Exciting News! We’re working on a TLLP Project!

We apologize if things have been quiet around here for the last week or so, but we were busy preparing for the “Leadership Skills for Classroom Teachers—TLLP Training Session” last week! It was a phenomenal event!

To give you some background information, the TLLP stands for Teacher Learning and Leadership Program, which is “an annual project-based professional learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers”  here in Ontario.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, the TLLP “funds proposals from classroom teachers who seek a peer leadership role in curriculum, instructional practice or supporting other teachers. The three goals of the program are to create and support opportunities for teacher professional learning, foster teacher leadership and facilitate the sharing of exemplary practices with others for the broader benefit of Ontario’s students” (source).

Way back in November 2012, we applied for funding through the TLLP.  At first, we were not 100% sure about the direction our proposed project would take, but after a lot of research, discussion, and reflection, we decided on math learning journals, specifically focusing on student problem solving, communication, connections, and reflections (we will discuss more about our project very soon!).  In December, we received wonderful news from our school board that our project was selected and submitted for TLLP consideration.  We were ecstatic and couldn’t wait to find our if our project had been approved! But wait we did, until February 2013 when our project was approved by the TLLP committee!

Fast forward to May 15-17, 2013 when we attended the “Leadership Skills for Classroom Teachers—TLLP Training Session” in downtown Toronto.  It was a busy and intensive 2.5 day training session.  We had to juggle quite a few work and home commitments to ensure that all three of us could be there, but it was well worth it!  From the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, Mike Budd, Peter Lipman, and Rosemary Clark did an excellent job leading the event. Presenters from the Ministry of Education included Paul Anthony, Hanca Chang, and Nick Zacharopoulos, as well as presenters Claudine Laporte (AEFO), Malisa Mezenberg (OECTA), Susan Perry (OECTA), Brenda Sherry, and Peter Skillen.  All the presenters and facilitators were so friendly, approachable, and informative! The Keynote Speakers were Dr. Ann Lieberman, from Stanford University, and Dr. Carol Campbell, from OISE/UT.  Two excellent speakers who were entertaining, motivating, and knowledgeable!

Throughout the 2.5 day training session, we heard about scheduling, project management and budgeting…things I am not crazy about! Yes, I am known for my lists upon lists, but luckily I have two awesome partners—Elita who is great with budgets and Lisa who is super organized!

I really enjoyed the portion “Learning From Experience: What I Know Now that I Wish I Knew Then”. In this section, there were six presentations from last year’s TLLP cohort.  We each attended three of the six presentations and we were able to hear about their projects, difficulties they encountered, successes they celebrated, and lessons they learned along the way.  This was very informative and hearing first-hand accounts from people that were past (and also current) participants was fascinating.

On the last day, we were able to meet with other participants who matched our theme (math) and we had some excellent discussions! We can’t wait to collaborate with these excellent teacher leaders throughout the year!

One thing that we did mention over and over again throughout the 2.5 day session was how motivating and inspiring it was to be in a room packed full of teachers who are looking for new and innovative ways to develop and strengthen their own professional learning and that of their students!

If you are (or were) part of the TLLP community, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

We’ll be sharing our learning journey on this blog throughout the year. Check back often for updates and more information about our project and its implementation! We’ll be adding a TLLP button at the top of our page for easy access to these posts!

Let the journey begin!

Engaging Students in Mathematics: Free Resources from CSC

Curriculum Services Canada (CSC) “has a passion for, and commitment to, life-long learning. We recognize that people and organizations have unique learning needs and we believe that personal and professional growth is optimal when learning is context-specific, relevant, and highly engaging” (source).  CSC provides excellent, FREE resources for teachers on a variety of subject areas, professional development resources, and webcasts.

We are always on the lookout for resources to help us improve our teaching of mathematics and strategies to help our students become more engaged and enthusiastic about math.  CSC has an EXCELLENT array of resources for teaching math that would be beneficial to your teaching

The section on ENGAGING STUDENTS IN MATHEMATICS includes:

– videos on sample lessons (lesson planning, the actual lesson, student learning, and teacher debrief)

– print resources on asking effective questions, communication in the mathematics classroom, and Bansho (board writing)

– graphic organizers for teachers to use while viewing/reading the material and then planning their own engaging math lessons

This is just a small sample of some resources available on curriculum.org!

 

Gr 4 Science Unit on Pulleys and Gears (Ontario Curriculum)

We have been hard at work once again.  Today’s post provides our latest science unit for Gr. 4 Science.  Our past units have had great success and have been inspired once more to keep creating complete units that address the Ontario Science Curriculum in a cross curricular approach.

Today’s unit addresses the Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Pulleys and Gears.   With this unit you do not need to search for other resources.  It is a complete unit that will fully engage your students in a variety of ways.

