Category Archives: teachers

Twitter for Teachers – It’s Not About the Numbers

One day in 2009 my husband asked me to join Twitter in order to promote his music project. Little did I know on that day in December, that this social media medium would breathe new life into my educational practices. Lucky me!

During my initial foray into this fast, furious and free world of information sharing, he and I talked a great deal about ways to become active online. One of the many things that we discussed were “the numbers”:

  1. The number of followers;
  2. The number following;
  3. The number of updates;
  4. The number of retweets & modified tweets;
  5. The number of mentions;
  6. Klout scores;
  7. Views
  8. Etc.

& herein comes my “thought” for the day:

The more I play and learn on Twitter, the more magically meaningless these numbers become … & for teachers, it’s not about the numbers.  I truly believe that this is one of the many magnificent things that makes our teacher presence online different from some others – it’s really not about the numbers …. It’s really about the kids after all.

The number of followers that teachers have, their Klout scores, etc. become increasingly irrelevant and uninteresting as time marches on.

If we are learning and sharing; if we are inspired and inspirational; if we are connected and connecting; if we come across cool things and are spreading the wealth … well, that’s all that matters …

Cheers,
Ally

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>Classroom: An Essay in 8 Easy Steps

>How to Write an Essay in 8 Easy Steps

(Any Age, in Any Grade)
If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see my students using the writing process outlined below. 
Every week students are given a new assignment to complete, but they follow the same process from September until June. 
I have used this process successfully with students from grade one all the way to grade seven. 
All the best,
Ally
Write an Essay in 8 Easy Steps
1. Read the assignment carefully.
Now’s the time to ask questions if something seems unclear.
Example:
“Write a persuasive essay either for or against wearing school uniforms.”
2. Read a little, google a little.
Example:
Do a google search. 
Even though you may have chosen your side to the argument read both sides. See what you are up against. Make notes! 
(It should go without saying that you must to be careful not to plagiarize! 
This step is just to get your creative juices going.)
3. Think a lot.
Example:
After mulling it over, put the assignment away. 
Simply think about the assignment every now and then. Talk about it with friends and relatives. 
Let your ideas simmer, gel and grow.
4. Get your hands on a graphic organizer.
Example:
Use a search engine! Google: “graphic organizer persuasive essay”. 
Find the one that speaks to you. Print and complete. Use jot notes only.
(e.g.: http://www.cheney268.com/learning/organizers/Persuasive.htm)
5. Just write!
Example:
Reread the organizer. If you think of anything to add (e.g. ideas, words) do that now. Use jot notes.
Now grab some lined paper or your keyboard and write! 
Don’t worry about spelling or “sounding good”.  
Just get your essay down on paper in proper essay format.
6. Let it get “cold”.
Example:
Put the essay away for a day. 
It’s best to go back to it later with fresh eyes. 

7. Edit, Edit, Edit!
Example:

After allowing your essay to get cold return to it for the editing process.
Read your first draft. 
What do you think? How can you make it better? For example, consider voice: Does your personality shine through? Are you convincing? 
Is your writing focused, clear and engaging? Does your word choice energize your writing? Have you varied your sentence structure?
Note: Make sure that your first sentence captures the reader’s attention. For suggestions see: http://ezinearticles.com/?Speech-Introduction:-How-to-Write-a-Speech-Introduction&id=312341 (This article refers to writing speeches but I believe that it applies here as well.) Make sure to end on a strong note as well!
Remember: We write to entertain as well as to inform!)


COPS” your work: focus on Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, Spelling.

(Oh! & How many times should you re-write your essay? Well, that’s up to you!)

8. Publish
Example: Now its time for the good copy. Whether you type it or write it: Make sure that it “looks good” as well as sounds good!
Now share your essay with those around you!
Be proud of what you have created!
Well done!

Ally

>Learning Logs: Develop Metacognitive Skills, Guide Teaching, Provide Authentic Assessment

>Why I Love Learning Logs

Looking for another way to improve students’ metacognitive skills/abilities? (e.g. http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/students/learning/lr1metp.htm)
Looking for another way to connect with students? For another way to reflect on/guide your teaching in the classroom? For another means of authentic assessment?

