Friday, December 13, 2013

KODA in Kindergarten Holiday Concert

I loved having an inclusive classroom. We usually did sign language when the class or my choirs put on a performance.
This is sweet!
Published on 9 Dec 2013
Very entertaining video of a KODA (kid of deaf adults) enthusiastically singing holiday songs using sign language and animated facial expressions. Watch this and it would be the best3:40 minutes you've spent in your day.
You can check out "S-A-N-T-A" by Super Simple Learning here --- Thank you for making the S-A-N-T-A song and all the other great music videos you have to offer for kids! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why international math scores have us jumping –but not for joy!

An article caught my attention:

Bad math marks are bad for business: Elaine Chin

According to a report released from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, Canada now ranks 13th in the world for international math performance when we’ve previously always made the top 10.  
The best future jobs all require a strong set of mathematics. The top paying jobs of the future are all expected to involve high level applied math. Just take a look at Canadian Business’ list of Canada’s Top 50 Jobs for 2013 . Certainly not every child has strength in math or interest, but let’s work toward giving them a better start in their early learning years.

What is the solution? 

How many hours do they spend
on these, rather than doing fractions?
Let's get rid of the awful 'new math' texts, based, not in foundational research, but in glossy, for-profit text books produced to challenge our kids. Yes,  challenge, but they leave many behind. 
I am firmly convinced that we must swing that darn pendulum again. We spend millions on PD for teachers. Not only on materials, but in doing in-service training. Despite this, our EQAO tests, rather than testing arithmetic and other skills, creates more difficulties, and waste pressure school hours.

We've been creating curriculum around investigative math, so much better, we thought, to allow kids to fid the way to arrive at the answer, rather than teaching and testing for times tables and other foundations of mathematical curriculum.
Here we have fractions, very complex language,
too many questions on too many topics.

½ ⅓  ⅔ ¼ ¾ ⅕ ⅖ ⅗ 
⅘ ⅙ ⅚ ⅛ ⅜ ⅝ ⅞

The glossy, complex photos and illustrations lead kids astray. ADHD kids cannot focus on what is important. We've lost the logical progressions of mathematical education, as we try to allow kids to create their own solutions. "Investigative Math" Many kids do not have the background to achieve in this manner.

For many, who believe that teaching math shouldn't be didactic, we now know where we went wrong. It is a multi-facted blame, including all stakeholders: teachers who cannot do math, book publishers, administration, school boards, those who jump on a bandwagon without research.
  • Kids cannot make change when the till is down.
  • Kids do not know their times tables.
  • Kids rely too heavily on calculators, without understanding concepts.
  • Kids cannot hold a pencil for a long time.
  • Teachers, having gone through the 'new math', are unable to understand math themselves.
  • Too many teachers admit that they don't like math.

Any teacher should be able to teach this crucial part of the curriculum. Let's blame administrators who have hi-jacked this huge part of the curriculum. Perhaps not at the high school level, for much of this math is specialized, and they need teaching skills and tricks to teach this well, but, again, perhaps we can blame the elementary panel Powers-That-Be.

I've been exploring Jump Math

The research supports teaching math in this way.
I bought the grade 8 curriculum, while I've been rehashing some old skills, trying to tutor some girls in pre-college Trigonometry! It really helps to review it all!
Mighton, who founded it, has gotten some really goo PR and excellent results.

Dr. John Mighton is a mathematician, author, playwright, and the founder of JUMP Math. He tirelessly volunteers his time and expertise at JUMP Math as the lead curriculum developer for the JUMP Math Student Assessment and Practice Books and Teacher's Resources. He also donates all proceeds from publications to JUMP Math.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tips for Parents with Children on the Internet

1. Place the computer in the family room or other visible area, not in child’s bedroom.
2. Have the kids use gender-neutral screen names.
3. Talk to children about Internet safety and participate with them online. If they know more than you, let them teach you. Start when they are young. 
4. Children shouldn’t believe anything said to them over the Net from an unknown source. Show them how offenders might look like the guy next door.

