Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Investigative Study - Student-made Video

My students finished their Investigative Study video! They had to investigate our school to see why it is so great and I think they did a fantastic job. Check it out and share comments below!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Game of Hilarious Comparisons

It is kind of amazing to me, how little students retain sometimes. Especially when it comes to recalling that information back for a specific situation. I bring this up because as we wind down before Christmas break, I played a card game with my kids called Apples to Apples and I find myself explaining more than I feel that I should have to, to my senior students.
A Game of Hilarious Comparisons...
The game is based on green and red cards (just like apples). One player looks at a green card, which is an adjective, and shares it with the other players. The rest of the players then look at their hand of 7 red cards, which contain a noun, noun phrase or a gerund, from which they then choose which one of their red cards best matches the green card. The other players place the red cards face down for the person with the green card to pick up, read out loud, and ultimately choose which one they feel best fits the adjective. This game is hilarious as it states because everyone's opinion on what works best can vary (many times by a lot), making everyone laugh to no end.
There are some variations as to how to play the game and these can be fun after playing it a bunch of times with the same students, but for the most part each new session of the game is hilarious enough to entertain even the most shy or the most outspoken students.
Understanding...The BIGGEST Part of the Game...
The red card has clues on the bottom so that if you don't know the person, place, or thing on the card you can look down and read a small description to help you 'get it'. The problem being, many of these descriptions are meant to be puns or funny and are not always overly helpful to understand it unless you have some background knowledge.
Students are expected to have some background knowledge, and much of that knowledge comes from reading, watching TV and the news and watching movies and things like that. The issues occur when students don't remember anything they've seen or read. It is the connections that are missing and it needs to be taught, how to recall information. I am not an expert by any means but I find that using visual clues in my mind helps, as well as acronyms and talking it out. It is not against the rules in the game to see if anyone playing knows what the red card means (or how to pronounce it for that matter!), but you can't say it if that card was yours. This is where sharing becomes a help and playing becomes more like a mind-game than anything else. Those who can bluff the best do well, unless you stay silent (which works as well).
Explain, Explain, Explain....
I spend a lot of time explaining to students what the red card means when no one else is getting it. I want them to learn, so I explain it in as great of detail as I know. Many times I connect the card to something I saw or read to see if the students can also make those connections and hopefully remember the red card explanation for next time. It is stunning how much TV or technology they view or work with everyday yet tend to not retain much of the information coming from them. Maybe it is stuck in the vaults in their minds and we need to give them skills to use the right key to access the vault of information. Either way, I absolutely love this game and every time I play it, the game tends to be a learning experience folded into fun which is the best way for students! If you've never played it, I suggest you just go out and buy it - it is the most fun you'll have in a long time. I play it with my family, my students, colleagues and anyone who's willing to!
Cheers to you, my lovely readers!Have a fantastic Christmas and/or holiday season! See you in the new year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

TES: An Xmas Writing/Role-Play Activity

Christmas Writing...
I was rooting around on TES the other day looking for random writing activities to insert into my classes and lo-and-behold, I found a fun Christmas activity. Now, just so you know, I teach senior ELA which means grades 9-12 and to be honest, I do not do Christmas writing activities. It is time consuming and usually out of the theme of what we are working on. Senior ELA is so focused and full of outcomes to complete that there usually isn't time to work on holiday activities like there is the in the younger grades. But in this case, I will be making an exception!
Back to the the activity I found...
It is a bit morbid but quite fun, it is a Christmas Murder Mystery! The premise is that Santa Clause has been murdered! But who did it? What will happen to Christmas? - Each student is given a role to play (this is kind of like a dinner role-playing murder mystery game) with an explanation of what their details are. Students are then given a list of questions and must go around to the other characters and find out as much information as possible. After about 10 or so minutes, the students must work with the information they found out to come up with a written explanation of a plot and reveal the murder case and the guilty person (their opinion based on facts). There are clues that the teacher can give out randomly during the 10 minutes to help with the investigation. The teacher also has access to the solution to read to the students once they discuss their own plot revealing.
It is a fun little activity that gets students students interviewing, writing, moving around, acting and generally just having some interesting good times while using their critical thinking skills. I call that, a home run!
Sign up for a TES account for free - there are tons of resources for all grade levels - this site is out of the UK so for you senior teachers, it is KS3 or KS4 activities. 

In Real Life - Finale Results

Sydney didn't win first place but came in second on YTV's In Real Life! She may have not won that grand prize but she came home with a new tablet (awesome) and a sweet looking Storm watch. I was screaming and cheering at the TV on Monday when she got to fly those planes, what a site!
She had to cut through a roll of toilet paper with the propeller of the plane in one task, then the next task was to find the next plane in the hangar but with there being lots of similar looking buildings, it was fairly challenging. Sydney came through by being a farm girl and using her prior knowledge that the plane would have to be in a building with long/wide sliding doors and she actually found it right away while the two other boys took a long time figuring out where it was and how to get into the building. Sydney then had to fly an aerobatic plane which is a really neat thing because they had to perform tricks like rolls and loops! She did amazing and only lost out by 2 points!
I am super proud of her and know how this experience has changed her life. Congrats girl! 

Monday, December 12, 2011


My grade 9 student Sydney has made it to the finale on the YTV show In Real Life! If you remember from my last post about the show, I mentioned that Sydney got chosen to compete on the tv show and I am super excited to share with you that she is in the final 3 and will be doing stunt pilot flying in the finale tonight! I must tell you as well that she is the only girl left in the final 3 and she is excited for her big episode tonight.
She taped the show over the summer and was taken places all over North America for different skills competitions, she has said it was a life-changing experience and I know it has been tough on her to not share her secrets about what happens!

