21st Century Learning: A Time of Change for Teachers and Students

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists” (Eric Hoffer)

Today, all the teachers in our board participated in professional development centred around 21st century learning.  Each school sent a few representatives to the symposium, while the remaining teachers and support staff at each school logged in to a live stream and watched the presentation together.  I can honestly say that today’s symposium and speakers were amazing.  I have so much to write and think about, but I need to go over my notes to really do it justice.  So many excellent ideas were presented today and I really want to reflect on how to be a learner and a teacher, how to engage my students in innovative ways, and how to apply all this new knowledge to my teaching.

Here are a few things though:

I have so many thoughts running through my head regarding the questions raised today, but I have to try to formulate some sort of plan to address these ideas in the classroom.  One item that was mentioned today was teachers using blogs to get connected to students, parents, and other educators…on that note:

Here’s our latest TeachHUB.com article: The Importance of Teacher Bloggers! Please read our article, leave a comment, ask a question, or tell us about your blogs!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

Literacy Planning Sheet: An Organizational Tool

How many times do you read a piece of text, be it a poem, book, article, song lyrics, and think about how it can be utilized to teach concepts in literacy to your students?  I have found that I do this constantly, but sometimes have great ideas at that moment but then forget about all those thoughts.  I say to myself, I should have written it down, organized my thoughts.  With this planning sheet, you can organize your thoughts about that piece of text and keep a record of it for future use!  This way, you do not need to re-read it in its entirety, and can always build from your initial thoughts.  The planning sheet is a 2 page organizer where you can record the name, author and type of text you will use.  I have added some literacy concepts for headings and have left some blank for your discretion.  It’s a simple document that can easily be used as a point of reference for you or your team! Click on the image to get this effective tool.


Assessment as Learning: Student Self-Assessment During Math Lessons

Assessment as learning has to do with metacognition, which is simply “thinking about thinking.”  During assessment as learning, students would think about their own knowledge, learning, and thinking in order to gain a better understanding of how well they have attained concepts and they are now actively involved in their learning.  According to eduGAINS.ca, “assessment as learning occurs when students are actively engaged in the assessment process; that is, they monitor their own learning, use assessment feedback from teacher, self, and peers to determine next steps, and set individual leaning goals.”

An important step in assessment as learning is the student’s understanding of the lesson and what they should be able to accomplish by the end of the lesson.  This is referred to as the learning goal.  Each lesson (or group of lessons) should have a learning goal that is written in student-friendly language.  For each learning goal, there should be a list explaining what meeting the learning goal looks like.  These are referred to as the success criteria and they too should be written in student friendly language. I prefer to use personal pronouns in the learning goals and success criteria to make them more personalized for my students. For example, the learning goal is usually written as “We are learning to…”, while the success criteria is then stated as “We can…”.

In math, we have developed a chart that is placed as the front page of each unit.  The same chart can be used for each chapter of math and this is where we record the learning goal for each period of instruction and the corresponding success criteria. 

I usually provide the learning goal in student-friendly language to my students at the beginning of the lesson.  After the lesson, we review what we have learned by developing the success criteria together.  I find that this is a great way to wrap up the lesson and summarize the key concepts.  The only drawback is that this does take quite a bit of time. The first few times I did this with my class, it took almost 30 minutes and it really cut into the math work period.  I really started to doubt whether this was a good idea, but with practice, my students became more efficient at reviewing the key concepts and recording them as success criteria.  I also record the learning goal and success criteria as an anchor chart for easy review.

learning goals for math

After students complete their homework and assignments for each particular learning goal, they then reflect on how well they understood the concept, how well they did on the homework/assessments, and they consider their next steps.  When students have these sheets on their desks, it is very easy to circulate through the room and determine how well students understood the lesson based on their choice of happy/sad face.  If many students choose the sad face, then I know that I need to review this concept further with my class (which then becomes assessment for learning for the teacher).

By clicking on the image above, you’ll be brought to the pdf so that you can use this chart with your own students.  It works very well and it is a great way for students to be actively engaged in their learning.

Substitute Teachers ~ What you should leave for your substitute

What do you leave as plans when you are away? How about in your folder as information to the substitute teacher?

First, let me start by saying that substitute teachers are educated, knowledgeable and also teachers.  This post is not meant to say that substitute teachers are not capable teachers, rather they are part of our profession and deserve to be part of the collaborative process as well.

Let’s face it though, they are not the regular classroom teacher, they do not know the processes, procedures to our classroom or our school and they may not even know the structure/floor plan of the school we work at.    This is a time of transition and the more information we can give our substitute the better it is for us (when we return), for the substitute teacher and for our students.