5. Tell children they do not have to respond to messages sent to them, whether by e-mail or instant message.
6. Children should never give out personal information, screen names, or passwords. Do not give them your credit card information.
7. Use a good virus detection program.
8. Supervise children’s computer usage. Don’t rely on filtering software to do the work. 
9. Check the history function of your browser to see which websites your children have visited.
10. Know who your children are communicating with online. Get to know their online friends just as you would their other friends. Log on as them, while they watch you.
11. Make sure you know their passwords, do not save yours on a shared computer.
12. Report bullying, threats or other abuse to the internet service provider. Save all email, and report the offenders.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Child restraints – Schools lock children in isolation rooms

Read the report online
A report issued by Inclusion B.C. and the Family Support Institute says more and more families have told them their children are being secluded at school, sometimes in no more than a closet.
The report, "Stop Hurting Kids: Restraint and Seclusion in B.C. Schools," reveals the results of an online survey, which yielded 200 examples of children being left alone in everything from windowless offices, to padded rooms to a gym equipment closet.
There's evidence B.C. children who act out are being confined to small rooms in some schools.

To my mind, this is better than having a gr. 2 child throwing chairs and table at peers. The teacher was forced to evacuate the room with her students. It was frightening. The parents refused to admit the child needed help. There was no aid, as he hadn't been identified being a special needs child. We had
meeting after meeting, trying to be reactive. It was awful. With limited staff, and a school that integrated many special needs students, and aids making a huge difference in the life of our physically, socially and educationally special students, it drained our resources.

We'd informed the parent, who refused to pick the child up. They also refused to allow staff to use the safe room. We were frustrated no end.

What is important, is to have protocol in place.

  • Well-trained teachers, with emergency plans in place for an incident.
  • Remediation must have been attempted.
  • A case conference, including the parent, with information and psychologists in attendance.
  • Parents are informed and requested to pick up the child.
  • Non-violent crisis intervention training for educational assistants, teachers and principals to remove the immediate threat to safety.
  • It has to be the last resort or an interim measure. 
  • What is uppermost in mind, is the safety of the child's peers and the teacher. 

Some blame Educational Assistants, other explain...

It is sad to hear that these rooms are being abused, however, some times time-out rooms are needed. I work with a team of specialist where we will use it if the situation escalates. The families are notified way in advance that this is part of the student's protocol. Schools that do not notify parents of the use of restraints and time out rooms leave themselves liable. 
Be assured we do supervise the student in the time out room and there is a large window. We do not leave them in there for hours and hours. Banning time out rooms will harm staff and other students. The students that go into the room are typically harming staff and other students. When staff can no longer handle the student that is chasing and aggressively physically hurting everyone around them, our last resort will be an isolated room because there are no other objects in the room that can harm the student. 
My co-workers and I have suffered multiple injuries handling specific students. We do care about our students and go above and beyond providing them with things that are not offered home such as a fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, community outings (when appropriate), and much more. 
I do not agree with using these rooms when it is unnecessary, but some times it is a safety issue. If we let a student attack another student, we would be liable and feel terrible especially sometimes human strength and endurance can only go so far. 
Who goes to work thinking they want to punched, kicked, thrown, stabbed by scissors, and bitten? EAs do this because they are passionate helping students with special needs.


There’s mounting evidence that several B.C. schools are restraining children who act out and putting them in isolation rooms, practices special needs ...
Advocates for special needs students are calling on the B.C. government to ban so-called 'isolation rooms', where they say children deemed 'unruly' are being restrained.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Olympics are coming!

Here is one idea for kids to do research on an athlete!

Grading students on their behaviour

Dr. Westheimer talks about grading students on their behaviour

Should students be rated on their behaviour in class? As Ottawa schools get ready to send home report cards, CBC columnist discusses the link between behaviour and learning.

Student assessment

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembrance Day - pick up a book

I've done a lot of work every year on this theme. My student enjoyed writing about it, interviewing family members and reading about it.
Many have published autobiographies for us to read. Many of my students lived through war: The Gulf War, some had fled into the hills to avoid war, some were Vietnamese Boat Children, others have been refugees, some from Somalia. We need not educate some kids about war.

Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial

Support Our Troops
I loathed the school assemblies, though. It was an opportunity for parents to do a video of their child, rather than to experience this ceremony. One principal didn't even know to stand up during Last Post. We were all shocked. These days, one cannot see one's own granddaughter for another's ubiquitous iPad held aloft at eye level.
That said, we do a great job in schools. We spend many hours on this subject, which is appropriate, especially with the number of veterans we have from Afghanistan, many of whom are in the news, sadly.


Another death in Afghanistan

Bombardier Karl Manning became the 156th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan and the second to be killed in 2011.
Our Highway of Heroes has honoured the 133 soldiers from those who have died serving others in Afghanistan. The video shows the view from the bridge where people line up as the caskets pass by. 
Here is some information we gathered from the Canadian Legion's publications.(Printer friendly table)
GSPH is a publisher, and has a wide range of books on many topics, including Military autobigraphies.
A Walk in the Valley, by R. C. Kensett.

