The world of technology – being a lead teacher!

I believe it is my responsibility as an educator to create an environment in which students can learn to their fullest learning potential. In order to create an environment in which all students can succeed, it is important to understand that the early years are the most crucial years in a child’s formation. It is the time when children are learning and developing as individuals who will then mature into young adults. I believe all children want to learn and it is the methods we use that makes the learning experience interesting, intriguing, and knowledge based. Hence, it is essential we plan a curriculum based around the children’s interests to ensure attentiveness and co-operation, as this can result in greater opportunities to reach their fullest potential. In doing this, I can offer my students the opportunity to succeed in attaining the knowledge they will need to step out into the “real world”.

As part of ensuring such learning in our classrooms, we must understand the changes in our world. For example, in our world today, technology has become an essential tool in our lives. Not only are we using them more and more each day, but we also need them more and more. For children, computers are becoming a very strong influence in their learning and use of new skills. Assignments that require the use of computer programs or the internet (whether it be for research, lyrics to a song for an assignment, definitions, quotes, poems, ideas to help brainstorm, pictures, etc.) are becoming more and more common within the classroom. Reason being is that teachers are beginning to realize and understand the importance of computers and the role it plays in the lives of our students. Furthermore, we are keeping in mind the idea of differentiated learning – each of our students learns differently. Having said that, it is important that we integrate and include different styles of teaching and learning so to encourage and ensure that our students are learning to the fullest of their learning potential.

How would you feel if your school was given fifty new computers?

Feeling strongly about computers and the importance it has taken in the lives of the young minds in our classrooms, I would be extremely happy if my elementary school was given fifty new computers – I feel that having new computers would be essential in our students learning, as it would give them various opportunities to work on and complete some of the assigned work, and it would also allow students to learn new things or strengthen their abilities. While some of our students are masters when it comes to computers, given the advantage that they may have access to computers at home, others may only have the privilege of having access to a computer at school, giving more reason as to why they are so important. It also allows us, as educators, to encourage new skills as they may need them in their near future. 

What if your principal asked you to be the lead programming teacher for the grade 7 and 8’s?

If my principal asked me to be the lead teacher programming for the grade 7 and 8 class, I would gladly accept. Being that my feelings towards the use of computers and the importance in which it holds are strong, I feel I would make a great candidate.

What would your steps include?

As the lead teacher, these would be the steps I would take in creating a productive and engaging program:

–        First, I would schedule arranged times (with the classroom teachers) for the grades 7 and 8 classes, so that they have adequate time to use the computers each week.

–        Next, I would sit down with the classroom teachers and discuss the students’ expectations, levels of learning and interests, as well as, what they are working on in class so to cover these expectations, so that I could better understand ways in which I could integrate that during computers.

–        I would also look to the Ontario curriculum documents to further my understanding of the grades expectations.

–        I would then turn to the students to get a better understanding of their interests and the ways in which I can incorporate them when creating lessons.

With all of this information, I can now begin creating lessons that further link what students are learning in class, the expectations in which they must meet, as well as, their interests, with the skills in which I believe they need to and should learn while using a computer in order to reach and accomplish each of these factors.

What about the teaching and learning process itself?

–        First, I would begin with teaching basic introductory lessons such as how to locate/use specific tools/icons, etc. on the computers.

–        From there, I would teach lessons with regards to how to use specific programs in which they would be using in order to complete class assignments such as Microsoft word, PowerPoint, internet explorer, etc. (Teaching this would be beneficial as some students are not aware of how to use such programs, and such programs are essential when trying to complete assigned work such as finding research, creating presentations, typing assignments, etc., as well as, meeting the expectations).

With the knowledge and understanding of these new skills,   students will be better able and better equipped to begin using the programs in order to complete assigned work. I would work to the best of my teaching abilities to ensure that the time in which both the grade 7 and 8 classes have for computers will be:

A. A time in which they will learn new skills such as how to use a computer, more specifically, the programs that we must use to complete assignments and

B. A time where they can work on and complete assigned work that requires the use of a computer (again, some students do not have the privilege of using a computer or have the access to a computer at home).

C. A time where students can put their new knowledge and skills to work!

Timing is everything…

With time, once the students have gained an understanding of how to use a computer and have grasped the idea of how to put their new skills to work, I would begin to incorporate programs/skills in which the students are interested in learning about (going back to the discussion I had with the students before beginning the programming). I would definitely try to incorporate their interests throughout each of the lessons as well, so to ensure that students are learning to the fullest of their potential. I would allow students to explore popular or favorite programs, making sure that they understand the rules and limits.

