Medieval Activities

From my experience, teaching a unit on Medieval Times is one of the best parts of the curriculum.    There are so many ideas, activities that can be done.  I find that organizing my ideas for the upcoming unit helps me plan out my activities and see the cross curricular aspects of my lessons.  The concept map below lists some activities/learning opportunities I have done in the past.


The 3AM Teacher:


GIZMO (Not from Gremlins)

The first time I recall someone uttering the word “GIZMO” it was in reference to the cute little animal in the movie Gremlins.  But in most recent experiences teacher and student conversations about GIZMOs refers to technology based simulations found at (a fantanstic resource for teachers).  These simulations can range from early learning to the high school level and primarily for mathematics and science related curriculum.  For the past 2 years, I have been incorporating GIZMOs within my instructional approach.  These simulations can be done independently, in groups and as a whole class.  Research has shown that utilizing technology based simulations can deepen understanding and improve student learning.  I find that my students are involved and active in their learning. They enjoy using them!   I truly enjoy using them, I hope you do too.

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!








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.

Science Organizations

As a science teacher, I am always on the lookout for science websites that will either help me improve my teaching practice or provide excellent classroom resources.

The following is a list of some science organizations and the resources they provide.

Science Teachers Association of Ontario (STAO)

Overall, I found the STAO website to be valuable to me as a science teacher in an elementary school.  This last point is of particular interest to me as my elementary colleagues and I are constantly searching for cross-curricular resources, lessons, and activities.  Although many of STAO’s resources are only for members, the public access material is quite abundant and pertinent to my teaching.  Another interesting point is that it is an Ontario based science website so it is directly connected to the Ontario curriculum documents.  I did notice, however, that several of the resources were still based on the previous Ontario curriculum documents, so this is an area that needs a bit of an update.

Alberta Teachers’ Association of Science Council (ATASC)

Members are able to log into a secured database to access unit plans, assignments, tests, lesson plans, lab activities, teacher notes, worksheets, quizzes, and web links.  Unfortunately, I could not log in to view these resources, as I am not a member.  It does have an unsecured section with a variety of useful science and teaching links. There was however a useful section on Lab Safety that is available to all visitors.

The Science Teachers’ Association of Manitoba (STAM)

STAM’s website is easy for teachers to navigate and the links are categorized according to the clusters for each grade.  I find this important as time is valuable and I do not want to spend all my time searching for classroom resources.  There is an extensive list of links under the “Resource Links” tab.  After exploring the grade 8 science links, I found that there was an excellent variety in the resources provided.  Most of the resources are links to various websites, so this would enable teachers to use technology in the classroom more effectively.  The resources listed under each cluster include: WebQuests, virtual labs, online guides, hands-on activities, teacher guides, unit plans, activities, videos, and worksheets.  I particularly liked the variety of resources because students respond so well to technology in the classroom and it really allows them to explore concepts that are not easy to grasp.  STAM’s well-organized website is user friendly and comprehensive.

National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA)

NSELA appears to focus primarily on the development of science education leadership, educational reform, assessment, and systemic change.  Based on the previous PD Institutes described on the website, this organization would benefit science resource teachers, department heads, and administrators.

The Association for Science Education (ASE)

ASE has a fantastic website that is valuable to teachers and provides a variety of resources for use.  The website is user-friendly and meets the needs of a classroom teacher.  I found the teacher resources to be extremely valuable as they incorporated technology, activities, assessment, and theory.  The only problem with this website is that since it is based on the U.K. curriculum, teachers need to search for the curriculum units that align with those in Ontario.  This was very easy to do, however, and I found great resources on cells that I can use with my grade 8 students.  A critical eye is needed to ensure that activities and resources cover Ontario curriculum expectations. Fantastic overall!

Science Across the World

I believe that Science Across the World is a wonderful opportunity for both teachers and students.  There are a variety of topics listed for both younger and older students.  The whole point of the program is to exchange ideas and findings on the topic by groups of students in various countries.  Teachers are to find their own contacts either through Facebook groups, Factworld, eTwinning (Europe only), or English Language Teaching Contacts Scheme.  The easiest way for a Canadian School would be through Facebook.  Exchanges can take on many formats and be done in a variety of ways (Prezi, vimeo group, Blackboard, Moodle etc).  Teachers would be able to bring global perspectives into their classrooms in a way that other forms of media or study would not allow.  Students would be given an experience to communicate and learn from students from variety of cultures and backgrounds.  Not only would students have a new found appreciate for other cultures, but they will see how other children throughout the world live and learn.  Sounds amazing!

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)

NSTA has an excellent website that is easy to use and provides a tremendous amount of PD opportunities for teachers.  One thing that I like about this organization in particular is that they understand that teachers may not have the ability to travel to various PD opportunities.  These online seminars allow teachers to work at their own pace and choose from an extensive list of topics.  NSTA provides links to articles from several journals, including Science and Children, Science Scope, and The Science Teacher, that are thought-provoking and informative.  There’s a great list of “Freebies for Science Teachers” to check out!

Of course this list is not exhaustive, so I will be updating it as I visit new sites.

Teachers!  What are some great science organizations that I should add to this list?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Updated to add:  Don’t forget to check out “10 Excellent Science Websites” for more resources!