A history of 413 Squadron, By D. J. Baker.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Boarding school for toddlers in China

This seems gruesome to me. It can only lead to abandonment issues. The noise of the children in the radio documentary, crying at bedtime in the night, broke my heart.
They say it builds independent children, but we know, in psychology, that children need a strong parental bond in order to succeed ant to fly away as adults.

I'm sure there will be a price to pay in later years for those affluent enough to afford the $1000 per month costs.

Why children as young as three are sent to boarding school in China
BBC News ‎- 1 day ago
By Madeleine Morris BBC World Service, Shanghai ... "We did a lot of research, and discovered that boarding kindergarten benefits outgoing children."

    Lemba, who Madeleine interviewed, with Scarlett and her own children
  • Madeleine Morris visited Fiji and China to investigate different approaches to childcare
  • Part one of her documentary Who's Left Holding The Baby? was broadcast on BBC World Service on 29 October - part two on 5 November

Thursday, October 10, 2013

All of us must stand up to bullying

I often think of how we are either bullies, the bullied or bystanders. All of us must provide support and find a solution.
Caine Stands Up from The Bully Project on Vimeo.
Directors cut content from the BULLY movie vaults.

Stacy Dorman 
The school board did nothing. We moved to a zero tolerance district for his 8th grade year. Bullying there was at times, worse. So, we moved back to Pennsylvania last summer. Caine is now 15 and doing well. Thank you all, so much. The love and support is what has given my son hope, and a reason to keep moving forward.

Monday, October 7, 2013


Here is an interesting Action Research study from CJAR!
Lauren McNamara


This article describes the first two years of an ongoing, collaborative action research project focused on the troubled recess environment in 4 elementary schools in southern Ontario. The project involves an iterative, dynamic process of inquiry, planning, action, and reflection among students, teachers, university researchers, university student volunteers, and community agencies. The goal is to proactively transform the social landscape of recess into an engaging, positive, inclusive, and active environment. We present a brief review of research on recess in order to contextualize our project and highlight the important links between recess activities, school engagement, and academic outcomes. We then highlight the children’s voices about their recess environment, and add perspectives from the teachers, principals, and playground volunteers. Finally, we present our collective suggestions for action that will lead us into the next phase of our project.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What is the deal with homework?

Here is the list of homework 
I listened to a CBC radio show on homework. The host, Gordon, asked some good questions.
Parenting columnist Samantha Kemp-Jackson joined Karen to talk about the bugbear of every child...and
parent: homework. More specifically, how much is too much? 

For more of Samantha's thoughts on parenting issues, you can visit her Multiple Mayhem Mama website

Samantha Kemp-Jackson may be a parenting expert, but she is not teacher and doesn't get the big picture. Whilst she has four children, this doesn't make her a school expert! One should watch when a blog is written for profit, there are many ads on the site!

Even the 'experts' have issues with homework:

Alfie Kohn (The Homework Myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing), guru of the modern educational movement, says homework is useless. I cannot imagine how he can write a whole book on this topic, research can only apply on a limited basis. 

To me, this is just wrong. There is a purpose.

DEFINITIONS - from OCDSB Policy and Procedures (posted in 1998!)

2.1 Homework comprises curriculum-related tasks assigned by classroom teachers to be done
during non-instructional hours. Homework is given in order to complete, review,
reinforce, apply, integrate, and extend classroom learning as well as to prepare students
for future classroom learning.

OCDSB is a bit vague. Plus, it is hard to find the policy on their website. Each teacher, it seems, must convey the homework policy to their families. I always sent a letter home at the beginning of the year. Here is my blog post about my policy.

Natalie did the calendar
Chris: equipment manager
 -he would hand out any papers or tools
Sana: assistant teacher
-she would post assignment from other classes for us
How do I know if my child has homework?
You should ask. They ought to know! All of the schools I worked at gave kids an agenda or planner, where the kids were to write down homework. I had a spot on the blackboard where I had the kids write down an assignment for their peers. I appointed one child to be assistant teacher, and for the week they did this job for us all. The ticket out of the class at the end of the day, was me seeing that they had written down the assignment.

Also, I asked the parents to sign the planner at least twice a week. It truly is the tool for the student, not the parent.
I had one child, with undiagnosed dyslexia. The child was unable to write down a simple note from the board (see the examples!). His last year's teacher told me he was fine, and reported this to the family. I knew there was an issue. The child was referred for private testing. The report stated that the parents told her he was fine the previous year. Apparently, it was my teaching, not the last year's teacher, which was the problem. In fact, he slipped through the system. Indeed, we got him some help and extra support.