 

Pulleys and Gears Badge

Here is an overview of the unit:

Learning centres: students work in small groups or individually to rotate between three centres over the course of the activity (four types of centre activities: technology, reading/writing activity, creative response, and a fun or hands-on activity);

Whole class lesson/discussions followed by either small group activities or whole class activity

Cross-curricular integration with other subject areas, including Language Arts (Reading, Writing, Oral Communication, Media Literacy), Drama, Physical Education, Art, and Health

A focus on Assessment For and As Learning through student self-assessments and group assessments, KWL charts, exit slips, anticipation guides, and project planning sheets;

Reading strategies addressed include making connections, determining important ideas, drawing conclusions, and cause-and-effect;

Differentiated Instruction is achieved through Learning Centres, group work and a variety of hands-on activities and labs

The entire unit, including lessons, assignments, assessments, printables, and centre activities comes to over 120 pages!

Need more?  Just click on this link: Demo of Gr 4 Pulleys and Gears

If you have not seen our other COMPLETE units that address the Ontario Science Curriculum, then use the links below to find further information:

Gr. 4/5 Pulleys, Gears, Forces & Structures

Gr. 4 Habitats and Communities

Gr. 4/5  Habitats and Communities & Human Organ Systems

Gr. 5 Human Organ Systems

Computer Coding: An Essential Skill

We all wonder what our students and children will face in the future.  How will they be successful, what kind of work will there be for them, what skills are necessary to be able to be successful?  These questions are at the heart of everything we do!  We know that students need to be creative, able to problem solve and think critically.  Also, we know that our curriculum and our classrooms should be inclusive of technology.  But what about understanding where it all stems from?  What are we doing about that?  We need to realize that computer software coding is an essential skill that will be necessary for success. We need to be able to address this in our classrooms.

Here is a link to a wonderful video, where world class athletes, musicians and great business people, discuss the importance to this very skill.

Well, what does that mean for us? Visit the website www.code.org and find out how students can learn to code in elementary schools, how they can develop their critical thinking skills and problem solving skills. Share with us what you think and what you have tried.  It is never too late for anyone to learn to code!

 

Helping Students Make Meaningful Connections Using Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week Strategy

“Part of the reason my students have such a hard time reading is because they bring little prior knowledge and background to the written page. They can decode the words, but the words remain meaningless without a foundation of knowledge” (Kelly Gallagher)

In one of my previous posts, I explained how I use Kelly Gallagher‘s excellent resource, “Teaching Adolescent Writers” (2006), in order to help my students learn how to write effectively.  In our school, we run TLCP (Teaching-Learning Critical Pathways) cycles focusing on a particular reading strategy throughout the year.  Currently, we are focusing on making connections, where students are to read a text and then respond to it by either making a text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connection. I often find that students will only skim the surface when making connections and I really want them to work on making a deeper and more meaningful connection to the text. Students have a difficult time making meaningful connections to texts because they lack sufficient experience and background knowledge.

Kelly Gallagher has developed an excellent strategy to assist with this dilemma: the Article of the Week.  The premise may be simple, but the effect is profound. Each Monday, students are given an article to read.  At the top of each article, Gallagher provides the following strategy:  “1. Mark your confusion.  2. Show evidence of a close reading. Mark up the text with questions and/or comments.  3. Write a one-page reflection on your own sheet of paper” (from kellygallagher.org/resources/articles.html).  At the end of each article, Gallagher provides possible written response topics.  A new article is provided each week with the same framework.

In my opinion, this strategy is perfect in every way:

  1. Students are provided with an article on a high interest topic that will capture their attention and motivate them to read (hopefully!)
  2. Topics can change each week and can reflect current events, student interest, or connect to other curriculum topics
  3. The reading strategy is consistent with each article (the three steps provided at the top of each article)
  4. Students are provided with a consistent task, where they apply their skills on a regular basis
  5. Students and teachers can easily monitor student progress by reviewing weekly responses over a certain time period
  6. Students will be building their knowledge base and be provided with the background to make meaningful connections when reading other texts
  7. This activity can easily be scaffolded with teachers slowly removing direct support when students become much more sufficient in breaking down the text and responding to it
  8. Differentiated instruction is easily attainable, as students can receive different articles on the same topic but at different reading levels or teachers can continue to provide more support to struggling students, while other students are able to work more independently
  9. Assessment for and as learning are addressed on a regular basis, as teachers can keep track of student comprehension, learning, and skill development, while students can use self-assessment to determine how well they are applying their reading comprehension strategies over time.

Kelly Gallagher has provided years worth of archives for the Article of the Week. The Articles of the Week are further subdivided according to the grade level Gallagher taught when that article was used. Since Gallagher teaches high school English, many of the articles are a bit too difficult for my grade 7 and 8 students.  Not a problem, as I have been scouring various sources for interesting articles that I can use in my own classroom.  Even if you do not teach high school English, this approach will work with your students, as the framework is extremely effective and focused on improving student reading comprehension in a regular and methodical manner.

Place Value for Middle Grades

It is essential for students to keep practicing concepts that have been introduced to them during class time.  A fantastic way is through centre activities and games.  Here is a great game for students to keep practicing the concepts of … Continue reading →