A. Grace Martin

Author, Student Teacher, Optimist and Promoter of Self-Empowerment

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I am so honoured that you have taken the time to view my Blog. I look forward to hearing from you!

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To my students...

Posted by agracemartin on November 26, 2015 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (72)

Dear Science 24 Students,


I love you. I really do love having each and every one of you in my class. I am sorry if I do not always show it. I am sorry if I get strick and stern on a daily basis, but please remember that I am fun on a daily basis, too. Sometimes I feel that I need to enforce strick rules in order for you to have the best learning environment possible. That doesn't mean that I don't care about you; just the opposite. I'm strict because I care. I follow through with consequences to your actions because I want you to learn how to behave as responsible young adults.  


If you do not know already, I lose sleep over you because I'm so concerned about your well-being. I dedicate hours to planning, organizing, setting up, and taking down the hands-on activities and labs we do in class. I know that each of you learns differently and so I try my hardest to ensure that I give you every opportunity to understand the content.


I make you sit quietly when someone is talking or reading aloud because other students in the class cannot focus when there are whispers to distract them. I make you put away your phones because I want you to focus on your learning. I constantly remind you about respect so that you can graduate from our high school with the attributes of rigor, relevance, and relationships.


I know that you will never read this, and yet I will post it online anyway. Perhaps one day you will realize that when I said I was proud of you, I really meant it. My only hope for you is everything. I only hope that you receive everything good in life. I only hope that you find enormous success. I only hope that you realize the happiness of existence. That is all I wish for you: the best. If I have helped you in any way on that path, then I have done my job. 

I'll say it one more time: to all of my students,

I love you.


Mrs. Martin

EasyTeacherToolbox Published!

Posted by agracemartin on November 20, 2015 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Teachers! Do you need fresh, efficient, and easy-to-use strategies in your classroom?

Have you ever Google searched "strategies" or "engagement" and found nothing more than the common Jigsaw or Think/Pair/Share?

Young Shin and I have compiled an online resource for you! We collaborated on our professional inquiry project to create a toolbox of instructional strategies that are known to work.

Look no further! Check out our Easy Teacher Toolbox! 

http://easyteachertoolbox.weebly.com/





PBL: organization, engagement, questions, feedback, and choice

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (2)

My Problem Solving with Communications Technology instructor posed the following questions, which I answer below:

 

  • What do you think is your greatest challenge in PBL design?
  • How will you support students in a PBL task?
  • How will you communicate with parents, administrators and colleagues about your PBL tasks? Is this even necessary?


 

There are many things to consider when designing a constructive Problem-Based Learning project. The greatest challenge, to me, in PBL design is organization and authentic engagement. Not only does a teacher have to make a problem or project meaningful and relevant to the students, it must be thoughtful and organized in an easy-to-follow manner with transparent outcomes (see my previous module entry “PBL in Biology” for examples of relevant and meaningful ideas as well as our readings on High Tech High projects). This requires a lot of creativity and planning from the teacher, which can be demanding on time constraints. Getting students on board with an engaging entry event can also be challenging, but there are many good ideas out there and we have the technology to access them via the Internet and our professional learning networks.

 

 

In order to support students in this process, I think that open-ended questions, specific and frequent feedback, and choice of presentation are important aspects. Open-ended questions allow for students to run with an idea and explore it to the best of their potential. In this manner, students with exceptionalities and highly academically achieving students alike can all partake in the same project topic in a way that suits their individual strengths and needs. I like the idea of driving questions from our readings, such as “how can we create…?” in a format that encourages original student thought. Detailed and timely feedback is imperative for student success as a lifelong learner. Peer and teacher feedback guide and support a student’s project. Formative assessment for learning early in the project process allows for correction of any misconceptions and informs a teacher of what other content students may need to be made aware of or clarified through direct instruction. Direct instruction can actually be a strategy of reinforcing what students are learning through the PBL process. When doing a project in the sciences or mathematics, I think that it is especially important to allow for student creativity by giving freedom of expressive presentation, and thereby differentiating the product in order to support unique student needs.

 

 

Communicating with administration may be necessary if the project grows outside of the classroom or requires additional resources. Communicating with other teachers in the school may be helpful to make cross-curricular connections to the problem or project and to gain additional ideas for planning, organization, and execution of a successful project. Verbal communication seems best with colleagues and administrators. Most importantly, parents should be aware of the project, especially if it requires time at home. Often students will not take home written notices, and phone calls may take a long time, so I think that electronic communication via e-mail, applications such as Remind, or a web-based tool would be most appropriate to communicate with parents.