When is homework too much?
Kindergarten shouldn't have homework. I'm just sayin'.
Now, each school board should have a policy on how much homework is appropriate. Young teachers may or may not have read this. It is up to the principal to know the policy, and convey this to their teachers. They should know what is going on in each classroom.
That said, OCDSB, for whom I taught for 25 years, leaves it up to each school and principal to devise a policy. This is just plain wrong.

For many, they say 15 minutes in grades 1 - 3 is good. A half hour in grades 4 -6, is what I always assigned. By grade 7 and 8, intermediate school, the work should increase and a child should be able to do an hour. This may vary. But the math teacher should assign a half hour of revision, and then the geography, history, or other teachers may assign projects or other work. This is a good idea.

What happens when a child doesn't understand the homework?
What happens when the parent cannot explain it?
Simply write in the student's planner, "We tried the homework, and couldn't do it. Please provide some more guidance!"

There is nothing wrong in admitting you do not understand it. This should be the fault of the teacher or a child who didn't pay attention. Both issues should be brought to the attention of the teacher.
 If they didn't teach the prerequisite knowledge, then they need to do some follow-up. Sometimes, with the 'new math' text books, they don't teach prior knowledge, nor bother to review skills previously taught. I loathed them.
They assign complex problem solving, without simple steps to follow.

What happens if my child NEVER has homework?
It could be that s/he finishes it in class. Some kids are faster than others. It is hard for a teacher to balance enough homework for some, and too much for others. I always told my kids to do a half hour of math, then stop. This would give the kids some parameters. I would have preferred that kids would do a few questions well, rather than getting frustrated doing an hour or more.
The average student should have some. I had a hard time giving enough to some of my high achievers.
It could be that the child is not bringing home the homework. There should be consequences for this, and a reward, once they begin to participate. A simple phone call to the teacher should clarify when you should expect homework.

What should I do if my child refuses to do homework?
At the end of the week,
this was sent home.
No homework on Fridays, just catch-up
I am a great believer in external motivation, AKA bribery. Or consequences. TV is off until homework is done. I took the computer keyboard to work as a consequence. But just once. Homework wasn't done when I arrived home from work. He had 3 days without computer time.

How do I facilitate the doing of homework?
Kids need the proper peace and quiet. They need a routine. Snack first, then homework before dinner. Or else, setting them up at the kitchen table after dinner. Routines are the key.
Of course, is a child has difficulties learning, it might be hard to get them to do it at all.
This is

Friday, September 6, 2013

Should cell phones be banned from all schools?

Should cell phones be banned from all schools?

cellphone.jpgLast week, Ontario elementary teachers passed a motion to have students turn off and put away cell phones while in school. Ultimately, it is up to school boards to decide how to handle cell phones in school. But the motion has re-ignited the debate about whether a ban is needed. CBC education columnist Joel Westheimer weighs in.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What Every Parent Should Know About School

reist.jpgAuthor and educator Michael Reist says kids don`t have to hate school. In his latest book, What Every Parent Should Know About School, Reist says part of the solution is getting parents more involved. So what is stopping you from being involved at your child`s school?

It is terribly sad that an author can build a case for breaking down the system. The young man killed when sawing open a barrel is the perfect example. This was not in the curriculum, but models the independent style the author advocates.
Teachers cannot create 25 - 30 different teaching strategies, nor can they run a classroom to suit every child. They do provide a variety of lessons and lesson plans.
This is why we have special education teachers and not all children are integrated in a classroom, as it may not suit them best.

Yes, an administrator guards a principal, as they have many requirements between student discipline, reporting, monitoring teachers, and cannot drop everything anytime someone walks in the door.

We've learned much about school systems, but it is a system. It is group education.
Not every school needs a gardening program. Ask the kids who just demonstrated 4-H skills at their latest community fair.
Each school is to respond to the needs of the community, keeping in mind good pedagogical standards. We have learned lot about boys and reading, for example, with extensive PD for teachers.
There are vast differences between elementary, middle school and high schools systems.
Vast differences between rural and urban needs of students.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Recess cancelled

Recess cancelled: Joel Westheimer

li-bc-110906-school-playground.jpgIt's not just school buses that are cancelled when the weather turns foul.  More and more schools are also cancelling recess.  Our education columnist cries foul. Robyn speaks to Joel Westheimer.


