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!