PBL in Biology

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am currently reflecting on PBL with a biology class in mind. I do not think that inquiry-based learning is the best model for concepts and terminology in biology, as the answers to these questions are often definitions that would not provide rich exploration. I think that for a problem-based inquiry project to go smoothly in biology, students need guidance either through direct instruction, videos, readings, or jigsaw groups to learn definitions and factual information that relate to the knowledge outcomes in the curriculum.

 

To me, a great idea for problem-based learning in biology is asking students to answer a question with a real-world application in order to develop the scientific skills and attitudes from the curriculum and experience the knowledge concepts in a more engaging manner. In a science classroom, problem-based learning can address the skills of initiating and planning, performing and recording, analyzing and interpreting, and communication and teamwork as well as the attitude outcomes of interest in science, mutual respect, scientific inquiry, collaboration, environmental stewardship, and even safety.

 

 

 

For example, when teaching the Bio 30 unit on the brain, an overarching question to guide students would be: “How would a tumor affect a person’s behaviour and bodily functions if it were located in different lobes of the brain?” This project could be introduced with an article reading or video on Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who chose death with dignity due to severe brain cancer. What an intense, emotional, and thought-provoking way to introduce a complex problem with cross-curricular implications! It is sad but meaningful and could stimulate powerful responses from the students. Of course the above example would only be appropriate in a high school classroom because of the level of maturity required to grapple with sensitive content (and would not be used if a student in the class were dealing with cancer in their immediate family).

 

Another example would be a Bio 20 inquiry into the correlation of crop-based food production in Canada and the levels of photosynthesis in areas with optimal sunlight, precipitation, and temperature variables. I would introduce this project with a scenario that an apocalypse has shut down all technology and transportation (take 5 minutes to explain that no it is not a zombie apocalypse), requiring you to grow your own food to support your community. Which communities in Canada would be able to grow the most plant-based foods and why? From here, the project could branch out to include other interactions in the biome including population density, carrying capacity, different food sources, and sustainability. Which modern-day communities would most likely thrive if they had to sustain themselves over several decades and why?

 

Both of these examples can provide opportunities for technological research and the usage of technology to formulate a finalized project. I believe in offering choice of format for presentation (video, song, PowerPoint, poster, brochure, essay, etc.).

 

 

This brings up the challenge faced by teachers: what conditions need to exist in order for PBL to exist in a classroom? Student independence, creativity, engagement, determination, patience, and discernment all come to mind. How do we facilitate such attributes in our classrooms? We can create an open, safe, risk-taking environment for our students from day 1 of the semester and model the thoughtful question-asking process throughout the course or year. Technology could be used in the research process after a mini-lesson on proper search terms or how to perform complex searches in an engine such as Google. Modelling the scientific process can be valuable here (and in any subject) as we identify an issue, hypothesize a solution, creatively construct and safely execute a plan to test our hypothesis, observe and record the results, then report and discuss our conclusions based upon the data gathered. This requires the teacher’s differentiated planning and organization to set up the optimal environmental conditions (emotional well-being, intellectually stimulating problems, and available materials and resources) for great learning experiences. Then the teacher must continually facilitate the inquiry process with probing questions and well-supplied information.

PBL in Biology

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am currently reflecting on PBL with a biology class in mind. I do not think that inquiry-based learning is the best model for concepts and terminology in biology, as the answers to these questions are often definitions that would not provide rich exploration. I think that for a problem-based inquiry project to go smoothly in biology, students need guidance either through direct instruction, videos, readings, or jigsaw groups to learn definitions and factual information that relate to the knowledge outcomes in the curriculum.

 

To me, a great idea for problem-based learning in biology is asking students to answer a question with a real-world application in order to develop the scientific skills and attitudes from the curriculum and experience the knowledge concepts in a more engaging manner. In a science classroom, problem-based learning can address the skills of initiating and planning, performing and recording, analyzing and interpreting, and communication and teamwork as well as the attitude outcomes of interest in science, mutual respect, scientific inquiry, collaboration, environmental stewardship, and even safety.

 

 

 

For example, when teaching the Bio 30 unit on the brain, an overarching question to guide students would be: “How would a tumor affect a person’s behaviour and bodily functions if it were located in different lobes of the brain?” This project could be introduced with an article reading or video on Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who chose death with dignity due to severe brain cancer. What an intense, emotional, and thought-provoking way to introduce a complex problem with cross-curricular implications! It is sad but meaningful and could stimulate powerful responses from the students. Of course the above example would only be appropriate in a high school classroom because of the level of maturity required to grapple with sensitive content (and would not be used if a student in the class were dealing with cancer in their immediate family).

