to someone who has never visited there before?
    I wish...
    • I wish I had a million... Then I would...
    • I wish I had one... because
    • I wish I could be like.... This person is special because....
    • I wish to be a ________ when I grow up. Then I will....
    • I wish there were a law that said..... This would be a good law because....
    • I wish I could forget the time I ..... because....
    • I wish trees could..... because....
    • I wish I could see...... because.....
    • I wish I could learn..... because.....
    • I wish I didn't have to eat...... I don't like this food because.....
    • I wish everyone would learn to ..... Then everyone would.....
    • I wish I never......
    • I wish I had one more chance to..... Then I would.....
    • I wish there was an electric......
    • I wish I had enough money to......
    • I wish everyone loved......
    • I wish all children would......
    • I wish everyone had.....
    • I wish I could touch......
    • I wish animals could...... If they could, then.....
    • I wish I looked like.... because......
    • I wish there were no more.....
    • I wish I didn't have to.....
    • I wish I could go to.....
    • I wish there really was..... If there really was, then.....
    • I wish I could hear......
    • I wish I could give......
    • If all my wishes came true, I would......
    • When you are angry, how do you look?
    • When are you happiest?
    • When have you felt lonely?
    • When do you feel proud?
    • When was the last time you cried and why?
    • When a friend was in an embarrassing situation, what did you do?
    • When it might hurt their feelings, how do you feel about telling your friends the truth?
    • When might it be bad to be honest?
    • When someone picks on someone else, how do you feel? What do you do?
    • Once, when you were very frightened, what happened?
    • Once, when you were embarrassed, what happened?
    • Once, when your feelings were hurt, what happened?
    • Describe a time when you felt vengeful.
    • When you have a problem who do you talk to? Why?
    • Which quality best describes your life--exciting, organised, dull--and why?
    • Which quality do you dislike most about yourself--laziness, selfishness, childishness--and why?
    • Which place would you most like to visit--Africa, China, Alaska--why?
    • Which holiday has the most meaning for you-Canada Day, Thanksgiving, Valentines Day--and why?
    • Which is least important to you--money, power, fame--and why?
    • Which is most important to you--being popular, accomplishing things, being organised--and why?
    • Which is your favourite Star Wars character (or other movie/book/t.v. show, etc.)? Why?
    • Why is it important to be honest?
    • Why is important to have good manners?
    • Why do you think adults smoke/drink?
    • Why is exercise important to someone your age?
    • Why do you think some people encourage others to smoke/drink?
    • Why do you think the rules you must follow are good or bad?
    • Why would it be good to be honest?
    • Why have men and women usually only done certain types of work?
    • Why should or shouldn't a man stay home to care for the house and children while his wife goes to work?
    • Why do you think some people take advantage of others?
    • Why do you think prejudice exists in the world?
    • Why would we say that someone is "passing the buck"?
    • Why would a Prime Minister have a sign on his desk which read, "The buck stops here"?
    • Why do you think tact is an important quality?
    • Why is it not wise to squander your money?
    • Explain why we say, "dead as a door nail".
    • Think of your favourite toy. Why do you like it best?
    • Think of the best teacher you ever had. Why were they a good teacher?
    • Do you think there is too much fighting on t.v. Why or why not?
    • Do you think it is necessary to have alcohol at a party in order to have a good time?
    • Does it bother you to be around someone who has bad manners?
    • Should there be a dress code in places such as school, restaurants, and places of business? Why or why not?
    • Should animals be used for medical research?
    • Should the Canadian Government financially support Olympic teams?
    • Should people be prohibited from smoking in certain places?
    • Families are important because...
    • Would you like to be famous? Why or why not? What would you like to be famous for?
    • Who or what has had a strong influence in your life?
    • Where would you prefer to be right now--mountains, desert, beach--and why?
    • Should you have to do chores around the house? Why or why not?
    • Should you be required to wear a bike helmet? Why or why not?
    • Should skateboards be allowed on sidewalks?
    • Where do you think we should go on our class fieldtrip this year? Why?
    • Should you have to take tests in school?
    • Should cellphones be allowed in school?
    • Can television (or videogames) influence your behaviour? How?
    • Should schools be year-round?
    • Should junk food be banned from schools?
    • Should students be required to learn a second language?