The Episode 10 Synopsis (borrowed from the In Real Life website)
"In this final experience, the stakes are high and so is the competition. Sky-high! Our finalists have one last chance to battle it out as stunt pilots. They start out flying a light aircraft called a Piper Club and test their piloting skills by using the plane's propellers as a giant pair of scissors to cut through a banner floating towards the ground. Then they move onto aerobatics airplanes and and perform daredevil maneuvers over dizzying altitudes. It's a death-defying battle for the grand prize!"

To The Winner...
"...at the finish line of every experience, there's an unforgettable reward waiting for the first team that arrives. The ultimate goal? The final episode grand prize! The winner walks away with a $10,000 RESP and an all-inclusive trip for 4 to the Mexico's Riviera Maya, staying at the Grand Coco Bay and sponsored by Sunwing Vacations."

Sydney has also been writing blog posts during the last few months after each airing of each episode. You can go back and follow her journey from home as she goes though the emotions from home, having to hold in her upcoming episode excitement! Also, she had an online journal-writing experience when she was filming this summer so you can also go back and read about her experience as she was going through it.
I would just like to say that I am very proud of Sydney and excited to see the show tonight! Tune in to YTV's In Real Life TONIGHT (Mon.Dec.12) and help us cheer her on! On Saskatchewan time it airs at 6pm and 9pm. Go Girl! 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prioritizing and Seeing Success

You know that History class I was struggling with? It is true that changing teaching strategies can help (I am sure you already knew that!) I did a structured jigsaw lesson yesterday, split the students into groups and had them work in different rooms and viola! Worked like a charm.....maybe it had part to do with the fact that the kids who don't love history were paired with those that do....but nonetheless I am happy and they really seemed into it! Success!

I'm swamped. I really am! My marking and correcting pile just increased ten-fold when I had managed to make 3 projects due on the same day....what was I thinking!? Here is the lesson of this blog post though.....prioritize and create manageable chunks to work with when you are overwhelmingly swamped. 

The idea of prioritizing is something that can be related to a jigsaw lesson like I did in History yesterday because I am splitting up large chunks of information/marking and making it manageable to work through. I will focus my attention on the things that need to be back to the students more quickly because then we can move on, while the projects are end of unit pieces of work and are not crucial to studying for an exam.

I am like Santa when it comes to marking. NOT in the way that only the good students get marked first ha ha - there is no such thing as good students and bad students in my opinion, only those that choose to put more effort into their work or try their hardest. Anyway, I am like Santa because I make my list (my marking TO DO list), and check it twice (or more!) and then get to work on stroking names of assignments off of that list. When I do finally see the end in sight I sit back in my chair and say 'there! That feels awesome to be done!' It is that feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that I can go home and lounge on the couch either reading a good book of my choice or watching some TV because guess what, I deserve it! Give yourself a break busy teachers because we all have those times like I am in now where you are swamped by a pile of stuff to do, but you need to step back and appreciate the fact that life goes on and remember to reward yourself when you make accomplishments. Speaking of rewards, my 'blogging break' time is now over and I need to get back to that crazy pile of marking.....until next time, keep your chin up because a break is around the corner!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How can Jay-Z remix education? Let me see...

I just read a really interesting article entitled "How Jay-Z Can Help Us Remix Education". Obviously as a fan of Jay-Z and as an educator I was really intrigued by this title. I wanted to know how hip-hop and education are related or better yet, how exactly it helps us remix education!

Keep the Language Simple—and the Context Deep

"Jay-Z's debut album was lauded by fans for its texture and complexity. The album analyzed urban life in the 1980s and 90s and incorporated deft and engaging storytelling. It also kept him from reaching a broader base of listeners. So Jay-Z shifted things for his next album—he simplified the language but kept the context deep.
What's the take-away for us as educators? We want all students to fulfill high academic expectations, but we must balance this with the need to meet our students at their level. I often hear educators refer to this as an "either/or" situation—but we can provide the "and." We can speak in language our students will understand without sacrificing the meaning, context, and depth of what we teach.
It's worth noting that Jay-Z was accused of 'selling out' when he simplified the language in which he articulated his experiences. However, ultimately, he reached many more listeners, and his real fans respected his growth. As teachers, we may experience some pushback from peers who are unwilling to meet their students halfway, but if we engage students in meaningful learning, helping them to master critical concepts, we will have done our jobs well."
Students are often 'talked down to' and this leads to a misunderstanding or not a clear picture of the content for them. The synthesizing and understanding of content is extremely important, yet some teachers seem to forget that students simply can not grasp some concepts when they are over-explained or in a worse case, under-explained. I think that Jay-Z's stepping out to change his approach in music to reach a broader audience is a great move for him. Possibly educators can approach teaching the same way in that changing the way you approach a concept in the classroom by speaking and discussing so everyone is comprehending. It may sound silly but I know that I am guilty of not breaking it down enough sometimes and just moving forward but really if I had just simplified what I was doing and made it a collaborative process with my students, life for me and them would have been a lot easier.  
It is also important for educators to realize that our profession is not as isolated as it seems. We are similar to other occupations in a number of ways and many of the same issues and concerns that others have. Maybe making those connections can be a healthy way for us to develop a greater understanding of the world our students are headed into and how to help them work in it. Collaboration is key!