 

Another example would be a Bio 20 inquiry into the correlation of crop-based food production in Canada and the levels of photosynthesis in areas with optimal sunlight, precipitation, and temperature variables. I would introduce this project with a scenario that an apocalypse has shut down all technology and transportation (take 5 minutes to explain that no it is not a zombie apocalypse), requiring you to grow your own food to support your community. Which communities in Canada would be able to grow the most plant-based foods and why? From here, the project could branch out to include other interactions in the biome including population density, carrying capacity, different food sources, and sustainability. Which modern-day communities would most likely thrive if they had to sustain themselves over several decades and why?

 

Both of these examples can provide opportunities for technological research and the usage of technology to formulate a finalized project. I believe in offering choice of format for presentation (video, song, PowerPoint, poster, brochure, essay, etc.).

 

 

This brings up the challenge faced by teachers: what conditions need to exist in order for PBL to exist in a classroom? Student independence, creativity, engagement, determination, patience, and discernment all come to mind. How do we facilitate such attributes in our classrooms? We can create an open, safe, risk-taking environment for our students from day 1 of the semester and model the thoughtful question-asking process throughout the course or year. Technology could be used in the research process after a mini-lesson on proper search terms or how to perform complex searches in an engine such as Google. Modelling the scientific process can be valuable here (and in any subject) as we identify an issue, hypothesize a solution, creatively construct and safely execute a plan to test our hypothesis, observe and record the results, then report and discuss our conclusions based upon the data gathered. This requires the teacher’s differentiated planning and organization to set up the optimal environmental conditions (emotional well-being, intellectually stimulating problems, and available materials and resources) for great learning experiences. Then the teacher must continually facilitate the inquiry process with probing questions and well-supplied information.

Solving student disinterest with a combined approach

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

My Problem Solving with Communications Technology instructor asked us to describe an instance in which we witnessed another teacher employ problem solving. My response was on solving student disinterest with a combined approach.

 

I witnessed my PSI teacher associate incorporate a mixture of note-taking lectures with project-based-learning in a grade 6 Social Studies classroom. This teacher had noticed that stand-and-deliver instruction followed by assignments was a huge problem for student engagement, deeper understanding, and long-term retention of meaningful skills and knowledge. This teacher had also noted the issue with only using a project-based learning approach that had complete student independence in their research process, because students did not know where to start or how to find what they were supposed to. My PSI teacher associate mostly referred to online resources for PBL (project-based learning) and spoke with other teachers interested in PBL. The solution to this problem was a mixed approach of direct instruction on alternating days to work periods for student projects. This system worked very well right away.

 

 

In the first unit of the grade 6 Social Studies class, students learned about the governmental processes of Alberta. The teacher gave students the information that they needed and then encouraged them to come up with a proposal for a new building or center that would benefit the community. The proposal was presented in a PowerPoint format to the class and to guests from the town council. This gave the students an authentic audience and allowed room for a lot of creative exploration of centers that they were interested in. While I was completing my PSI practicum, I taught Social Studies and English Language Arts with this teacher associate. I would teach lessons about democracy in “Ancient Athens” and then the following day my teacher associate would guide them through their group project about a day in the life of an ancient Greek person. The students took on their roles of citizens, metics, and slaves with excitement. They became engaged with the subject matter and creatively expressed their new-found knowledge. The culmination of this project was on my last day of practicum, in which the students modeled an agora marketplace by bringing in a food item and exchanging the coins they had made in art class for snacks and treats. It was a lot of fun for teachers and students alike.

 

 

In summary, my PSI teacher associate engaged in the problem solving process by identifying the issue of disinterested students under direct instructional methods and confused students under PBL strategies. This teacher was successful in solving this issue by taking a balanced approach that informed students and engaged them in meaningful activities. The wonderful result of this approach, too, was that students began to learn the problem solving process by identifying the requirements of the project and being guided through the steps to create a finalized and polished presentation.


When I posted this resposne to our online forum, another student teacher asked me to elaborate on the evidence of student learning, to which I replied:

My TA had been grappling with this idea in the previous year, so I came in after he was already implementing the combined PBL/instruction approach. It was new that fall when I arrived. The benefits were evident even without seeing how my students were "before." The "after" that I witnessed showed how excited they were about their Social Studies projects. The main thing that I could notice were that students actually CARED about their projects. They seemed fairly disinterested in most things but their projects were meaningful to them and they enjoyed telling me about what they were working on.

