Museum of Anthropology - Free Admission
Come and explore the Gallery of Northwest Coast Masterworks. This new gallery is dedicated to Indigenous art from the Northwest Coast thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the Doggone Foundation and the Government of Canada.
The anonymous donor collected more than 200 pieces of important Indigenous art starting in the 1970s. This is thought to be the largest collection of Northwest Coast First Nations art to return to BC in many decades.
The pieces will be displayed with commentary from contemporary Indigenous artists speaking to the importance of the works shown. This opening welcomes children and will feature musical and visual performances. You can even participate in creating a digital graffiti wall!
For more information go to - moa.ubc.ca/portfolio_page/different-light/
Countries vs. Continents: A question from the New Teachers Conference
By Melissa Salter (gr. 4-7/SD#41)
The New Teachers Conference is a wonderful place for early career teachers to make connections and learn about what supports are available to them. While manning the myPITA table, I had many wonderful conversations and answered lots of questions about conferences, workshops, and supports. One student teacher asked a question that at the time, I was not able to answer, but now I think I have a few suggestions. This early career teacher said to me, "My students are confusing continents and countries, do you have any suggestions to help?" Her initial instinct was to give them maps to colour, but it just wasn’t working.
This question speaks to the heart of many issues in Social Studies and Science. We are often trying to teach students about concepts that are large in space and/or time. We know as educators that hands-on learning and active engagement are vital for deep understanding, so how to we take abstract concepts and solidify them in the minds of children? This student teacher has stumbled onto a larger issue that has sat with me for about a week, and I think I have a few ideas to help now. As I am currently on maternity leave, I can honestly say that I have not tried all of these specific ideas in my class, but I have worked with all of the processes using different subject matter with success.
Understand the Topic Yourself
First and foremost, you as the teacher need to understand the concepts to the best of your ability. If you understand the key idea that differentiates a topic, it will allow you as a teacher to help students understand the idea. This might mean looking in a textbook, the dictionary, and at reputable online sources. Looking at several sources can help you understand the most important aspects, differences or similarities between concepts and identify what might be challenging for students. Identifying the challenges can help you as the educator identify what needs to be concrete or hands-on in your lesson.
Example: Continents vs. Countries - Understanding the Topic
Continent: one of the main landmasses of the globe, usually reckoned as seven in number (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, and Antarctica).
Continent: one of the six or seven great divisions of land on the globe
Country: a state or nation; the territories of a nation
Country: a political state or nation or its territory
What might be challenging for learners about this topic?
Concept Attainment- Beyond Monet
Beyond Monet is a text resource I used in my early career that has many interesting points and good strategies for cooperative learning. The concept attainment lesson suggests giving both examples and non-examples in order to help students’ define/create understanding of a topic. A clear description of this idea can be found at: http://www.teachthought.com/critical-thinking/strategies/how-to-teach-with-the-concept-attainment-model/
Additionally, I highly recommend checking out the professional resources in your school library or finding a copy of Beyond Monet for clear descriptions of how/when to use many graphic organizers and/or cooperative learning strategies.
Analogy- Hands-on please!
With large concepts like countries and continents, analogy can be a powerful tool to create concrete understanding. If you can explore a kinesthetic link as well, this will create a powerful memory in the brains of learners.
Example 1: Continents vs. Countries- Jigsaw Puzzles
Visit your local primary class and nicely ask to borrow 5-7 jigsaw puzzles. Try to get puzzles with a different number of pieces and some that are different sizes (6-24). In groups, ask students to first put the puzzles together and give the puzzle a title. Next have them write down facts about the puzzle on a white board or chart paper. Have them focus on quantitative data like size or number of pieces. (Adaptation - Prepare a fact for students who will find this challenging and make sure they have the opportunity to share it with their group.)
Create a chart on your white board or smart board with data from all groups. Ask the students to make comparisons based on the data, maybe even two column notes as a group. Introduce the idea that the entire puzzle is like the continent and the pieces are like the countries. Challenge the students to identify ways the pieces are like countries (example: each has a border) and also how they are different (example: borders can change). Create the same challenge for the continent level (example: some large continents have many countries, while others have only a few). You could follow this up with mapping exercises, or discussions on political instability. The possibilities are endless!
Example 2: Continents vs. Countries- School Diagrams
Give each student a piece of blank paper (14 X 8.5 is my suggestion) and ask him or her to take out 2-3 different pencil crayons and a pen or pencil. Have the students fold the paper hamburger style and label the sides NOTES and DIAGRAM. Give students two minutes to sketch a bird’s eye view outline of your school on the diagram side with one pencil crayon (Outline=Continent). Then ask your students to use the second pencil crayon to draw the rooms within the school (Rooms=Countries). Again, encourage group discussion on how each room is different and has different functions, which may have analogies to different countries. This could even lead to a discussion about how countries within a continent can work together (examples: NAFTA, EU, school play) or against each other (examples: war, school competitions). The analogy can be extended as classrooms change every year you have migration, changing borders, or complete new regimes (a teacher moving schools!). This conversation could go quite deep depending on your grade, scaffolding, and background knowledge. Brainstorm other schools in the area as this could lead to discussion about how different continents have different divisions, concentrations of people, and/or philosophies. Use the diagram/notes columns to record a key, add ideas, and make comparisons.
