Friday, July 29, 2011

Lazy Days of Summer-

 I actually found teaching summer school a more positive experience than I initially anticipated. I actually really did enjoy it and thought that it really was beneficial for the students. It really was pure teaching with no interruptions for one thing and we had quite a bit of fun as well. 

But it's a week since I finished teaching summer schools and although I haven't gone anywhere, I feel as if I am in another country.  For one thing the weather has improved!  For another I don't have to go to school every morning!  Summer school ended with a lovely lunch with my colleagues and we noted that for us summer seemed to be just beginning (again our crazy weather contributed to that feeling) instead of as it normally does the last day of June!

I have to admit I have had a busy time since then getting to do early morning beach walks and early morning leisurely coffees with friends.  I finally tackled the garden properly and worked on cleaning up the attic!  I made a big list and have actually checked off quite a few items on it.  Since I am heading back east soon there is a bit of pressure!

I have been dining in all my favorite restaurants-La Tapenade in Steveston, Grub on Main Street, and today thanks to Groupon, a four course lunch at Nu.  I also got to ride the ferry back and forth between the Aquatic Centre and Granville Island. Yesterday it was brunch at Sophie's on Fourth Avenue.  Tonight I'm off to Bard on the Beach.  Tomorrow it's Crescent Beach and tomorrow night is the Harmony Arts Festival in West Vancouver. 
I think the lousy weather and working the first three weeks and having a cold for two of them has made me really appreciate this week as the sun finally shines again in Vancouver...And as much as I can enjoy it, I don't miss teaching one little bit!!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I promised I would write about ipads.  As mentioned, I borrowed six ipads from media services at the school board.  I would have taken more but that is what I got.  Then the trick was how could I use them effectively.  I  organized it so that each day all the kids have had access to the ipads from 10 to 30 minutes depending on what was going on.  With 20 students I could organized four groups and one group could be using ipads.  In this picture the boys are picking pictures from Explore Flickr to write about.

The kids absolutely loved them.  Everyday the kids went used the Brainpop application.  Each day there is an informative video on a wide range of topics with a multiple choice quiz they took.  One truth I have learned in teaching is kids actually do like to learn and they enjoyed a range of topics from Bastille Day to Apartheid South Africa to astronomy.

To go with my novel study of Call It Courage, the kids did research on Polynesia, each picking a country on which to do a presentation.  The initial research was done with the Wikipanion application.  Later we did Hawaiian stations I had organized long ago.  I think I lost my version of The Three Little Puaa but found a summation and a utube video of kids  in Hawaii who doing a version so that the kids watched that as part of a station.  That was neat as the children could really hear what a Polynesian language sounds like. 

As a teacher I would find it very useful having an ipad handy as it doesn't take much space and I could quickly look things up or check e-mail without going to my desktop computer with my back to the class!  I am not convinced I personally need one though but if the school would provide me with one that would be delightful because sometimes I end up bringing my own laptop to school for a variety of reasons.   Making my classroom wireless with a router was one of the smartest things I have done-so much easier and essential to having the ipads.   I found  they worked fine out in our covered area outside my classroom as well, as I found them a bit noisy.  One of my kids kindly brought his own earphones.  I think if you were to have them in the classroom earphones would be necessary.  At times I did set the kids up with one in each table group to use as another dictionary for instance when we were doing word study. 

I found lots of good free apps, but at this point I think I have only touched the surface of using ipads.  I probably should put up a separate page on some of the apps that I liked best for intermediate students such as BBC World, the NASA site etc.  It sure enabled me to make summer school a fun experience for the students.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Knowledge Infusions (also known as summer school)

As you may remember in March teaching 12 mornings a week in July seemed a fine idea.  It seemed much less like a fine idea in June.  And definitely by July 3rd it seemed like a very foolish idea!  I was exhausted and knew that I was getting a cold (the one I managed to evade a week or so before).  In 1996 I decided I wasn't going to teach summer school for awhile (I had taught five or six courses in about four years at SFU and I had enjoyed it but after a year teaching sixth grade six weeks of summer school even if it was only eight hours of teaching time a week seemed much less a good idea).  I put my "all" into teaching and feel as if I need the summer to recharge my teaching battery.  But this year summer school was going to be at my school and only for three weeks.  I also liked the idea of that extra shot of learning for our kids and figured I could put the money towards many good uses.  I also didn't have any really exciting summer plans so...
Last Monday we all had to go in for a couple of hours and I was there more than that and then my cold and I went home to bed practically.  I felt a bit overwhelmed although a bit inspired by the six ipads I had borrowed from media servics.

Tuesday, 22 bodies showed up in my room and the show was on.  Two of the students were from the grade six class, 12 were from my class, and the rest from the other grade seven class.
The first day I gave them the initial grade seven RAD which is a reading strategy test.   This was quite helpful to help me see who needed to work on what.  Wednesday we read an article on Tom Thompson working on main idea and detail.  The class had never heard of him nor the Group of Seven.  And before you knew it they were doing projects on the Group of Seven.

Class goes from 8:30 to 10:15 and then from 10:35 to 12:10.  That really isn't a great deal of time.  I knew I wanted to begin the morning with independent reading and then do responses and a quick math drill because this had proved really successful in my regular classroom.  That took me to 9:15 so then I needed to think how I wanted to set things up.  I also had decided I wanted to see how I could use six ipads effectively in the class and one way to do this seemed to be to set up with groups and stations.  Let's face it, it is summer and I also wanted to make it fun and interesting.  The ipads have been a great incentive.  I have also had fun figuring out good free applications.
Something else I wanted to see was if I didn't have my computer hotshots there would other students rise to the occasion.  Well, we shall see, but it looks as if students are all learning now to do prezis and glogsters and bitstrips.  And I can assure you they are teaching each other.  You also have to love how familiar the students now are with The Group of Seven.  All these students are the children of immigrants and some have only been in Canada a couple of years.  Tomorrow we will all see the projects and if they look good (I am sure they will)  I look forward to sharing them with some UBC student teachers on Wednesday.

