Tuesday, December 27, 2005

book suggestions

This is a very funny story. When creating writing opportunities for young adults, it is a fun way to start. It has a twist ending. Not for the old-fashioned or traditionalist. For fans of the Paperbag Princess!

The Tale of Desperaux. (Now a movie) This is a wonderful story of bravery. It includes flashbacks, which render the story quite interesting.

Even my gr. 8's like picture books! Follow the Drinking Gourd

Hana's Suitcase. A story of the holocaust.

The Gravesavers by Sheree Fitch

A great story about Nova Scotia, strong female role model for teen girls.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Election Canada 2006

Canada Federal Election 2006
1. To begin: here is a basic information page in Powerpoint overview I created - based on the book:

Canada VotesAlso: on-line user-friendly guide to voting in Canada: CheckI Can Vote!
2. Next, check out my class page on the
Election : Here are some vocabulary words you should know:


political party
polling station
electoral officer
ballot box

returning officer
campaign manager

polling agencies
Leader of the Opposition

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Parent-Teacher Interviews part I

Today we planned our student-led conferencing. I had some students create a planning/organizer using Kidspiration. It was their choice to use the same graphics, or change them. A template was created by one of my wiz kids, then place in the handout folder on the Board’s server. Students saved it to their files.

During the conference they follow the plan, speaking of their learning modalities to demonstrate their intrapersonal intelligence. This is a hit with parents, to place their child in a leadership role. Part of the tour always involves a demonstration of their school web page. This, too, encourages families to give the child some one-on-one time. So lacking in our busy lives.

During LA classes student filled out their learning reflections sheets, which they I prepared previously:

  • What do I do well?
  • What must I improve upon?
  • Which good things do I continue to do?
Pages 1, 2 and 3 allow the kids to prepare their thoughts.
They didn’t understand why they needed “stories”, as I called them. I told them that it is better to confess to their errors, admit what they needed to fix and plan on fixing it! It is better that this message comes from them, rather than from me!
Some students are disappointed in their marks. This is an opportunity to discuss how to improve marks, what the marks mean and how to set goals.
Hopefully, it is a time for students to show off their best work. I like to have them show their rough work, too. I do not believe that presenting just their best work is an honest picture of who they are as learners. I like to collect all of the work, save tests, gather data on all of their activities in the school, including good and bad behaviour.

I try to call every family before the end of September. We usually have an Open House BBQ during which we meet. I ensure that each family has previously received a phone call, normally with good news about what they do well. It is important that kids rise to the challenge.
In past years, when I seemed to have more time, I used to send home an  affirmation letter. If parents can look at the positives then they will be spending more time reinforcing expected behaviours, rather than spending precious interview time disciplining their children. So often we go home to our own kids and try to correct all of their faults. We need to laud their good works!

Parent-Teacher Interviews part II

What can I say? There is pressure on all sides. Everyone is there to talk and work with the student. I try to call all families before the end of September. This isn’t always possible.
During the conference I ask the students to lead. Then the parents can ask questions of me, once they understand what the student is doing in terms of behaviour, attitude and academics.
One is always thrown by certain questions. After a 20 minute presentation to be asked, “How is my child doing?” As if we can fake what is going on in the student’s portfolio of work. I ensure that we keep rough drafts to show progress.

This week I was thrown by a question. The parent thought the child’s marks were too low. I re-explained the rubrics: level 3 means “achieving at grade level”, which translates to 75%. Level 4 means that the child is exceeding grade level expectations.

One father explained that he would spend an hour and a half re-teaching algebra, for example, and at that point his child understood it. He thought that I wasn’t teaching it very well and needed to re-teach it.

After the father began to explain how he thought I was not teaching well enough, I knew I was getting a little upset. I told him that I would take his advice into consideration. Unfortunately, he wasn’t finished. I excused myself, saying that I wanted to get a pen and paper to write this down. In truth, I wanted a moment to get myself together. Returning to the seat I had vacated, I wrote down a few words. He proceeded to go on about a particular problem and how he explained it to his son. I then interrupted and asked him, since I had other families in the room working on their student-led conferences, if he would write these things down for me at home.

I was so shocked. What can you say when a parent wants to tell you how to do your job? I could have defended my teaching and my teaching practice. I did not. I believe that this parent ahs the child’s best interests at heart. I do not believe that HE believes that he understands learners, learning and the learning process. The behaviour of a child in a class of 25 is very different one-on-one with a loving parent who has know this child, his learning style and in the peace and quiet of a home. I had to hold onto all this, while not becoming upset. I can just imagine me going into a lawyer’s office and proceeding to tell the lawyer who is working with me how to handle my case.

I let it all go and we then went over to the computer to show the family the child’s web page. I must admit that I could not help but show the work we had done with much pride. What is really funny is that I had taken digital photos of the work we had done in class on algebra. We worked through 25 questions together. Brainstorming solutions, I was modeling my thinking, purposefully putting down the wrong answers, seeking student corrections, working through to the right answer. It was one of the best lessons I had taught, since I had worked with a couple of learners, asking them to solve the problems with me on the board. They are allowed to use “lifelines’ and get help if, for example, they are trying to figure out an algebra problem and they are stuck on the details of (8 x 9). This really works for me and for the learner trying to master algebra, rather than times tables.

While we were doing our tour of the website I showed the father the other work other students had been doing. Some of my students have created honourable, simple, websites. Other sites are exemplary, incorporating sound and flashy images, with a great deal of content and 3 or 4 page stories. I have different expectations for each child. Being fair does not mean treating everyone the same. "THERE IS NOTHING SO UNFAIR AS THE EQUAL TREATMENT OF UNEQUALS" I teach everyone differently, depending upon what they need.
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