Collaborate With Diverse Partners

"Jay-Z understands that his professional place in the hip-hop universe is strengthened by diverse, visible collaborations—often with unlikely partners. He's made an album with rock band Linkin Park ("Collision Course") and has lent his voice to the albums of a wide range of artists, from Juvenile and Drake to Lenny Kravitz and Coldplay. He even invited Gwyneth Paltrow to sing the hook to "Song Cry" at a recent London show.
Just as Jay-Z enriches his solo work by collaborating with others, we can enliven our teaching by drawing on the expertise of our peers. Unexpected combinations can be especially productive, encouraging students to see a concept from an alternative perspective. Math teachers can draw upon social studies texts as we teach students to graph on a coordinate plane. Science and language arts teachers can co-create lessons that help students identify and use literary techniques as they read and respond to science texts. But however collaboration looks, its goal should always be to improve students' experiences in our classrooms."
I think this statement is exactly correct: "Just as Jay-Z enriches his solo work by collaborating with others, we can enliven our teaching by drawing on the expertise of our peers." Every time I have the opportunity to sit down with other educators and discuss new methods, share ideas and just talk, I feel like I come away with a huge opportunity to broaden my classroom with not just new ideas but new influences and possibly a new project! This is where technology becomes really proactive and helpful in collaboration. Sharing is so much easier when the web is involved and tools like Skype and website tools such as  wikispaces help develop a global opportunity to build partnerships with diverse people and diverse places. That is what the PLN (Personal Learning Network) is all about! 
Honestly, I think educators could all take a look at this article and see exactly how to remix our education system and create a better classroom for students to grow in. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!

Monday, September 26, 2011

In Real Life - Show starts Oct. 3rd!

YTV's In Real Life
        One of my grade 9 students, Sydney, was given a chance at an amazing opportunity this summer. Last year, Sydney created a video entry for the chance to be on YTV's In Real Life and she was chosen to be a competitor on the show! The television series, which is similar to The Amazing Race, has competitors doing real life challenges all over North America. Although Sydney can not say much about her experience yet, we are anxious to see how she does and look forward to talking with her more in depth about her experience once the show ends.This seasons In Real Life airs beginning on Monday, October 3rdand will for run 10-one hour episodes every Monday. Look for Sydney and cheer her on!

Montreal, QC
Mon., Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. ET/PT
Our challengers are put through their paces in their very first experience as army recruits! They navigate a tough obstacle course, test their resourcefulness by setting up camp in the field and ride Jeeps in hostile territory as part of a patrol. With drill instructors pushing them to their limits, challengers try to soldier their way to the top. In the first twist of the season, challengers get to choose their own teammates!
Link to trailer: http://tinyurl.com/3eb9soq

Sydney has been dancing competitively and winning loads of awards in all kinds of styles from ballet to hip hop since age four. Her friends say she’s kind, creative and tons of fun. In her small hometown, everyone knows each other and there are only 55 kids in her school. But she likes imagining how big the universe is and would love to become an astronaut.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Create lessons kids want to listen to using technology

Time and time again we hear the tale of needing to engage students in the content we are teaching. They say it is the key to classroom management and enhanced learning. Well, they (whoever they are) are right - to an extent. Don't forget, it is not only about the delivery, but loving what you teach and why you teach. 

I've been dealing with boring content issues lately. I'm teaching History 30: Canadian Studies this year and finding my group of students to be particularly un-engaged in the content so far....sure there are some that are natural 'history buffs' and love it all no matter what but many of my students, are not. I am left with the struggle of making my course content a bit more interesting, thus engaging my students, 'minimizing' my classroom management issues, and having the learning occur a lot easier. Stopping the time honored tradition of notes, discussion, lecture and questions theory in history courses is not something that is easily done in such a heavy content-orientated class but it definitely needs to be addressed. I don't think the answer is to over-engage by way of making them bored from technology but by splicing up my coursework into manageable information chunks with bits of technology sprinkled in. Sounds like fun right? Sounds easy? It is if you try!

Integrating technology into content or as a supplement or complement of content is actually more simple than you think. All it really takes is you taking a few minutes to think about what your needs are. Do you want students to create something for you? Instead of an essay (again), try a presentation style project where they present their argument or content they have learning using a prezi (http://prezi.com) and either present it to the class, just to you, or even have the students send you a link to their work for you to mark! They still have to complete the objective (indicator) and will show the content learned but just in a different and more interactive way! Believe me, I teach English Language Arts as well as History so I do know and advocate that writing an essay is still a skill needed to be learned, practiced, and improved - I've written blog posts about just that - but the point is to mix it up a bit! They can still do an essay, but really, do they need to do more than one or two a year in one course? In my opinion, NOPE!

Simplicity is the trick. Show a video instead of reading notes. I've found a good series of videos about the HBC   and the Fur Trade - there are 6 videos in total, each about 10 minutes in length so it takes just over a class period to view them all. I had notes to accompany the videos - which were from the curriculum, and covered more specific topics related to Aboriginal issues and the effect of French involvement leading to the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

Another idea, which I will be using later on in the course, is to have the students create a video! There are a number of ways to do this. You could have them create an interview with a historical figure, interview veterans, re-create a battle or event, describe the event from a person who was there and experienced it from their point of view - just to name a few good ones I've used in the past. They love doing this because they can put as much or little effort as they want to achieve a mark and they tend to like being given an option to participate in videos. These video ideas could also be adapted to be done as audio projects or Podcasts.

I also use my SMARTboard - or PowerPoint or Prezi - for notes. A lot of my notes I have gotten from other teachers when I started teaching were on overheads or board notes, now as that is all well and fine once in a while, it is nice to have your work saved somewhere to use it anytime you want, or share it with other colleagues. Thus the presentation of notes from a technology point of view. You can incorporate pictures, short video clips, and links into your presentation/notes so that students are more engaged and interested. I know it involves you writing them out but who cares? At least you will never have to do it again, and your kids will thank you for the change!

So as you can see, there are a number of ways to incorporate technology into your classroom without too much work on your part. I hope you find these different ideas useful and easily adaptable for you classroom. I know that it may seem daunting sometimes to use technology but no one is really expecting fireworks every lesson, every day. Using technology can be a gradual thing that as your comfort level increases, so will your ability to think on the fly and use technology or create projects from scratch quickly and efficiently. Cheers to a good year everyone!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Need some ideas and lessons....want to help?

