Monthly Archives: December 2012

12 Classroom Tips for New Teachers … if you were a fly on my wall!

Tips for New Teachers

If you were a fly on my classroom wall here are some ideas that you would see me sharing with some of the student teachers who have volunteered in my classroom:

1. Plan ahead … overplan.

2. Teach children a “Morning Routine” that works for you right from Day 1.
Be consistent in its application! Mine is as follows:

  1. Entre the room and hang up your belongings.
  2. Hand in your homework.
  3. Place a ruler, pencil, eraser & highlighter on your desk.
  4. Out to play.

3. If students are leaving the room for gym, music, recess, etc. have them prepare for the next class with you before leaving the room. For example, if Math is the next class that you have with them have them put their rulers, pencils, erasers, highlighters, geometry sets, notebooks, textbooks, etc. (whatever they may need) on their desks prior to exiting the room.

4. Post the class timetable, routines, rules where they can be easily seen. Students perform better in a structured, predictable, safe environment where daily routines and expectations are clear. That being said if and when plans change, be sure to alert them to this.

5. Be strict but fair. Be forgiving … but don’t be soft. be their teacher not their “friend”. (Note: As silly as it may sound, I repeat this phrases often, especially at the beginning of every term: “I am strict, but fair.” The power of suggestion is truly amazing!)

6. When I challenge my students, when I demand more of them, I always tell them that: “I never ask you to do something that I don’t think you can do.”

7. Always remember to give students “processing time”. (I dare say it: I don’t know a single soul who likes to be “put on the spot”.)

8. Teach “active listening”. Be specific!  Teach “active reading”. Be specific!

9. Introduce, model and practice a reading comprehension strategy: Read the questions prior to reading the passage/story. Highlight key words, words that will appear in the response. In this way student will know what they are looking for and are able to highlight/mark the “answer” when they reach it. (This is one form of active reading.)

10. When using cue cards (ie study cards) make sure to have your students divide the cards into two piles with students: 1. The “I know pile” & 2. “The “I don’t know yet” pile. Study only the ones they need to learn. (It is so tempting to include the cards we already know as it “feels good” to get the answers right … but it is really just a waste of time.

11. When introducing manipulatives, iPad apps, etc. always allow students to “play with it first” in order to get “that” out of their system. When it then comes time to use it for educational purposes they will be ready to roll.

12. When feeling overwhelmed (and yes there will be those days!) do something about it. For example, I write down 6 things that I want to accomplish on a given day in order of importance. I figure that if I cross off the first three I’m good!


Backwards Planning, Understanding & Learning in the Classroom: Understanding by Design®

Backwards Planning, Understanding & Learning in the Classroom: Understanding by Design®

If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see that in a best effort to “teach for understanding”, I “teach backwards”and I love it!

This backward approach to planning and assessment was not of my own doing, but rather created by the brilliant Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.
Together these two developed the Understanding by Design® framework.

This approach to curriculum design focusses on “teaching for understanding”, the overall goal being to develop, deepen and strengthen student understanding.

This approach to curriculum design emphases “backward design”, being that in any give case the identified outcomes dictate unit planning, instruction and assessment.

& so …
If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see that thanks to Wiggins & McTighe I embrace the following :

1. “Backwards Design”
2. “Teaching for Understanding”
3. “Six Facets of Understanding”

& in a nutshell – and as I understand them – they can be outlined and defined in the following way:

(A) Backward Design:
This approach to planning works in stages … three stages to be exact:

Stage 1:
what students will know and be able to show when all is said and done – “What are our desired the outcomes/end goals?” & go from there!

Stage 2: (based on the outcome of Stage 1)
Design assessment practices and activities that effectively and objectively demonstrates authentic learning in the classroom – “What can we do and how can we show/know whether we are meeting our target goals – that authentic learning – that a deepening of understanding – has taken place?… is taking place at each step/stage along the way!”

Stage 3: (based on the aforementioned)
Identifying/developing activities”“What learning activities/experiences can we introduce/share in order to strengthen student understanding ?”

(B) Teaching for Understanding
Done right – and when all is said and done – students explore and understand essential questions, big ideas, and end goals. (In order to truly understand what this all means/entails check out the links below. So cool!)

(C) According to this approach to planning and design, there are “Six Facets of Understanding
Students “demonstrate” these facets when they:
Gain/demonstrate perspective

Overall, this approach is:

  • A guide for planning classroom practices.
  • Organic – never fixed – always flexible – Lessons, activities, etc. change or remain the same depending on students’ progress, and demonstration of understanding and learning.
  • Collaborative – teachers share ideas, goals, resources, and engage in peer reflection and review (fantastic!).

& so there you have it!
My preferred approach to planning, teaching, guiding, learning, questioning, sharing, growing, etc. in the classroom!


Once again, please note that in no way is any of this of my own creation … and I am sure that there is a good deal more that I need to know and understand about the Understanding by Design® framework.
Needless to say, what I do understand to date influences me every day and in every way … This framework guides and inspires me, and is a methodology that I embrace wholeheartedly!

Important Note & useful sites:
UbD is a trademark owned by ASCD
“Authentic Education: Understanding by Design®”

See also:

Idiom Art

This week I had to change plans “on the spot” …
… & as so often happens, this change in plans resulted in one of those amazing activities that I love(!) & can’t wait to do again!

Last week we were learning about, and playing with, idioms. (So much fun!)
Anyway, I would like to share our “spur of the moment” activity, along with  some pictures of my students’ fab creations!!



  1. Large sheets of paper
  2. Pencils
  3. Markers
  4. Scissors
  5. Glue
  6. “Human body themed” idioms

1. Review the defintion of an idiom.
2. Have examples of idioms that relate to the human body recorded on separate pieces of paper – or do so as a group (e.g. “by the skin of my teeth”, “lend a hand”, “eye to eye”, “sweet tooth”, etc. – These are easy enough to Google 😉  ).
3. Place the strips of paper in a bowl.
4. Child draw 4 or 5 from the bowl.
5. Give students a moment to review their idioms and ask any questions. They then have about 10minutes to walk around the room in order to share their idioms with their friends.
6. Split the class in groups of 4 or 5.
7. Have one student in each group line down on the paper. Trace their body. Decorate the tracing, & colour it in. Encourage them to be creative and have fun.
8. Glue each idiom onto – or next to – the body part metioned in the literary device. e.g. glue “stick one’s neck out” on the neck; glue “break a leg” on the leg.
9. Share and display.
body idiom

Have fun!