(Adaptation - before the lesson create your own diagram as a visual to those students who need it (see photo above). Prepare and photocopy two versions for students who need extra supports - one where the student can use two different colours to outline the school and classroom and another where the school outline is provided and they can draw in the classrooms. Notes can already be added and highlighted by the student.)
Cross Curricular Links
Linking ideas across the curriculum (1) makes our lives as teachers easier and (2) creates more strands of understanding for students. I find that there can be many links made between concepts in Math, Science, and Social Studies. Often in Social Studies, students are reading graphs and trying to interpret data. This is a wonderful time to reinforce ratios, percentage, and how data is represented. Language Arts can be found through small group discussion, simulations, and written response. You could focus on non-fiction writing through comparison or stick with graphic organizers and group discussion.
Conclusions- Deeper Understanding
For many topics in Social Studies and Science, the concepts are intangible or of a scale that is challenging for learners. It is our duty to find ways to bring conceptual understanding to students in an engaging way. I have used many cooperative learning strategies, as well as analogy, simulation, acting etc. to deeply explore ideas. Sometimes it works, other times it does not and I try something different the next time. The simple question from a student teacher at a conference made me think about concept based learning and I feel bad I could not answer her question fully at the time. My hope is that these ideas reach her, and if not her, someone else who needs them. I encourage you to take risks as a teacher and push yourself beyond what you have tried in the past when exploring the redesigned curriculum. I challenge you to have fun, engage with students, and watch the magic of connection. I'd love hear your comments back about what worked and what didn't work in your classroom.
Technology Tools for Your Classroom
by Donna Thomson
Grade 5/6 Haldane Elementary in Chase, BC SD73
With the world of education every changing I thought I would highlight a few of the tools I have used and discovered over the last couple years. I am into learning about technology and the ways I can use of technology in a meaningful way into my classroom. In this blog, I am going to highlight a few different programs/sites that I have found very useful this year. You may have heard of them or they may be something new to you. I would love it if people would share some of the other great sites or apps they have used to create meaningful engagement of their students. There are hundreds of great sites, videos, programs and more out there and these are just a drop in the bucket.
I am sure we have all heard of this site. It is full of great and not so great videos to help introduce numerous number of topics. Setting up and having your own account is simple and the easiest way to keep track of and find links that your students can relate. With the use of video recording and green screen assignments the ability to upload to you tube using private setting is a great way to share student work in an environment that is controlled. Taking things, a step further is to use Teacher Tube which is rich with wonderful resources and much easier to search. For more information read The Teacher's Guide to Using YouTube in the Classroom.
My favorite subject to teach is math but it also the subject where I notice that the range of students is vastly different. Last year I started to experiment with Prodigy, This is a game based math program that has many wonderful teacher features. When the students first sign on they go through an assessment process which then tells you where they are deficient in skills. This allows you to set up an assignment base to help them move forward. You can also set up and assign different grade levels to the students. The joy of all this is when each student looks at the screen of another student they look the same. This alone allows each student to grow at their own pace but not feel singled out for being low. It also allows enrichment for those students that are ahead and need challenges. This is not a stand-alone program but a great supplement to help fill in gaps and to engage students. The best part is the main program and teacher aspects are free. I do have a couple students that have purchased the enhanced program so they could access more power for the game portion but it is not needed.
Fractions on YouTube
One of my favourite finds this year is the Fraction Song by a group of grade 5 students out of Washington. It was a great way to introduce my grade 5/6 students to fractions and it was a good introduction as well as it has come in handy as we work through the fractions unit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpGtKEsuP_I
Once at this location you can easily find several other videos related to this topic so you can break down the steps of fraction s for your students. This videos can easily be added to assignments and notes in Google Classroom so that your students can access them from chrome books, computer labs, IPads and from home.
I was introduced to Remind last year. This is the best program that I have used for parent/guardian communication. This program sets up a classroom that parents sign onto or you can add them directly. You can send out class reminders, notices, test notices, assignment notices, and important events. You can send a direct question or comment to an individual parent. Parents can also contact you directly with this program without having your cell number even the messages come directly to your cell. You set the boundary hours to send and receive messages. If you have not tried the Remind program, I highly recommend you do.