Try using Learning Logs in the classroom!

(A) What they are:
1. Learning Logs are classroom journals.
2. They are diaries of a sort. 
3. They are used by students to keep and honest and reflective record of their understanding of subject areas (e.g. Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing Workshop, Reading, etc.).
4. They are notebooks in which to record their thoughts, observations, questions and concerns.
5. They are flexible: to be used in all subject areas.
6. They are “kid friendly”: children can “write” what they know; “draw” what they know; “list” what they know; “web” what they know; “diagram” what they know; etc. Often students choose the format for their response (e.g. paragraphs, webs, lists, graphs, charts,pictures, diagrams, etc.) (When they choose the format that is most comfortable for them I get a better sense of what they do and do not understand.)

(B) The goals:
1. The goal is for students to become increasingly responsible for their own learning …. to become constructive, reflective thinkers/learners.
2. The goal is for me, as the teacher, to be “in the loop” with regard to what my students strengths and needs are, and to adjust my program accordingly!

(C) Be a fly on my classroom wall: The Latest Learning Log Entries in My Classroom
1. Explain the process of long division (… most students created diagrams … lots of numbers, words & arrows!)
2. Compare your life to the lives of children in Ancient Egypt ( … most students created a Venn Diagram …)
3. Explain the digestive system (… most students created diagrams.)
4. What test taking strategies have worked best for you so far this year? Explain your answer. (… formats varied.)

(D) Why I love them:
I love Learning Logs for all sorts of reasons.
The three main reasons I use them are as follows:
1. They encourage students to reflect upon, to think about what they know and why/how they know what they know. Heightens their metacognitive skills (see http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/students/learning/lr1metp.htm)
2. They help guide my teaching. Student entries get me thinking about my practice: What is working in the classroom? What am doing right? What do I need to change about my lessons/program? What do my students understand? What concepts are they having difficulty with? Who has well developed metacognitive skills?)
3. They are another means of authentic assessment

I LOVE LEARNING LOGS!

(E) Interested in learning more?
1. http://rapidbi.com/created/learninglogs-learningjournals.html
2. http://www.accessola.com/osla/toolkit/How/learninglogs.html
3. http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/Instr/strats/logs/index.html

Grade 5 Books Recommendations for Boys by Boys

Books That My Grade 5 Boys LOVE(!) Right Now!

Reading is a gift … and doing one’s best to instill a love of reading is a huge responsibility, a privilege and often times quite challenging!
In thinking about this (and so as to better meet the needs of my students) this year I have decided to keep a record (a running record of sorts) of the novels that my students are reading “in the moment” and ENJOY!
To date, my Grade 5 boys have recommended the following books.
(Note: They also love all graphic novels & all Guinness World Records books. What fun!)
Grade Five 1st Term Book Recommendations:

The Magic Thief
by Sarah Prineas

Travels of Thelonious (The Fog Mound Series #1)
by Susan Schade

Stink
by Megan McDonald

Arctic Adventure (a graphic novel)
by Glen Donney

Freedom Train (a graphic novel)
by Robert Cutting

NERDS 
by Michael Buckley

The Lightening Thief
by Rick Riorda

The Iron Man: A children’s Story in Five Nights
by Ted Hughes

Dear Canada: A Ribbon of Shining Steel: The Railway Diary of Kate Cameron
by Julie Lawson

Diary of  Wimpy Kid
by by Jeff Kinney

The Bone Series
by Jeff Smith

Holes
by Louis Sachar

Loser
By Jerry Spinelli

Stormbreaker (a graphic novel)
by Anthony Horowitz

Graphic Novels 
e.g. The Cartoon History of the Universe II (Gonick, 1994) 

The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse: A Chat Geko Mystery
by Bruce Hale

Farewell My lunch bag: A Chet Geko
by Bruce Hale


The 39 Clues Book One: The Maze of the Bones
by Rick Riordan

>Math Skills Development: Dyscalculia

>Math Skills Development & Dyscalculia

Ok, so we are all at least somewhat familiar with the concept of dislexia … & now (to be fair to our children!) let’s explore the concept of dyscalculia.