I believe that in taking into consideration some of the ideas as mentioned above, I, as a lead teacher, would be able to create a program that is interesting and student based, further supporting my philosophy of education!








Resource Review: Making Differentiation a Habit (2009) by Diane Heacox

Resources that provide support on how to practically apply DI in the classroom are extremely useful, as most resources are more theoretical and do not actually show you what DI looks like in the classroom; in my opinion, Diane Heacox’s latest book is the best resource I have encountered to provide teachers with the tools to use DI daily. Making Differentiation a Habit (2009) is an excellent resource as it takes explains the process of how to differentiate, it addresses challenges and concerns that you may face, and it provides an abundance of practical resources that teachers can use in the classroom.

Making Differentiation a Habit: How to Ensure Success in Academically Diverse Classrooms


Making Differentiation a Habit: How to Ensure Success in Academically Diverse Classrooms

The first part of the book answers the question, “How do I differentiate?” A key component of this resource is that it takes you through the process step by step. First, Heacox helps you to identify your learning goals by identifying the KUDo’s for the unit by asking yourself the questions: What do I want my students to know, understand, and be able to do by the end of the unit? (p. 6). Specifically, know incorporates facts, rules, and vocabulary, understand encompasses the big ideas of the unit and the essential concepts to be learned, and dodescribes the skills and processes that students should be able to perform independently (p. 6-7). These three components directly relate to the Ontario Science Curriculum document (2007) for Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment (understand), Developing Investigation and Communication Skills (do), and Understanding Basic Concepts (know). Heacox states that the unit KUDo’s should be shared and posted in the classroom to provide students with an understanding of the goals of the unit and how to be successful on assessments (p. 8). Sharing the learning goals and success criteria with students is connected to the Growing Success Document (2010) which states that teachers need to “share learning goals and success criteria with students at the outset of learning to ensure that students and teachers have a common and shared understanding of these goals and criteria as learning progresses” (p. 28). I would suggest that teachers write out the KUDo’s for themselves first and then work with their students to co-construct the learning goals and success criteria in student-friendly language; thereby, ensuring that students are actively involved in constructing meaning through the unit.

Heacox provides several examples of assessment for learning that can be used to help teachers recognize the preconceptions their students already have regarding particular concepts:

· Topic webs (similar to the concept maps) can be used individually or in groups to determine facts and ideas about a topic and then these ideas are written onto a sticky note and placed onto a chart paper. Several topic webs are then merged together and the sticky notes are moved around to create a large class topic web with interconnected ideas and relationships between the concepts are discussed (p. 31-32)

· Walkabout charts (similar to a gallery walk) are used to have groups answer an open-ended question. Charts are then posted and groups walk around and record comments/questions on other groups’ charts (p. 33)

· KWI chart (similar to KWL charts) that asks students what do you know, what do you want to know, and what are you interestedin learning? This allows teachers to include topics/questions into the unit that they may not have thought of, but will increase the interest/motivation of the groups (p. 35).

Once teachers have conducted self-reflections of their teaching practice and conducted pre-assessment of their students’ preconceptions and interests, they are ready to begin using a Differentiated Learning Plan (DLP), which provides students with choice of assignments and tiering to meet diverse needs. Heacox (2009) states that there are nine parts to a DLP:

· KUDo’s based on expectations

· Pre-assessment notes (preconceptions and interests from student surveys)

· The hook to get kids interested and motivated (e.g. artwork, article, anecdote, timeline)

· Content delivery (the actual lesson itself) which may include differentiation of resources or learning goals dependent on the needs of the students

· Application activities which show how students will learn the concepts, skills, or processes presented in the lessons (this is where teachers can use choice boards or tier assignments for diverse learning needs based on multiple intelligences, readiness, or complexity)

· Independent activities which allow students to demonstrate their learning

· Closure to reinforce the concepts that they have learned (e.g. Think-Pair-Share, Exit Cards)

· Teacher reflection and next steps (p. 58-62)

If teachers were to simply read all these steps, it would seem daunting, but Heacox provides several sample DLPs from a variety of grades and subject areas. The plans are relatively quick and only have a few points written under each heading. DLP: Example #3 is based on Desert Ecosystems (Middle School) and shows the use of graphic organizers, websites, group tasks, and exit slips throughout the lesson (p. 67-68). In this case, the independent activity is a choice based on interest: choose an animal or plant from the food web and explain what would happen if it disappears. Students are to either illustrate the effects on the ecosystem by either writing an article (Verbal/Linguistic) or creating a chart/diagram (Logical or Visual/Spatial) (p. 68). By seeing the actual sample DLP, I see that they are similar to lesson plans that I am familiar with, but incorporate choice boards, tiering, and reflection.