If you have not heard of Kahoot you need to go check it out. You can use it to review anything. Once you set up a teacher account it is easy to use. The program is very user friendly. To use Kahoot in your classroom students need to have access to the internet and a device to work with. I have used this using chrome books and in a computer lab. Once you set up your questions you invite the students to create a user name for this round of Kahoot and then have a little friendly competition. The program is set to have accuracy as well as time towards point accumulation. Always a fun time had by all.
The Google classroom and going paperless is become more and more of a normal classroom culture. Google classroom has numerous apps to help students create rich and meaningful assignment. One that has been recommend to me and used by a fellow teacher in my school is Screenplay Formatter. In this add on you can write in exactly what is says a screenplay format. Students need to use the add on to create a setting as well as rich dialogue. A grade 4/5 student used this add on in the fall and was very excited to see the results. I am looking at it for the last term this year with my grade 5/6 and can’t wait to see how it goes.
These are a few of my go-to's and treasures that I have found extremely valuable in my teaching. I would love to hear about your treasures and go toes with technology. Until next time ....
I have just returned from the Remembrance Day ceremony at Cates Park in North Vancouver. My feelings are somewhat tumultuous this year, with everything that has been going on. It has been a hard week.
Today, I will mourn all those lost to war and conflict. Tomorrow, we will go out and we will all continue to work towards making sure it is "Never Again" in the only way I believe can work; by kindness and inclusion and acceptance, by tolerance and thoughtfulness and love, by protecting our home - terra - and promoting empathy and responsibility at a community and global level in all the children we work with.
Teachers carry the torch. We say "never again" on a daily basis. Thank you for all you do to help keep back the darkness and move us towards peace.
Jennie Slack - MyPITA Vice President
It’s that dreaded time of year for Grade 4 and Grade 7 teachers… FSAs.
FSA survival is an art-form, and each school and district approaches it differently. As a professional forced to endure them, I have had to come up with a way to not gnaw out my liver in frustration during FSA week. Even more so as I teach a split class, so half my students are doing the test, while the other half are not.
So much wasted time!
My approach has been to try and minimize the waste. Instead of letting the FSA writing sample simply disappear into the aether, I decided to use it as a writing sample for assessment purposes. After all, second term report cards are coming up fast. I also have my non-FSA-year splits write the short and long writing piece as well, providing them with the same prompt and frame. I keep a photocopy of the short and long write from the FSA booklets, and use them to provide information for writing report card comments and to help me recognize what skills we need to work on as a whole class.
It helps to have a use for the FSAs that supports my work as a teacher in the classroom. I have been able to let go of some of the bile and frustration these weeks engender (especially as the whole school loses all our computers for 2 weeks while we cycle our students through doing the online portions). It’s also kind of nice to see if how I mark them matches the marks that return from the windowless rooms where various contracted teachers churn through hundreds of submissions in ridiculously short amounts of time. I have serious concerns about the way the FSAs are marked; at the same time, it is always nice to see if your benchmark grading is consistent with that of your colleagues.
Now, if they’d just stop giving the Fraser Institute access to the information…
Last week, as I was cleaning up at the end of the day, something caught my eye in one of my student's desk. Bending down, I peeked in and saw that, stashed between her duotangs and her pencil box, there were two plastic baggies filled with nugget potatoes.
Teaching is full of absurdities, and this was certainly one of them. In bemusement, and to share the sheer entertainment value inherent in such moments, I polled my neighbouring teachers to see if any of them could think of a reason why my student would have bags of nugget potatoes in her desk. Plenty of double takes and requests to repeat myself, but no theories presented themselves. Friends to whom I told the story suggested a variety of implausible solutions such as "ammunition for a potato gun" and "snacks, for earthquake preparedness" and shared their concern that nugget potatoes were a gateway to russets... and that we all know where THAT leads...
Giggling, I filed it away as something to ask her about, and promptly forgot about it. Until yesterday morning, when as the students were leaving for recess I heard one of them say "get the potatoes!"
Oh right, the potatoes. So I asked what they were up to, and the answer made my heart swell.
They were up to science.
Clearly, the conversations we've been having about creating experiments have born fruit (or tubers, as the case may be). This group of girls had decided to test to see if proximity to running water affected how quickly potatoes sprouted. When they came back, they proudly told me about how they had dug holes at specific distances from the stream running by the school and buried the potatoes there. Not only that, they had sorted the potatoes by size, and had made sure to bury a larger and a smaller one at each distance to see if size made a difference too. They were controlling for variables.
Sometimes, it feels like what we have to say goes in one ear and out the other. And then our students go and show us otherwise.
We do so much to help develop and support the students we teach. “Our kids” we frequently call them; we glory in their accomplishments, and we feel their pain.
Last night, I witnessed a very public example of what our members do every day in our classes. I witnessed it sitting in the audience as a parent, not a teacher for a change, and I witnessed an outpouring of public support for our task that made me cry almost as much as the actions of the teacher and children on the stage.
