Building Community, Uncategorized

YYJEdChat in Action

YYJ EdChat was designed to open communication lines and build community between in-service teachers, pre-service teachers and higher education programs. The idea behind YYJ EdChat was that it will provide a community outside of one’s own school for resource sharing and support.

Last Wednesday, Heidi James hosted the first YYJ EdChat face-to-face meetup at Colquitz Middle School. The meetup was great, it was so inspiring to hear passionate teachers sharing their ideas about building community in their classrooms and schools, it got me excited all over again about becoming a teacher (only 7 months to go)! My  main takeaways about building community in the classroom were:

  • tell stories and involve your students in storytelling
  • try to say “yes” as much as possible when getting to know your new students in the fall, it helps to create a safe space
  • focus on your students’ individual identities, the better they know themselves, the better they can relate to their classmates broader community

I will take part in my first twitter chat next Thursday May 26th, I think I’ve come a long way from my days of tech anxiety!


PE Post #9: We Can Dance!

It was great to learn a variety of dance progressions. I started to get the idea of how far you can take a type of dance as well as the diversity of types of dance I could teach. This week my group presented our dance “The Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was really fun to plan the progression and to do it as a class but I’m not sure if we would be able take it into schools. It’s great dance but as soon as students go home and google it, the images that appear may not be appropriate. What I do know is that kids love it when you dress up, sing, act, play an instrument or do anything else creatively. The important thing to remember is that you can’t just act wacky and fun as a teacher without a set purpose. With everything you do, you must consider your intention and your lesson objectives.

On Thursday, we discussed and practiced strategies for inclusion. Inclusion is important because 11% of students have a disability (motor and/or cognitive). We need to include appropriate instructional strategies and modification in our lessons so that everyone can benefit from our PE classes and develop the basic skills that will help them to stay active for life. Most of the instructional strategies that work well for students with a disability are also effective for the whole class:

  • Reinforcement and repetition are needed when learning a new skill
  • It is better to break learning into smaller but more frequent episodes
  • Motor skills that are over-learned are retained longer

All of these strategies have helped me when I was learning to play soccer so I think that we should use them everyday and not just for students with a disability.

Math, Uncategorized

Math Musings #6

This week we discussed ratios and proportions. We learned that a ratio is a comparison between two quantities and that part-to-whole ratios include fractions, probabilities and percents. I wondered why we express a value as greater than 100% and we decided that it was primarily for convenience’s sake; it is an easy way to compare numbers. It is important to keep the units in a problem e.g. when calculating how many minutes/week, keep the units throughout your calculation to make sure that you end up with the correct units at the end.

We also discussed integers which are whole numbers, positive or negative. Most operations are fairly straightforward with integers, the main challenge is when negative numbers are introduced. As most of us only learned the procedural way of doing calculations with integers, it was challenging to wrap our minds around some of the visual representations of equations with integers, especially when adding negative numbers. Using a number line on paper or taped to the floor may help students to comprehend the problem, as well as counters that are different colors on each side.

General takeaways:

1.Teach students that math makes sense

2. Get students to do mental math everyday

3. Find more than one way to answer a problem in order to check your work

Physical Education, Uncategorized

PE Post #8: The Power of Dance

This week we learned three new dances, taught by our peers. The first dance was the Haka, a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge of the Maori, the first people of New Zealand. This dance is well-known as New Zealand’s rugby team, the All Blacks, perform it before international matches to build energy and to intimidate the opposition. The dance was very powerful to perform in class, the beat and chanting felt primordial. We discussed cultural appropriation of the Haka but decided that since we were not going perform it in public and we were performing it respectfully, we were honoring the dance. I have consulted with our own First Nations people about the use of local, indigenous songs and stories in the classroom and they have told me that if I am respectful and have good intentions, then it is good to share local songs and stories, it keeps them alive.

The next dance was a gumboot dance, it was conceived by black miners in South Africa. It was a protest dance as the mine authorities restricted drumming so the miners used the beating of their gumboots to accompany their working songs. It was fun to perform and is a good song to have ready to teach at any time as it doesn’t require any specific equipment, song, or space. It could be used as a transition between classroom activities to give students a chance to move in rhythm together.

The last dance was a South African dance and was taught in a neat way. The teachers formed a circle in the middle and the students formed a larger circle around them. In this way, we could watch the teachers give us cues as we moved through the dance to music. It worked really well and was a fun and happy dance, it felt as though it united us as a class; dance circles can be quite powerful.