I've been asked to present at our Teacher's Convention this year in November and my topic of presentation is 'Teaching with Technology in Senior English Language Arts' - basically technology infusion in ELA classes. The presentation is tailored more towards high school but anything in upper middle years will work as well. This post is a shout out to all teachers who have ideas or lessons that they have either used, or want to use, that relate to this topic. If you are willing to share an idea - even if it isn't classroom tested yet - please comment on this post with whatever you can or email me at priscilla.fjeldstrom@gmail.com!

I have been working on organizing a wikispace for my presentation and if you want to add anything or shout out ideas I would appreciate it so that I can add more resources for teachers to use and try. If you have access to student samples or want to include those as well that is great as well! If you do or do not want your name added or cited by your idea that is fine as well - ideas are welcome nonetheless.

Check it out and tell me what you think or what you can add to the pile! http://elainfusion.wikispaces.com it is a work in process....

Friday, September 02, 2011

A life-changing opportunity for my student this summer

One of my students in grade 9 this year had an amazing opportunity over the summer and I wanted to share it with you:
Last school year, she auditioned for In Real Life - an 'amazing race-style' tv show on YTV. As a school we helped her with her audition video by all cheering for her and asking YTV to choose her to be on the show - and she was chosen by YTV to participate on the series! Basically, the show is a bunch of life and skill-like challenges around the US and Canada - which meant that over the summer she would be in secret locations filming challenges for the show. The show is airing on October 3rd, with 10 shows in total. She can not tell anyone how far she made it, but she has said that it was a life-changing experience and she had a amazing time. What a fantastic opportunity for her! Everyone at our school is very excited for her and can't wait to watch the show! She came in my room today and told me that the preview for the show is posted on youtube - here it is to share with you! Go girl!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reflections from 2010-2011 - What a school year!

Another school year wrapping up. Time flies. It really does. And whenever another school year comes to an end I make sure I leave time for reflection. Maybe that's cheesy and I'm sure many of you other school teachers out there think "I don't have time for that!" Well to be honest, I don't really either. As I sit here on my prep period when I should me marking, I'm writing a blog post instead. Procrastination is the spice of life. NOT!
Here it goes....
Least favorite part of the year:
My school year started optimistically. I was ready for what was ahead and was willing to face the ups and downs as they came. The school year started with our school being under review for closure, yeah that was a real nice way to start the year (sarcastic voice). We pushed ahead as we always do with our heads held high and continuing to provide our students with a top notch education :-) The process ended with the closure review being halted which was really nice for us (to say the least). You know, it is amazing really how much that review process affects the students. They put on brave faces like troopers but daily as a teacher I could see it affecting them as they worried about their futures hanging in the balance. I mean who wants to be dropped into a new school unless it is a choice of family, or situational such as moving. I know my students who live here wanted the school to stay open so they can graduate from the same school they have always attended, that possibly their parents graduated from, that their friends attend and/or graduated from. The stress of a review process weighed in on them and whether or not you believe it (because teens especially are quite good at hiding true emotion from adults), it took a toll. In my CPT course we did a project that I adapted from the Discovery Channel's Boom De Yada I Love The Whole World commercial. We created a Boom De Yada I Love Nokomis School video and the students put in their favorite parts about our school. Click the link and see the videos if you're interested! The kids took pride in creating the projects and promoting their school. Once the process of review was ended, you could almost see the weight lift off their shoulders and they became happy and started to laugh more again. Lovely, in my opinion.

Highlight:Culture Fair 
During the months of August - October our whole school worked towards projects for our Culture Fair. We hosted a Culture Fair at the end of October and students, parents, and people from the community were invited into the school to experience a variety of cultures. Our students, being split into homeroom groups (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12), chose a different culture and researched about it then created a variety of resources to display in the room. My homeroom of 11/12's chose French culture and looked at a variety of aspects. We designed posters about food, traditions, attractions, people, customs, etc. and posted them throughout the room. We had students stay in the room to present their culture to people and each person walking around were given passport to go to the different classes to get stamped after they learned about it.
My students created a ceiling high model of the Eiffel Tower that went over the outside of the door to my classroom - it was huge and really well done! Also, my students created mock-trenches inside my classroom with the desks and covered them with cardboard to create the sense of being closed in - inside the trenches were photographs and information about WWI and tench warfare as well as videos playing on computers. We made croissants and chocolate mousse to give to patrons who visited our room and we had Parisian music playing in the background. We had one student dress up like a mime to meet the people at the door and the rest of us dressed up in the quintessential Paris garb - striped shirt, black pants, etc. It was a blast.
The other classrooms were as follows: K-2: African, 3-5: Japanese, 6-8: Aboriginal/First Nations, and 9-10: Indian. Each room had something creative, whether it be a tent with pillows to sit on in India, a mock-Jeep SUV in Africa, Japanese tea ceremony or Aboriginal stone arrangement circles. The night was a huge success and it will be something I will carry with my for my career. It took a lot, and I mean A LOT of work but it was totally worth it. The kids learned a lot and so did I. Hard work paid off.

Highlight: SMARTboard!
After the Culture Fair, life went along as usual, just coursework and learning as normal. There are always those times when school seems repetitive and sort of just a motion you go through, but then you have those days that stick with you forever and you're able to do exciting things in your classroom and get back to enjoying learning and teaching. That day came when I received my SMARTboard! Not like I don't incorporate technology into my daily teaching, assignments and projects - believe me I do. It just happened to get MORE exciting and innovative once I got my SMARTboard installed! I hope to have many more lessons created for my SMARTboard for the next school year. The kids just love it and enjoy that change in pace when I turn it on and plug it in - especially when they get up out of their seats and use it themselves!!