(I)
Step I: Let’s consider two general questions:
1. Does you child experience “math anxiety” and frustration?
2. Is he a happy, bright child, and yet no matter how hard he works on a math concept(s) he just doesn’t seem “get it”, grasp it, be able to apply it?

If you have answered “Yes” to the above then your child may have “dyscalculia”.

Discalaula is defined as, “a broad term for severe difficulties in math. It includes all types of math problems ranging from inability to understand the meaning of numbers to inability to apply math principles to solve problems. Dyscalculia is one type of learning disability that can be served in special education programs.” from: http://learningdisabilities.about.com/od/learningdisabilitybasics/p/Dyscalculia.htm

(II)
Step II:
Review the checklist
below … Does any of what follows apply to your child and his “Math Experience”?

(A) Does he experience difficulty:
… understanding our base ten number system
… with number concepts
… following directions, sequencing, organization
… recognizing & extending patterns
… counting
… remembering number facts
… with mental math (e.g. working it out in his head)
… processing information / speed
… estimating (& he has been exposed to estimating strategies)
… with sequential memory
… explaining math concepts; how he arrived at an answer
… time & measurement

(B) Does he often:
… transpose/reverse numbers
… confuse number signs (e.g. + – x /)
… confuse: plus, minus, add, take away, altogether, in total, find the difference, add on, borrow, etc..

(C) Does he experience:
… math anxiety
… frustration

(III)
Step III: Where do you go from here?
… talk to your child.
… talk to your child’s teacher.
… be clear about his strengths and needs – build on strengths and address needs.
… find additional support for your child
refer to the articles below.
(Have a read, & let me know what you think!)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/uk/newsid_3288000/3288673.stm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/tutors/expertcolumn/dyscalculia/

All the best,
Ally

Building Success in Reading & The Matthew Effect

Success in Reading

Simply put: Reading is a gift. … & to love to read is even better 😉

Parents often ask why some children are better readers than others … and of course to this there is no simple answer.

Recently, however a colleague came to me with the following article about something called “The Matthew Effect” (http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art39587.asp).

“The “Matthew Effect” is a term coined by Keith Stanovich, a psychologist who has done extensive research on reading and language disabilities. The “Matthew Effect” refers to the idea that in reading (as in other areas of life), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” (source: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/test.matthew.effect.htm)

Simply put, this theory states that children who are successful in reading (acquiring skills) early on often move steadily ahead, while those who struggle fall further and further behind. Children who are successful enjoy reading more. They read more, practice more, learn more, love it more. Those who struggle, dislike the experience more and more, and end up reading less and less. These children fall further and further behind.

Ok, so now what? What if your child is not enjoying or achieving the success in reading that you would like to see? Where do you go from here?

Well, here are just a few steps along the road to encouraging successful, life-long readers:

1. Read to/with your child all the time: at home, in the car, at the grocery store, etc.
2. Sing songs, read poems … expose her the the rhythm and rhyme of language.
3. Be a role model! Read! Read! Read!
4. Write little, lovely notes for your child to read. Leave them everywhere: Under his pillow, in his drawer, under his shoe or in his lunchbox.
5. What are your child’s interests? Once you know this, provide lots of reading materials base on this theme(s) e.g. books, magazines, comics, posters, etc. Whatever gets him looking at, and engaged in print.
6. Engage in activities that require reading together, e.g. games, cooking, reading maps, following the directions for a model, etc.
7. Buy your child a subscription to her favourite magazine.
8. Keep the lines of communication pen between you and your child’s teacher.
9. Early (sensible) diagnostic assessment.
10. Whenever and whenever possible: Individualized instruction. Know your child’s strengths and needs.
11. Have fun reading and let it show!!! Laugh, learn new things, be amazed!

Reading is a gift.

Read all about “The Matthew Effect”:
http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art39587.asp
http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/test.matthew.effect.htm