Physical Education, Uncategorized

PE Post #7: Dance party!

I was super-excited to start learning about how to teach dance in PE because I love dance parties! I didn’t have very fond memories of learning traditional dances in elementary school but once we learned the Troika Sled Dance I realized that traditional dances could be fun, too. I’m not sure what makes learning a new dance so much fun, the music is important but I think that because it is usually a new skill for everyone in the class, it is an equalizer, too. When everyone is on the same level and it’s not a competition, most students enjoy the activity. This links back to teaching games for understanding, when we introduce a new game, as opposed to a well-known one, then it helps to put the whole class on equal footing so that everyone can be comfortable as they are learning together.

When we worked in groups to come up with a strategy for teaching a new dance, I realized that dances, like most PE activities, are best taught as progressions. We will start by teaching the first two sequences of our dance, slowly, before starting at the beginning of our dance again. I’m interested to see how easily the class picks up on our dance, hopefully it’s not too fast-paced. I’m pretty sure most of us will be laughing and that will be the best part.

Math, Uncategorized

Math Musings #5

Last week we shared division strategies. I tried to use a decomposition strategy using a table but I made a mistake in the way I set the numbers up. When we were asked to share our strategies, I was second to share. After someone else presented their answer, I realized that mine was wrong but decided to share, anyway, and ask my classmates to help me to find my mistake. It felt very vulnerable to be in front of the class with a wrong math answer, I felt that if I am going to be a good teacher, I should know how to do everything right, the first time. Luckily, we have a supportive peer environment but I still felt embarrassed after I sat down. This was a good lesson in letting myself be vulnerable as well as an example of what a supportive peer environment looks like. Ideally, as a teacher, I will understand the concept I am teaching thoroughly and have multiple strategies prepared in advance for explaining it. However, I need to remember that it’s ok to say “I’m not sure about this method, does anyone have any suggestions?” By being vulnerable with my students it allows them to be vulnerable themselves and to take the risks needed to try new things and learn in new ways. If math class is only about getting the “right” answer then it makes it seem that we aren’t learning anything whenever we come up with a “wrong” one.  In reality, we probably learn the most from our “wrong” answers, especially when our peers help us to self-correct. This lesson brought me back to the video “Teaching Math as a Social Activity”:

When their is a climate of trust in a classroom, then students can take the risks needed to learn and be learning from each other even if the teacher is busy helping someone else. I hope to have a cooperative classroom where my students are comfortable both asking for help and providing help to their peers.


Physical Education, Uncategorized

PE Post #6: Peer Teaching and Pickle Ball

This week involved lots of peer teaching, both by the other class and our own classmates. On Monday the other class taught us a pickle ball progression. I had never played pickle ball and I would have appreciated seeing the whole game played before we started the progression. I didn’t really like following the other student’s instructions while we practiced on our own, I only started to find the activity interesting once we started trying to hit the target with a partner. I think part of my lack of motivation may have been due to the fact that I didn’t understand where the activity was going; I didn’t see the point of the exercise. This is an important observation because I need to remember to explain why we are doing things as a class when I am a teacher. If students can see how an activity is relevant to them, they are more motivated to participate. It is also important to assign an activity that is at the right level of challenge and to give students the option to work with a partner, sooner, before they get bored of working on their own.

On Monday, we also did a really fun circuit; music played in 115 second increments and then stopped for 15 seconds while we switched stations. There were a variety of stations: bowling, basketball, stretching, running, skipping, ball throwing, push ups, and sit ups. It was fun because we got to work with a partner and choose the stations that we wanted to do, it gave us a chance to chat about our break while we exercised together.

On Thursday we had another round of peer micro teaching of warm up games. Some of my favorites included dancing, Simon says, ball tag and chuck the chicken. Chuck the chicken started with one team throwing a rubber chicken across the gym and then forming a huddle while one team mate ran around the huddle as many times as possible. The other team ran to fetch the chicken and formed a line behind the person who picked it up. The chicken was passed under (between the legs) then over (over head) until it reached the end of the line and then the last person yelled “Chuck the chicken!” and the roles reversed. We were given a chance to strategise after the game had started which was useful. The game was surprisingly exciting, I will definitely use chuck the chicken as an outdoor warm up/team building activity.