School architecture and design

MPP Yasir Naqvi announced yesterday more than 47 million dollars for school projects in Ottawa's public board.  But as the old saying goes, schools are more than bricks and mortar.  Our education columnist Joel Westheimer tells Robyn the space where students' learn matters more than you think.


Applied math as another way of streaming students

Are students sorted into advanced or "applied" courses based on family income?

There's a new report out on applied high school courses, and the people who take them in Ontario. The report was written by the advocacy group People for Education. It found the bulk of teenagers taking "applied" courses in Ontario continue to come from low-income households despite the fact streaming was officially abolished in 1999. Our education columnist Joel Westheimer weighs in on the study, and the concept of streaming.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Is EQAO testing failing our Ontario children?

I have long been against EQAO testing.

Testing, Assessment & Evaluation

Assessing for Improvement
Why do we test?
It does not diagnose causes for low scores:
  • cognitive, emotional or physical reasons for their inability to achieve.

Tuesday May 21, 2013

Joel Westheimer weighs in on EQAO testing

Not being able to sleep, coming home in tears... For some kids, standardized tests are a major source of stress. So some parents keep their children home on test day. CBC education columnist Joel Westheimer was interviewed about his take on the controversial tests.


Joel Westheimer
University Research Chair and Professor
University of Ottawa / Faculty of Education (Ontario)

Education columnist, CBC Ottawa Morning
Executive director, DemocraticDialogue

Many teachers have reservations about the wide-scale use of standardized tests. But the government mandates their use across Ontario in grades 3, 6, and 9 to test all children's literacy and numeracy. Teachers feel that classroom-based assessment by teachers is the best source of information about student learning.

Teaching 'New' Math


Math classes across Ontario are adding exercises that emphasise real life situations and subtracting time memorizing times-tables.  The "New Math" methodology is dividing parents.  CBO education columnist, Joel Westheimer walks Robyn through the pluses and minuses of the new technique.


Thursday, March 21, 2013


When I was teaching, I created monthly newsletters, but also had a classroom webageclass' web page for updates on the new year.
Including links to our newsletters.
Plus a new math resource page.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Students bullying teachers: professional boundaries

This is an issue that will only increase in this millennium. Teacher training is key.
Teachers should never be alone with students. This is something the faculties need to teach student teachers. The same principle applies on-line.
Teachers should refrain from on-line interactions of a personal nature. Keep it professional.
Horror stories abound.

I had students send me dirty jokes. These were grade 6 students. They sent them to me at my school board's email, which the board has the right to monitor. The students were also sending vulgar photos they purported to be jokes. I told them they must stop this. It could have meant my job.

It is important to keep a professional boundary between yourself and your students. You are not their friends, you must be like their parent, unafraid to discipline and show them where the line is that they must not cross. Faculties are weak in the areas of classroom control, very weak in technology lessons.

When teachers are the bully's target

By Stephanie Goldberg, CNN
March 11, 2013 (CNN)  Several years ago, Brendesha Tynes was taken aback when she received an e-mail from one of her former students.

Reports from teachers say her case isn’t an anomaly. A 2011 study, "Understanding and Preventing Violence Directed Against Teachers,"reported 80% of about 3,000 K-12 teachers surveyed felt victimized by students, students’ parents or colleagues in the past year.
Teachers reported that students were most often behind the verbal intimidation, obscene gestures, cyberbulling, physical offenses, theft or damage to personal property.

Considerations for personnel preparation

Novice teachers should be informed about the potential of experiencing violence in their classrooms, and then equipped with preventative methods to minimize the probability. Teacher preparation programs need to include child and adolescent development courses where behavioral, neural and development principles are discussed. Classroom management/engagement should be included throughout the program and revisited when students are doing their student-teaching and practicum.  Teacher candidates should learn the integrated three-tiered models of prevention and understand the importance of intervening at the primary, secondary and tertiary level. They should be encouraged to view each student individually and tailor instruction appropriately. Preservice teachers and teachers who are currently practicing need to understand how some of their own responses to students could promote the conditions for violence in the classroom. Through professional development and in-service programming, current teachers could learn strategies to diffuse conflicts in order to prevent escalation such as techniques for interrupting the acting out cycle (Colvin, 2004).

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What does preschool art look like?

Whatever you want it to look like. You find a box, crayons, glue, or open a bin of craft supplies. Allow them to choose the materials, allow them to choose the topic. Just let them go.
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