At the beginning of the year, I prepare a package for general information that does not need to be prepared again unless changes have occurred.  I call it my “Go to Folder”.  This folder should help anyone understand how the school functions, how your classroom functions and how you want things accomplished while away.

The general items I include in my folder are the following:

  • A master schedule
  • A list of supervision duties (including exits and entrances)
  • A classroom seating chart
  • A floor plan of the school showing where the emergency exits are and the alternate exits
  • A fire drill list for roll call (I also include lists for times when I have other students (rotary) ; you may teach different periods therefore for each period you should have a list)
  • A list of students that take the school bus
  • A list of procedures for washroom breaks, drink breaks, lunch breaks
  • Procedures for lock down situations and location of spare key to lock the door
  • Procedures for fire situations and where to gather after exiting
  • A teacher name and room number located close by that my substitute can ask for help or clarification
  • A breakdown of classroom discipline procedures and the paperwork (reporting forms) connected with this
  • Important students information, for example Peanut Allergies, or a kidney infection requiring multiple washroom visits
  • A form for the substitute to report back to you the events of the day

I always prepare detailed lesson plans with all photocopies that are required. These are specific to that day and are not emergency plans or general plans.

There are some instances where there is an emergency and you do not have the time to leave detailed plans.  In this instance, the substitute can have access to my emergency plans.  At my school, these are held in the main office and 3 full days of emergency plans are prepared.   I tend to never use these plans but they are always good to have on hand.

What do you leave for your substitute?

Let us know what you include to ensure the safety and consistency we all strive to have in our classrooms.


Parent Communication: Sharing Good News!

Do you sometimes feel that you only communicate with parents when you need to inform them about a problem with their child?  Teachers communicate with parents on a regular basis regarding areas where students are struggling, incomplete homework, behaviour issues, or simply suggestions for students to improve their study skills. Speaking to students and informing parents about these issues is extremely important in order to ensure that students are successful both academically, behaviourally, and socially.

It’s so important, however, to communicate good news to both students and their parents.  Wouldn’t it be great for students to receive a letter home that lets their parents know that they did a great job working with their group that day, welcoming a new student to the class, or assisting a peer with their studies?  I know my students love to receive praise for actions that they did not think that I had noticed.  Although my sons are still young, I know that I would appreciate their teachers letting me know all the great things they are doing, instead of focusing only on areas for improvement.

Here’s a FREE printable to help you communicate good news home to parents! Just click on the image below:

Don’t forget to keep track of your parent communication by using our handy “Parent Communication Log”!


Parent Night ~ A few tips

As we are well on our way within the school year, it is time to start and to also continue to build a collaborative relationship with the parents, caregivers, and guardians of the students we teach.  These nights are not interviews but a way to build the spirit of community and also a way to open the lines of communication.  Parents need to understand what happens in the classroom and within the school. Furthermore, they do want to hear and understand what their child will be learning in our classrooms.   As teachers we need to be prepared, organized and sometimes advocates for the classroom and school.   How we go about this is dependent on what you feel comfortable with on how to deliver your information.  My first few years, I always chatted with parents and gave them a general overview of the curriculum but found that discussions were not meaningful and we both (parents and I) were going through the motions. Over time I have found that creating a Power Point presentation serves this purpose rather efficiently.  I am one of the fortunate ones where I have a dedicated Smart Board for my classroom.  I truly enjoy using this medium, as it gives parents the opportunity to visually see what and how one is utilized.  When I begin my presentation, I give parents the opportunity to write their names on the Smart Board in an effort to involve them and understand how technology has developed.   Furthermore, this allows me to know who they are (as sometimes we have never met previously).  My presentation lasts about 2-3 minutes but the use of the Smart Board does not end there.  For the rest of the time, I have stations set up where parents can attempt different activities based on the curriculum that students will be delving into throughout the year.  I utilize an already prepared task for parents to work through on the Smart Board (Probability activities and Geometry activities lend themselves well to this type of center).  Other centers include a Language Arts activity, a short Web Quest on the classroom computers (if you have any) which could be Science, Geography or History based, and for Catholic teachers a center at the prayer table.  All the while, the experience is interactive.  Furthermore, when parents are ready to leave, I have a handout where I give them a write up of classroom expectations, a classroom schedule, a list of supplies required for students, an overview for each subject that I teach, any trips/excursions in the works, and my contact information.  I find that providing this type of information as a hard copy allows for them to be fully informed and a quick reference for their personal use at home.  In addition, there is a letter asking for anyone to volunteer in the classroom, or donate materials or books for the classroom.  I know some teachers provide a parting gift, something as simple as a labeled candy (it’s sweet to teach your child) or a water bottle with a label stating (meeting you has been refreshing!).

What have you done or are planning to do?  Please share and comment as together we can prepare fantastic starts to successful years!