Heacox (2009) then takes the reader through the process of creating choice boards and tiering assignments. Chapters 5 and 6 are dedicated to this process and contain an abundance of examples to show readers how simple this process can actually be. I would be stumped if I did not have this many examples before my eyes. Heacox does a good job of taking a potentially difficult task and breaking it down into something feasible by providing examples and explanations along the way.

There is also practical advice on how to differentiate tasks by tiering assignments for various learning groups. When reading through her work, I thought that this strategy would not work well because students would realize that they were being “leveled” into groups and might feel resentful. When looking over the samples she provides, I saw that she does not make a distinction between students who “get it” and those that do not; instead, the basis of the task is the same, but one group may receive additional support or more scaffolded directions, while the other group may have a chance for enrichment and exploration. Heacox (2009) states that “tiering by degree of structure provides some students with more support or direction for their work while other students engage in a more open-ended task.” (p. 91). For example, the Tiering by degree of abstraction example for high school English has both groups providing 10 artifacts to represent a character in the novel. The first group is to choose 10 items and represent the connection to the character, while the second group chooses 10 items to symbolize the character and connect these items to the theme of the novel (p. 91). A slight change in wording, but a dramatic change in complexity as both groups will have 10 items, but one group has the chance to extend their understanding and make more sophisticated and abstract connections. Heacox (2009) provides step-by-step instructions on how to tier assignments and suggests a three tier approach: task one is for some students (more scaffolded for those who struggle), task two is for most students (on target), and task three is for some students (more abstract and open-ended for enrichment) (p. 88-97).

The best part of this resource is that she has worked with teachers mainly in the U.S. and Canada, but has also studied teachers in Great Britain, Germany, India, and Singapore, so she understands the questions and concerns that teachers have regarding differentiated instruction (p. 1). Throughout the last few chapters of the book, she provides more sample DLPs, strategies, choice boards, and charts to provide teachers with tons of resources to get started with incorporating DI in their classrooms on a regular basis. This resource was created for teachers in mind and includes practical strategies, step-by-step directions, a CD of blackline masters, and answers any questions you may have on DI in the classroom. There always seems to be a new government mandate for education; however, teachers are not always provided with the tools and strategies to apply these theories in practice. Diane Heacox does an excellent job in making teachers more comfortable with applying DI in their classrooms. If teachers are confident in their abilities and in the tools they have, then both teachers and students will benefit.


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Think Aloud Strategy

A lesson put together for the Primary Division

(Questioning, Predicting, Connecting, Inferring)


Book: Puddleman

by Ted Staunton, Illustrated by Brenda Clark


I’m looking at the cover of this book and I wonder what it will be about? Maybe Puddleman is the child’s last name. Or maybe, the story is about playing in a sandbox. (Strategy: Prediction) When I look at the picture I think about the park that is close to my home and where all the children play. (Strategy: Connection) I wonder if this story takes place in a park. (Strategy: Prediction)

On the first 2 pages, the main character (Michael) is depicted in a yard of some sort with other children(including his younger brother) around him and he jumps into the sandbox which is wet and muddy.

A sandbox, I remember playing in those when I was young. (Connection) There was one in the park and I played with all of my friends. I wonder if Michael will get as dirty? (Question) Will he land in the sandbox or outside the sandbox? (Question) Everyone has surprised looks on their faces, where is his mom? (Question) I wonder if his brother will jump in with him. (Prediction)

Page 5&6 Michael got so deep into the sandbox, which is muddy, that he buried himself in it. The children cannot see him any longer, when something in the sandbox starts moving. The neighbor girls run, the neighbor lady faints and the little brother starts to cry.