Highlight: Minute To Win It
Another exciting event was our SRC Minute to Win It afternoon. As a school spirit building activity, our SRC came together to create an afternoon filled with the TV game show Minute To Win It activities. There was the Elephant March, Hangover, Sticky Situation, Bobble Head, Face the Cookie, Noodling Around, Defying Gravity and Junk in the Trunk. Here are a few pics for you to see:

All in all, it was a wonderful year. Extra curricular, and additional enrichment activities are what make a school year fly by and we certainly had our share of them this year. The kids were great and we accomplished what needed to be done. Who could ask for more? Not I, not I. I love my job and love my school. Can't wait for next year!
I just wanted to say thanks for reading my blog and I appreciate you as an audience to bounce my ideas off of, to listen to my reflections and rants and basically for being that lovely group of people whom I likely haven't met but would love to get to know! Comment away and I will keep it coming!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Simulation Activity - Review and Reflection

I know many of you seemed interested, commented on and read my post about my simulation activity in History 10 and I wanted to post a bit of a reflection on the process, and share the results of during and after the activity.  

I mentioned that many students of mine don't really enjoy this kind of learning activity - some are strictly read and dictate in notes kind of kids, and some are just plain old hard to make happy, and it is difficult to engage or at least inspire kids to be enthusiastic about learning....well, this was definitely the case for me. I had a student who didn't really enjoy this topic and proceeded to distract, pester and be ultimately a big nuisance for everyone involved. Once the behavior issue was dealt with, things went smoothly.  Isn't that how it always goes - you plan forever on an activity and on the day of the event, someone has to make it tough on you. 

Anyway, we set up the desks and had the witness stand and bench where I was the judge and we had a few students playing the jury. Each side presented opening arguments, followed by calling on one witness at a time - each group had a total of 2 or 3 witnesses (one group was a bit larger). The students stood up and played the part - I must admit reflectively that I wish I could encourage students and have them actually act out the part which would've made this a lot more fun for everyone - but they did their task and read off the paper for their statement. Their opening statements were concerning their point of view of what the basic outline of the story was until the point where we were now (the trial). The jury and I heard some really convincing arguments in their speeches and couldn't wait to hear from the witnesses to give their evidence and testimonials of the events that affected them. The student moved into the witness box after swearing in and we were off. Of course because of time constraints and trying to deter from more behavioral issues, we did not engage in a cross-examination process (maybe next time I will but at this way was a lot faster). We did one witness from each side at a time, then had a different student present their closing arguments and reiterate the facts presented by their side. We worked for quite some time on how to develop a persuasive paragraph to convince jurors of your "correct" position. These were extremely well done and convincing. The jury and I were actually on the fence for a while about what swayed us more, the evidence or some of those awesome speeches! 

We went outside the classroom and deliberated for 3-5 minutes about the evidence presented by the witnesses, and the points of view of both parties. We discussed who did a more convincing job of each area and when we came back in the room we discussed this as a class, being sure to give credit where it was due. All students were able to participate and to me it seemed as though they all had an enjoyable learning experience. It was a lot of prep work to develop the information packages for each side - I wanted to make sure students were getting a fair amount for each side to work with and it was accurate to the time period and true events (thus why I did not let them Google everything themselves). All in all it was a success and I hope that you get an opportunity to try something like this in your classes because it is a worthwhile activity for students to engage in and it really involves a number of different skills such as reading, inferring, connecting, thinking critically and creatively, writing persuasively, organizing information and thoughts and presenting and sticking to an opinion with a courageous amount of believability. 

I hope you were able to take away something of value from this activity review and reflection, and that you will post some comments and share your own experiences in the classroom and/or your thoughts on my activity. I would love to hear from you! 

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Long Weekend Balancing Act

As I sit here drinking my coffee on this fine Monday afternoon (long weekend), I think what a great opportunity it is for me to have the chance to catch up on all my twitter links, emails, my blog writing and comment replies. I have spent a majority of this long weekend 'off' working on school work - marking, correcting, prepping - and another big chunk of time coaching drama practices for our school drama performance which is taking place on July 8. I think many people who don't understand this profession believe that all teachers spend these long weekends just working on decks and relaxing....yes that may be true for some, and I would be a liar if  I said I didn't spend some time doing those very things, but what the majority of the public doesn't understand is that as teachers this profession really does occupy our minds every day regardless of it being a weekend or holiday.
I am guilty of being preoccupied with thoughts of school and preparing for upcoming lessons, events and sometimes it can take away from the task at hand or things relating to home life. I have blogged about balance and that is the very key to success in being a teacher. It is very true that being a teacher doesn't stop at the school doors - we go home and our mind is still at school - but we need to consciously and daily tell ourselves to be present. That is the greatest advice - be present in whatever activity it is that you are doing. This advice is transferable to all jobs, occupations and professions but truly rings home for teachers.
By no means do I expect any sort of recognition for my many hours of extra prep work, coaching, or marking and correcting of schoolwork. All a teacher would hope for is students to have that light bulb turn on at least a few times a month to show you that the work you do is not being glossed over by all of the other things that occur in a day. So here I am, working away on my long weekend and loving it! I got a few hours outside in the heat to cut the grass, work the garden for my bedding plants and began some landscaping projects. I found balance this weekend by blending my time with school and home responsibilities and hope all other teachers out there find time to enjoy their lives in all aspects while the end of the year is creeping upon us!
Take care out there and smile because summer and warm weather is just around the corner!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Simulation Activity and Critical Thinking Skills By My Students

The Simulation Background...
In History 10, we are doing a simulation activity - a mock court-case of the U.S. Government and the State of Georgia vs. the Cherokee Indians. I love doing these sorts of activities with my students because it gets them to be really creative in their wording and thinking.

The Task...which is the hard part for students...
They need to come up with a minimum of 4 good arguments to present to the jury in a variety of ways - such as through witness testimony, charts or speeches. I had the class read all the information sheets for both sides (Plaintiff and Defendant) in order for them to understand the arguments and reasons from both perspectives. I think it is important that students take a view from both sides of the table because not every situation is black/white - many times a situation is various shades of grey. The information is typically one-sided and more favorable to one party, but this is the point where students have to actually use their creative and critical thinking skills. Students tend to dislike any activity that involves them to "think about it", where the answer is not right in front of them. There are always those few students who love this sort of thing but it definitely is not the majority of students I teach!