My son’s school held their Winter concert last night. It was adorable, as most Christmas Concerts are, and all the students were very well prepared and well rehearsed. But what stood out the most was when the Grade 7s went to sing their songs.
Almost every Grade 7 sang a solo line, and sang them well. However, there was one boy who, when he went up, forgot his line in nerves. The music teacher had them there, and they were given to him immediately, but then he went to sing and had a frog in his throat that choked off his voice. The background music was recorded, and he couldn’t recover, and went back to his place, mortified. He stood the rest of the song on the riser with his head hung down, unable to look up.
My heart was wrung for the poor kid. To have failed at something so publicly, and so spectacularly, must have been agonizing.
At the end of the song, Mr. Sled, the music teacher, having talked to the kid quietly for a moment, turned to the audience and said, “I think they can sing that again.” It was a statement that invited response, and the audience erupted in applause. I watched a hand from one of the kids in the riser behind reach out to ruffle the hair on the bowed head, the guy beside him give him a nudge of support, and then the music started again, and the first two soloists stepped forward to sing their lines.
When the line came to the student, he made it up, and he sang his lines beautifully, and he walked back to his spot on the riser to thunderous applause.
I was so proud of him. So proud of his overcoming that paralyzing sense of embarrassment. So proud of the success he achieved. So proud of him for having gotten up, and tried again.
I think I fully realized last night why I am so passionate about Public Education, and the breadth of experience we fight so hard to keep. My kids aren’t just the ones in my classroom, though those are the most known to me. “My kids” are every single student in our school system, and the teachers and support staff are part of that extended school family.
So, to my “brother” Mr. Sled, congratulations on an excellent Winter Concert. It was beautifully organized in general, and that particular issue was handled as well as it was possible to be. Thank you for making visible to an audience our daily triumphs and miracles, and the dance we do to support each student and help them achieve their best.
Forget Christmas, June is the busiest time of year for all teachers! There are year end field trips, report cards, class placement meetings, class parties, band concerts, sports day and so much more. In the midst of all this, we are trying to impart our final bits of knowledge on students, while struggling with the year end intermediate behaviours that inevitably appear on those beautiful sunny days. July 1 will soon come and the bustle of this teacher season will be over. I rarely make New Year's resolutions, but I frequently make July 1 teacher resolutions. Next year I will . . ., No matter the class I will try . . . One of my resolutions this year will be to help truely get this blog up and running. I love that over a year ago I was convinced to join PITA and work with the amazing team! I hope to get into the habit of frequently posting with great, fresh ideas to start implementing in September!
As this year winds down, I also often get stuck on what to give my class at the end of the year. About three months I found this pin on Pinterest via "Drama Mama's Little Corner" blog. She teachers grade two, but I thought this was a 'Kool' idea for intermediate students! I'd probably give them out frozen, that way they can have it right away!
Enjoy the final weeks!
Word clouds are a fun way to display student learning. A few weeks ago, I created a word cloud using Wordle that summed up my students learning in Ancient Egypt.
There are two popular words cloud generators - Wordle and Tagxedo. Wordle creates word clouds in no defined shape. Tagxedo allows you to shape the word clouds into one of the shapes they have available, including an apple, airplane, or heart.
Here are some samples and ideas of how you can use them in your classroom.
All about Me Word Cloud
This is a fun activity at the beginning of the year or anytime!
1) First have students type their name at least 15 times (so it will be the largest)
2) Then have them type in things that describe them. Favourite colour, favourite foods, hobbies, interests etc. Again those things most important to them should be typed more than once and then they will be bigger.
3) Print them off and display them. They look cool in black and white too!
4) If you blog with your class have them embed it in their blog!
One 'book-keeping' note. It may be easier for them to type into a Word docucument first. Then, have them cut and paste their work into Wordle or Tagxedo. That way they can spell-check and ensure they have included everything they thought of.
Other Classroom uses for Word Cloud Generators:
Here is a Tagxedo of my last blog post about the website If It Were My Home. This Tagxedo is embedded as a weblink,; therefore it is interactive. The only downside of Tagxedo is that if you do not have Microsoft Silverlight, you will not be able to view the interactive embedded version. However, you can save images and then use them. See my next example below.
Below is a Tagxedo of my next newsletter contribution. This image is saved and can be used in a variety of ways.
Finally, here is an embedded wordle. You can click on it and it will take your to the wordle website. Wordles become publically accessible if you do not choose to make them private. Therefore, if students make them about themselves, ensure that they are private! This Wordle is of the hand-out from my blogging workshop.
Happy Word Cloud Generating!
N. Keyworth, Grade 7 Teacher, Treasurer for PITA
This blog will feature Intermediate and Middle Years teachers who are passionate about their teaching and love to share!