I have set up the stations in a variety of ways.  Today for instance half the class spent a hour each working on their projects in the computer lab and the rest did a group vocabulary lesson, then five or six did assignments on the ipads while I did a math lesson on multiplication of decimals  with the rest and then we switched.  After recess the first large group went to the computer lab and the rest went through the stations.  This followed with a whole class reading of the first chapter of Call It Courage.  Other days there has been a cretive writing station or a whole class reading strategy lesson etc.  At the end of each day I give the students a few minutes to reflect on the day in writing.

Tomorrow after reading and responding,  I will go over the assignment for the first novel chapter and give them working time and cycle groups through  ten minute working times with the ipads.  I also think I will work with whole group on math as well as we will all watch and evaluation presentations on the Goup of Seven.
Stations are great though today I gave four mini lessons on math (that's a little repetitive for me but the kids love the small group instruction.
Marking and prep take a lot less time with 22 kids as opposed to 29 and it's nice not to have to worry about teaching science or social studies or French, and there are no interruptions the way there are in regular school.  And I think the kids are actually quite happy to be there.   And now that I actually seem to be recovering from the common cold, so am I!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Year is Over

I am so tired that I am sitting here aimlessly although I have many things I should or could be doing and it's even a beautiful day.  I think I am exhausted!  Someone after my fitness class today asked me why I was so tired.

There is a lot going on at the end of the year-not necessarily teaching but still learning.  I had field trips last Thursday and Friday, and as fun as they are there is a certain amount of stress as one is concerned that all will go okay.  Friday we did manage to all get soaked as we navigated around downtown in the pouring rain.  In Vancouver expect to get wet at least on one field trip!  My fellow seventh grade teacher couldn't talk so she missed the field trip and I felt as if I was getting sick by the weekend as well but with Cold Fx and Vitamin C I managed to stave off the disease. The field trips were actually huge successes.

Most of my class thought that I should quit teaching this week, but I managed to finish the last math unit and they did some good writing on their last field trips.  We saw a performance of Latin music Monday afternoon and Tuesday was the graduation assembly.  It was a bit warm and stuffy and long especially for our kindergarten children but this was the big moment my students had been waiting for in some way since they were those kindergarten students.

My whole class wrote valedictorian speeches and presented them as well the last the week before, and then they picked what they thought were the best two to represent them.  Many speeches were really quite amazing and the fact that the students all wrote and presented them was also great.  I also can see how good their critical skills were as they judged them.  I had linked them to a web site on how to write a valedictorian speech and they really took cues from this.  Teachers were all asking Gaven for the quote he used.  I decided to make a few books of the speeches, some to give teachers who were leaving, and a couple to leave in the staffroom for teachers to read.  So many lovely things were said about their various teachers and their whole experience at our school.  I also blew up the speeches and students put them up all over our hallways for everyone to read. 

We finally got the class yearbook from the printers.  Friday after the field trip downtown and the day my car's battery died forever, I ended up after school at the school board print shop for a couple of hours sorting out this with Dirk, the patient printer who had inherited the job from Tony who put his back out.  There were some difficulties and Dirk phoned me Saturday night to tell me he had finished the job.  But they turned out quite beautiful with each student having designed his or her own page in full colour.   We did these at the Apple Store.  I think they were pleased with the result.

Then there were all the certificates putting my calligraphy skills to the test.  All the grads got a certificate, the prize winners got certificates, and then I always do certificates giving each student some kind of award in the class and we guess who got what.

I wasn't going to do it but due to "pressure" from the students who had been in my grade six I did read them my favorite touching story and they each wrote compliments about each student in the class.  I managed to get these collated but still have some lists to give out as I managed to lose a few at home.

Wednesday, the certificates and lists were given out in the classroom after our school assembly.  This was a great assembly as we had a great video of the year done by one of our staff members as well as a recreation of the flash mob our Me to We club did at Metrotown.  It was also sad as it was  filled with good-byes as we have several popular teachers leaving as well our grade sevens.  One teacher quoted Gaven saying to the effect- let's not cry that we are leaving but smile thinking of all the great times we have had. 

Other than a bit of clean up we spent the afternoon at a nearby park with our grade one reading buddies.  Later the grade sevens organized a party there after school.  I drove by.  The main event seemed to be throwing water balloons but I think they had some refreshments and hey, I didn't have to supervise.  I have to say there was a feeling of release at 3:00 that all had gone well and we had finished well.  Eventually most of our staff drifted into the staffroom to collapse and munch at the various food that always seems to end up there.

Each year I can't help but think of what I could have done better.  I always know some things went well but I will never be the perfect teacher however long I might teach.  It is gratifying to have a grandmother ask to hug you for what you have done for her grandson I do admit.  And my students this year have truly amazed me time and again.  I see them change and I have to think that all my nagging and encouraging has had some effect. 

In the last couple of weeks I had to really question myself why I agreed to teach a summer program at my school for 12 mornings over three weeks this summer.  In fact I couldn't think about it too much.  I have never taught summer school as such.  I used to teach sometimes in the summer at SFU and have done a few summer workshops.  I kind of feel as if it's good to have a change, but because the program was at our school with our students I thought it would be okay.  I guess we will see but now that this chapter is closed I don't mind the epilogue actually.   Stay tuned...