Here they are...hard at work...

And In The End...
The end of the activity involves students discussing the outcome after the jury has returned a verdict based on the information presented. The historical facts behind the case is given to them prior to the mock case but the outcome of the factual/historical case is kept secret from them until the end of the activity where I will read it out to them and we will discuss the impact and significance the case had for the Native Americans and the Government. Knowing that we are Canadians and the court-case was American-based, the students understand that many of these land claim issues were a problem in Canada as well and we plan to cover the history of Canadian First Nations land claim rights, through our learning of Treaty Education in the classroom - which is a very valuable and interesting addition to our history classes.

Oh how times never really change...
I had a teacher once who always told us - "It's time to put your thinking hat on!" I have adapted that in my classroom and if you ask my students what I always say, they would tell you it is "It's time to put your critical thinking cap on!" - The wheels turn on different paths but the motions are the same....gotta love teachers and education!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

iT Summit 2011 Day TWO reflections

Now that iT Summit is all done for the year, I get this sad feeling. I was so elated to see so many great teacher minds in one room and I truly could feel the innovative vibes floating in the air - or in the clicking of computer keys!

Michael Wesch's presentations on remixing our society and schools was really interesting to listen to - I really enjoyed the psychology connections to what he was saying. I have been teaching Psych 20 / 30 for the last two years now and I really found myself understanding those broad and deep topics he touched on - especially the self image implications of using technology. It is super interesting to promote those questions to students to hear what they would have to say about how technology affects their self-image and self-awareness - or would they even know what I am talking about and just text their friends how crazy their teacher was becoming!?!

Obviously winning a new iPod Touch rocked - thanks to my mad skills at website development and understanding ALL programs - HAHAHA just kidding!! No but seriously, I have gotten a lot of ideas from each session I attended. I just wish there were more hours in the day to be able to attend ALL the sessions I wanted to! I would've loved to have seen Shelley Wright's presentation, and I am sorry I never got a chance to attend and support Ryan Hackl, Micheal Hagel, and Mavis Hoffman or Morag Riddell in their sessions! I know it takes a lot of strength to get up in front of your peers and speak about your experiences so kudos to every teacher who presented their struggles and successes with technology. I admire you.
The Cool Tools Duel (Tuel) was very funny and interesting - I have some cool things to check out!

It was an honor to sit beside Kathy Cassidy in the SMART Response session - it is kinda funny when you read about people's stories and realize that you have been following their work in some way or another (blog, twitter, website, books, etc.) and all of the sudden there they are, sitting next to you! It's silly I guess that I don't just introduce myself and tell them what I think but it's intimidating - I'm sure these people like Dean Shareski, Alec Curous, Will Richardson, and many others are all down to earth and would just laugh at me thinking that way but you just feel a bit star-struck. In the small world of teaching - especially in Saskatchewan - it is awesome to be able to attend a conference and sit next to people who inspire you to be better every day in your job. I look at what these people try and do in their classrooms and I get excited to teach. I love this job!

Final thoughts? I wish there were TWO iT Summits a year and I wish I could attend both each year! No seriously, I had a wonderful time meeting up with former colleagues, laughing with friends, being inspired to try a bunch of new things (ipods in classrooms?!), and I will see you there next year!!! Cheers to technology!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tips for using an iTouch in your classroom - Notes from iT Summit Breakout Session

iTouch in Classrooms:
These points and ideas are taken from http://adventurousedtech.blogspot.com  (Joanna Sanders Bobiash) a teacher in Regina, SK. Thanks for sharing your journey and innovation Joanna!

Sonic Pics
-digital storytelling

iPro Recorder
-fluency and comprehension
-observation notes

Google Earth / Star Walk

Literacy and Numeracy Games

Calculator- and other tools
-ex: translator

E Clicker Response System - instead of a SMART Response clicker

Google Forms - and other Google apps

-no copy and paste
-can email responses directly
-access links

Q R Codes - lots of possibilities
- grcode.good-survey.com - QR Code generator
-- Could be used for learning stations, and a variety of other strategies

- number your ipods
- develop a sign-out system
- give ipod an email address
- sync ipods to ONE computer only
- update apps from the computer NOT the ipod itself
- organize your apps in groupings
- designate a helper to organize your supplies (earphones, cords, pods, etc.)
- eBay to buy accessories for cheaper than at stores

M. Wesch - Remixed Schools - Notes from presentation

Notes from Michael Wesch's Remixed Schools Keynote - iT Summit 2011, May 10th

My Adventures in Educational Technology: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duo/Trio/Mash-Up by Dean...

My Adventures in Educational Technology: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duo/Trio/Mash-Up by Dean...: "Cool Tools Duo by Dean Shareski , Alec Couros , Hall Davidson (Discovery Education) Who is the winner of the tool duo? Poll Everywhere: b..."
Post borrowed from Joanna Sanders-Bobiash @ adventurousedtech.blogspot.com!

My Adventures in Educational Technology: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duo/Trio/Mash-Up by Dean...

My Adventures in Educational Technology: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duo/Trio/Mash-Up by Dean...: "Cool Tools Duo by Dean Shareski , Alec Couros , Hall Davidson (Discovery Education) Who is the winner of the tool duo? Poll Everywhere: b..."
Post borrowed from Joanna Sanders-Bobiash @ adventurousedtech.blogspot.com!