Why are they so scared? (Question) What happened to Michael? (Question)

Maybe they can’t find Michael. (Inference) What does this Puddleman look like? (Question) Is he really that scary? (Question) Fainted? What does it mean to faint? Well the picture shows the neighbor on the ground, maybe it’s when you fall. (Visualize, Infer)

Pg 11 & 12 Puddleman (Michael) gets hungry but when he goes to his mom, he is told that Peanut Butter sandwiches are for boys and girls. Puddleman looks like a muddy monster and they do not eat anything but mud pies. Michael’s mom shuts the door and tells Puddleman to tell Michael that his sandwich is ready.

What does this Puddleman look like? (Question) Well from the pictures, there is a lot of mud on him. (Visualize, Connection) Who do I think Puddleman is? (Question) Why isn’t Michael’s mom looking for Michael? (Question) Its lunchtime, I think Michael will be very hungry. (Infer) I wonder where he has been, and what he will think of Puddleman. (Connection) I wonder if he will be scared like the others. (Prediction)

After reading the story and doing the Think Aloud with my students. I will make the following comments:

The Puddleman got caught in the rain, and after I looked at the picture Puddleman started losing his mud, and it sort of looks like a boy underneath. From looking at the clothes in the picture, I recall that those were Michael’s clothes.(Evaluation) I think that the Puddleman got his peanut butter sandwich. I think he really was Michael with a lot of mud on him. (Evaluation)


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Teaching Proverbs

When introducing proverbs to my students, I would start with a general discussion asking them to think about a major crisis, decision they had to make, or problem they had to deal with.

The following would be a few of the directing questions:

· Do you prefer facing those kinds of problems alone, or does it help to ask others for advice and direction?

· Who do you trust with some of your most difficult problems? Why?

· Do you try to follow their advice, or do you tend to ignore it?


I would then discuss with them the book of Proverbs and what they are, for example:

· The book of Proverbs is a collection of short statements that express truths about human behavior.

· The proverbs found in the Old Testament can be a source of inspiration, counsel, and direction to those who read and ponder their messages of wisdom.

· They are a collection of wise sayings, many of which were inspired by the Lord, which can help us with many problems.


I would then switch gears and present a modern day proverb and elicit some from my students (if they know any)

List of modern day proverbs: (just a few) (see worksheet page 1)

· Don’t count your chickens before they hatch (proverb)

· Birds of a feather flock together

· Keep it simple silly

· Actions speak louder than words

· Six in one hand, a half dozen in the other

· A chain is as strong as its weakest link

· A friend in need is a friend indeed

· A place for everything and everything in its place

· A rolling stone gathers no moss

I would then ask the following questions and have students respond in their notebooks:

  • What is a proverb?
  • What is the purpose of a proverb? What kinds of messages or lessons do the proverbs teach?
  • Where do you think proverbs come from?
  • Why do you think proverbs are easily remembered?

Then introduce the Book of Proverbs and read the first few lines highlighting Proverb 1:4

Discuss with students that proverbs utilize figurative language and making a connection to similes, and metaphors.

Define figurative language: Appealing to the imagination, figurative language provides new ways of looking at the world. It always makes use of a comparison between different things.

Strategy #1 (see worksheet page 2)

To deepen understanding & meaning, students could utilize a comic strip approach.

Students are to choose one proverb from the everyday list. In the first row below (of max 4 boxes) they are to depict the literal meaning of the phrase.

Then in the next row directly below, they are to depict an everyday situation in their life where this would apply (the figurative meaning) to demonstrate their understanding


Literal Depiction

Display their depictions and discuss as a group. This class discussion would generate ideas being shared and deepen meaning and reasoning skills.

Students are to then choose a proverb from the bible and communicate the meaning in their own words. They can utilize a drawing to help them express how this proverb can be useful in their life.

Strategy # 2

Play “Charades.” Write some of the everyday proverbs on a 3″ x 5~’ card. Give each child a card to pantomime for the group. Record the proverbs on the board and discuss meaning. Have students in groups of 3 choose a proverb from the bible and prepare a charades version of that one to act out in front of class.

Have students write in their notebooks what the meaning of the proverb they worked on means to them.

As a closing for both strategies have students respond to the original questions:

  • What is a proverb?
  • What is the purpose of a proverb? What kinds of messages or lessons do the proverbs teach?
  • Where do you think proverbs come from?
  • Why do you think proverbs are easily remembered?


In both of my strategies, students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in a multiple format (creating comic strips, writing, communicating with discussion, movement). Furthermore, students are supported by working in groups. I would make sure to have balanced groupings. While discussing, I could stop and re-iterate the concept. When students are working on their own, they could have peer or teacher assistance.