SMART Response - Assessment Clickers - Notes from iT Summit Presentation

The session on SMART Response systems - which was all about assessment clickers in the classroom. It is supposed to help you assess both summative and formative items. See notes - I tried to make them as detailed as possible to help all levels of teachers:


Crowdsourcing and Collaboration - M. Wesch May 10, 2011 - Google Docs

Crowdsourcing and Collaboration - M. Wesch May 10, 2011 - Google Docs:
Some good stuff here to check out - very interesting ideas

Monday, May 09, 2011

iT Summit 2011 Day one reflections

It is day one of two of the iT Summit 2011 in Saskatoon, SK and I am already feeling the buzz and excitement from participants (myself included). Every year that I attend this conference, this being my fourth year, I always walk out feeling ready to try something new. Not everything will be easily implemented or be simple to figure out even from my end, but I don't seem to feel as defeated coming out of sessions as I have at other conventions or conferences. I think that many teachers want to try new things and we realize that everyone here is attending for the same sorts of reasons, whether it be to learn new things, revamp what they already do, or just start from the beginning. Not every teacher that attends a technology in education themed conference is going to be at the same level - we, just as our students, are all at different levels of ability and comfort. That's the beauty of it all.

When I walked in this morning I ran into Mavis, who is a teacher I worked with on a technology committee called iSITS in Living Sky division 3 years ago now. It was fantastic to see her and I loved how she hook my arm and led me to the promise land of a table full of other LSKY teachers that I haven't seen since last iT Summit. I love the networking, visiting and collaborating and idea-swapping that goes along with this conference. I see my Horizon school division PLN often enough that it is exciting to branch out across Saskatchewan and see other colleagues to share experiences with. I get to attend some of the most interesting sessions and listen to some really great keynote presenters but the best part to me really is just connecting with other teachers in Saskatchewan who are doing so many cool things in their classrooms - or have some great ideas they are working on.

I saw a presentation today about using handheld devices in the classroom - I will get some notes and ideas up when I get more time - but I really walked out of there inspired. Honestly, I cannot say that about every presentation attended during any conference but today I did. There are a lot of innovative things teachers even close to home are doing that I want to try. Oh just give me time. 

A former principal once told me - "if I can at least get one solid thing out of a conference or convention - I call it a success" - I agree.....to a point. The really exciting thing is that a technology in education conference such as this one, makes me come out with many solid ideas and points to take home. I can't wait to get started. 

See you tomorrow all and I will update whenever I can! I am excited to see Alex Couros and Dean Shareski's Cool Tool Duel tomorrow, and am thinking there will be a bunch of things to try after - can't wait.

Magic Moodle - May 9th -iT Summit 2011 - Notes...

Magic Moodle - iT Summit 2011
Presenter: Chantal Ounsworth
Notes from the presentation from May 9th

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Shakespeare and me? Shakespeare and I? A love for Will....

William Shakespeare: A Flair of Dramatic
The inevitable time of the year is here. Shakespeare is all around me. I am teaching all senior ELA so needless to say.....I have to love him. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet are the three Shakespeare plays that I do with my students from grades 9-12 and every year I learn a little more about the myth, the legend, the not-so-pretty-to-look-at man whom I have grown to love.

Now to be totally honest, I didn't always LOVE Shakespeare....I understood the gist of R&J when I read it in high school, I enjoyed the witches in Macbeth when I was a teenager, and was frustrated with Hamlet's long soliloquy's as a grade 12 student. I get it when my students hate or are confused by some of the ways that Shakespeare wrote - I was there! So when it comes time every year for me to teach about Will and his incredibly complex plays, I get all bubbly and excited. I figure that if my students can sense some upbeat teaching in the future then maybe, just maybe, they will be ready to take on a challenge.

Challenge is putting it mildly for some kids because there will always be those who just never get it, hate it and will be on you about 'why we have to do this' every time. My response is yes, you do have to do this but keep an open mind. I find that if I can keep myself excited to hear what will happen next, like it is the first time I am hearing it over again, then my suspenseful leads I discuss in class will keep my students on the hook. We always read it aloud together - a student reads a character (which may be different every class), and we discuss when I deem it difficult or interesting or significant throughout the scenes. I pause during reading to make predictions, explain or confirm things we have figured out, and point out key ideas or details that will be important in the future to refer to. This seems to help greatly in the scheme of things as the students complete discussion style questions after every scene or two.

Hopefully by approaching my Shakespeare readings this way I am building the students to a point where when they read something by Shakespeare on their own (which sometimes I get them to do before class as a challenge - read a scene for homework, we discuss at the beginning of class and then re-read it together and they see how much they really understood on their own), that they are able to comprehend a little more every time and my role will become less and less of re-telling the story in my own words, and more of a discussion on the bigger things happening in the story and the super interesting, underlying tones of the characters, plots and subplots! The really fun stuff as I call it (the kids hate that)! :-)

Billy and I have had a long relationship. I grew to love his work in University when I was getting my teaching degree. I thought to myself that it would be a wonderful asset to take a University level Shakespeare class since I was going to hopefully be teaching ELA when I graduated. I knew I wasn't a really big fan at the time but since the benefit outweighed the struggle I may encounter, I did it. I bought my extremely large book called "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" and went straight to it. I read the plays, sonnets, and all sorts of random thoughts written by Shakespeare in Elizabethan England. The amount of reading I did, the amount of extra reading of cole's notes and helper books, and the amount of discussing we did in class really got me on track. You have to want to understand it, to let yourself become immersed in his work and re-read until you get it to understand my friend William Shakespeare. He is quite the cat that guy. He is complex, unyielding and uses many words when one would suffice, but I love him for it nonetheless. The stories he wrote are so multi-dimensional that every year I teach these plays that I have read probably 10 times each, I learn something new or develop a new understanding or liking/or hate for one of the characters I never really noticed the first 4 times I read it. That is the magic with Billy; being able to open eyes again and again to new generations of scholars.

Shakespeare's work has really transcended time and although no one will ever write like that again (especially with the age of texting, lol-ing, brb-ing and C-U-L8TR-ing!), I know that it is some ties to the past that brings me back to my love for Shakespeare. It brings me to an easier time where life was really about finding entertainment in theatre and listening to a character explain his heart out over a tiny incident. We have lost that. That love for theatre, for finding greatness in a 2 hour special event in an outdoor theatre in England after a day of scraping by, to enjoy the sun in your face and the words of a man so complex himself that his writing could only reflect his life and times he lived. How spectacular is that? I know my students may never grow the love for Will as I have, but it doesn't hurt to try. Romance, tragedy and heroes - who could ask for more? Not I, not I.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Flash Mob - St. Patrick's Day Style!

Luck O' The Irish To Ya!
Here is a flash mob in Central Station in Sydney, doing RIVERDANCE! This is such a well-coordinated flash mob and I love how there are little children joining in! Splendid! Enjoy!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Writing an essay is like.....

I gave my students an essay assignment in history 10. They needed to write an essay on German Nationalism. We have been learning about Prussia vs. Austria, and all that happened before Germany became a nation state. Now, after giving them a structure base (i.e. this goes in paragraph 2, that goes in paragraph 3, etc.), they are writing their essay. They are just finished the first draft and have begun the editing process.

I always tell my students that writing an essay is like taming a beast. You need to edit it - fix it - nurse it - make it better, make it nice, make it smooth and pretty. They laugh, but it is true! The rough copy is the beast - it is ugly and tough and rough around the edges. Most times it is hard to look at but there is a jem, a beauty just waiting to show.

Essay writing is a necessary evil in my mind. As much as I would love for them to be phased out (just for the sake of mega-marking), I know that they teach many valuable things beyond writing formally and properly. I stress to my students how important learning how to create an essay properly in high school will definitely benefit all who go on to other education; even for the students who go on to tech. school typically have to write some form of report. It is a skill that needs to be learned. It is very important so teach it well my teachers, teach it well.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Students' thoughts on technology and life 50 years from now...What can we do??

Where do you see technology in 50 years? What do you think life will be like in 50 years?

I posted this question as a journal starter before they read the short story/essay "Artificial Intelligence" by Grant Fjermedal the other day, and the answers were shocking. I actually found that students seemed to be having a problem distancing themselves from what already is, to what could be. They either wanted flying cars and moon living, or they think nothing will be different. It is interesting, and frankly pretty sad, that a lot of students lead sheltered lives. They don't watch the news, they are not aware of what is going on in the rest of world and tend to only care what is immediately affecting them.

Obviously if students were showing interest in something they may look it up, but most times that isn't the case. They hear it or read it quickly and dismiss it when they realize they "can't do anything about it" or they "figured it didn't have anything to do with them so why should they care". I hope that in 50 years life and technology will be improving our way of living, but a lot of times I get scared and concerned that in 50 years we will see a decline in many of societies values and traditions. Students already do not watch the news. They only care what is happening on Facebook with their friends, and most of that information is "hearsay" or of no consequence to the rest of the world. I fear that we are growing hermits instead of citizens when the only forms of technology many students use are things like social networking and texting.

Many older people say "what ever happened to picking up the phone and calling someone, or driving to their house to see them". Well, times have changed. It is a scary thought but those days are few and far between for a life of the average teenager. I am not very old and to think that many days I just text my friend to see if she is going to Zumba instead of calling her or popping by her house, I have to wonder if I am falling into that pattern myself and removing those "old" ways of communication. I am many times not much better than these students when I am on the run, but at least I feel that I am balancing my life by setting my cell phone down or turning it on silent when it is needed. It can be a huge battle to get kids to give up their cell phones. What if we took them all away unless they used the tools on them? What would Alexander Graham Bell think of the what his invention has evolved to and the world today? I still find value in those face-to-face conversations but in a world that puts more and more pressures on our profession (and many many others), people become really forced into texting, twitter-ing, facebook-ing, each other as a quick and convenient way of getting immediate responses. Hm.....maybe this is the start of another post.....

So back to the students - I think to head off the invasion of hermit students we are creating, we need to model better practices. Parents, teachers, adults - all of us need to show these kids that it is valuable to talk face-to-face or just pick up the phone and call. These are still skills that are needed! Honestly! When these students/kids get out into the work force, we may see a real change in business practices, based on the fact that communication skills are lacking! We need to address this now! Teach some phone skills in your classroom - make it an English assignment. Technology can be a curse as much as I would love to think it as a "god-send". Students need to be shown to utilize the technology. Show them and teach them and encourage them to use their Blackberry for a calendar to keep due dates on assignments and upcoming exams, download apps that help them, not just games! Use the calculator, the note-pad, etc. instead of only using the $100 phone for texting. Modelling usage of cell phones, the internet, and television is a key to shifting the wave in a more positive direction.
Put down that cell phone, close the lid to your laptop, and call a friend - I bet they would love to hear your voice!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Now presenting.....SMART technology

I have an announcement....I have a SMARTboard in my classroom!!! It has been coming for a while but it was finally put up and my projector finally mounted! I am very excited to begin using it and am ready for ideas. Anyone have good ones for senior ELA or History, Career Ed., or Psychology? I have been on the  SMARTexchange website and have gotten a few good ones from there. I know I will be creating some of my own as well, but since exam week is quickly approaching I was wondering if anyone had some ready-made 'gooders'.

My technology-enabled classroom is really coming together and I am looking forward to my future of infusion. My curriculum can be enhanced so much more with this technology. It may not be used EVERY class, but there is definitely ways that it will be used DAILY. My students will be able to get out of their seats and interact finally, allowing them to engage in their learning. I have already used it for reviews and for videos, but I am hoping within the next few weeks (when semester two beings), that I will have more time to develop more engaging lessons. My other goal is to get our staffs' less-technology friendly individuals, more excited about the SMARTboard and comfortable seeing how it can be incorporated into daily life in the classroom.

I will let you know how it goes, and hopefully post some lessons once I have made them.