The following worksheets can assist you in teaching about this topic:

Using Famous Speeches

During the month of January, I usually begin a public speaking unit with my students. Public speaking is an excellent method of integrating various curriculum expectations into a single unit. How does this happen?

  • Media Literacy is addressed as students begin the unit by viewing three important speeches on YouTube and discussing the importance of the content and the effectiveness of the delivery
  • Students practice their narrative/expository/persuasive writing skills by going through the writing stages for their speech
  • Oral Communication is addressed when students deliver their respective speeches to the class in an effective and engaging manner, while also addressing  listening for understanding (as an audience member).

My students usually are very apprehensive about writing and delivering a speech, but they all end up doing a fabulous job!

To start off this unit, we watch three speeches on YouTube:


Severn Suzuki

Severn Suzuki “ECO’s Address to the U.N. Earth Summit”

Why is this a great choice? What Canadian doesn’t know who David Suzuki is?! Well, Severn is his daughter and in 1992 (at just 12 years old!) she addressed the United Nations at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.   Her powerful speech presented environmental concerns from a youth perspective at this U.N. Summit.  Her message still resonates today.


Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch “The Last Lecture”

This 10 minute clip from Oprah is an abridged version of the popular “The Last Lecture” by Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch that answers the question, “what wisdom would you try to impart on the world if you knew it was your last chance?”  Randy Pausch had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer when he delivered this inspirational and emotional speech.  he passed away on July 25, 2008.


Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have a dream…” by Martin Luther King Jr.

Many students have heard the famous line “I have a dream…” by Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the American Civil Rights Movement, but they may not have heard his full speech.  Although this clip is long (coming in at over 17 minutes), students remained captivated by both the delivery and message of this powerful speech.

The following chart helps students jot down the ideas that resonate from the three speeches they watched.  Students are to focus on the importance of both the content and the delivery of each speech because it doesn’t matter if you’re a great speaker if your message is unclear, just as an important message is lost if the delivery is ineffective.

Resource Review: Spaces & Places by Debbie Diller

“Classroom space impacts everything: instruction, behavior, and our (children’s and teachers’) sense of well-being” (from Spaces & Places by Debbie Diller)

Spaces & Places by Debbie Diller

Debbie Diller’s 33 years in education spent as a preK – gr 10 classroom teacher, reading specialist, literacy coach, workshop leader, classroom makeover specialist, consultant, and author of books and DVDs provides her with both theoretical and practical knowledge of effective classroom design and organization.

Although other resources provide information on classroom organization and design, Diller’s book actually has before and after pictures taken from classrooms she has made over, along with analysis as to why it did not work before and why it now does. The layout of the book is visually appealing, as Diller uses point form notation, colours, graphic organizers, large colour photographs, “post-it” notes with key points, and captions to make the pages clear and readable.  Since Diller is a literacy specialist, the book has a clear focus to make the classroom conducive to literacy; however, she also addresses specific issues like ESL/ELL learners, preK, special needs, open classes, and technology.

A few key points that are addressed:

· A cluttered classroom is detrimental to learning and creates a negative atmosphere that may lead to discipline problems.

· Backwards design principle: think about instructional goals, then design your classroom to achieve those goals.

· The components of a well-organized classroom (e.g. large-, small- and independent-work areas, word wall, library, writing and math centres) support instruction, provide opportunities for student independence, reduce discipline problems, and engage students in their learning.

· Teachers should not decorate their classrooms with store bought bulletin board sets; instead, they should plan their instruction and leave space for displaying student work!

· Teachers should plan spaces for students to become independent learners and thinkers—teachers provide the structure and then give students the opportunity to provide ownership. Instead of being “the teacher’s classroom,” it becomes “our classroom.”

Spaces & Places is an awesome organizational resource, as Diller provides guidance for every area of your classroom…she even has suggestions about where to keep your office supplies so that you never lose your stapler!  What I love best about this resource is that I can see myself succeeding!  The suggestions are realistic, the before and after pictures are inspiring, and the suggestions are broken down into easy to follow guidelines.  I love the simplicity and practicality!

I loved this book so much that I lost focus many times, as I kept formulating plans to reorganize my class!  I’m so excited to use the realistic and easy to follow plans (and the helpful worksheets at the back of the book!) to reorganize my classroom to make it more conducive to teaching and learning.


Disclosure:  This post contains an affiliate link.  All views expressed are the author’s own. Thanks for supporting our website!