 

I think the key to transitioning was routine. The grade 6 Social Studies class got the laptop cart on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when they had group time to work. Mondays and Wednesdays were instructionally-based classes. Fridays were a mix of instruction and current events. The grade 6s got accustomed to this routine in September, so the combined approach was very well balanced.

 

PS2 might have been a more difficult buy-in because you did not get to establish routines from day 1 in September. I also had difficulty with my Science 14s buying in because I did not get them from the start of the semester.

 

In PS2 I ended up "tricking" my Science 9s into hands-on learning. I came in with collaborative and explorative strategies and there was an instant outcry for "can't we just take notes!?" because they were concerned that they would not do well on their upcoming tests unless they took notes from the board. Instead I balanced note-taking from direct instruction and PowerPoints with experiment days. Suddenly saying it was a "lab" and giving them a "lab report worksheet" for marks made inquiry-based learning acceptable to them. Sometimes we just need to change our terminology to something familiar to make the "fear of the unknown" lessened.


Creativity in Science

Posted by agracemartin on August 12, 2015 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Creative Confidence

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My Problem Solving through Communications Technology instructor posed the following questions to my class:

  • Do you consider yourself a creative person? Has this always been the case or has it changed recently?
  • How do you model creativity for students in your classroom?
  • How do you encourage and teach creativity in your classroom?
  • What aspects of the problem solving process are you most comfortable with? Which cause discomfort or uncertainty?
  • When was the last time you used a problem solving process? Was the process you used effective?
  • Why might innovation seem less common in education?

I have always been a creative person. When I was very young I would create fashion designs on paper-made dresses or come up with imaginative games to play. In school I started to write poetry and short stories and excelled in art class. As a teenager and young adult I let my creativity be confined to writing my fantasy novels, and did not let it shine in other areas. In fact, when getting my performance review while working at a golf course my boss told me that I was extremely uncreative. This hurt my feelings and I began to wonder how I could show my innovative side in the workforce. Now that I am pursuing an education degree, I see many ways to express my creativity in the classroom. I can set up the physical environment with posters and manipulatives (such as my Newton's cradle and slinky's), introduce each class with a two-minute mindfulness breathing exercise to calm and centre everyone's emotions, and especially create wonderful learning opportunities through hands-on activities, experiments, exploratory stations, and project-based learning. Teachers are highly creative people because they are always differentiating and constructing new learning opportunities for themselves and their students. As an adult I feel more inspired to become resourceful and innovative as an author, family member, and teacher.

 

In my classroom I have modeled creative and critical thinking to develop the scientific attitude skills of scientific inquiry, environmental stewardship, and collaboration. For example, when learning about alternative forms of energy I showed my class a video clip from the 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and followed it with class discussion and thought-provoking questions about the values of practicality and convenience versus pursuing environmentally-friendly products. Setting up hands-on exploratory activities and experiments was also a fun way for my grade 9’s and Science 14’s to engage in an inquiry-based approach to the concepts they were learning. My students generally saw these approaches as creative and entertaining; their engagement was evinced through my formative assessments of the activities.

 

Teaching the cognitive processes of critical and creative thinking to find solutions to environmental issues was a theme throughout my units. During class time I would encourage students to come up with their own ideas and explanations of concepts. On assignments and tests I wrote open-ended questions with options for which topic students preferred. I asked, “justify why you are for or against a particular energy source such as coal, nuclear, wind, or hydro-electric power using benefits and drawbacks to support your argument.” This may not seem to be a very creative question but the responses that I received were remarkable. My students brought up wonderful cost/benefit analysis arguments that were meaningful to them after our time in class and clearly exuded understanding and passion for their well-justified opinions.

 

Now that I have received my PSIII placement teaching Science 10 and I am so excited to be planning a student-centered project that is designed to give back to the community in any form that the students choose. While this is extremely open-ended I have developed suggestions for students that include: research paper/poster/video supplying others with information on an environmental or technological issue, development of a community gardens with information on maintenance and yields, construction of an electrical generator, or even an inquiry into “earth ships,” the environmentally-friendly self-sustaining homes that are essentially made from tires and dirt. I’m really looking forward to this imaginative project and hope that I can learn more about how my students could use technology to help them with problem-solving in this upcoming project.

Edmonton Book Signing

Posted by agracemartin on June 15, 2015 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Thanks to all who have supported my book signings! Here is me in Edmonton, Alberta:



Successful Author Book Signing

Posted by agracemartin on April 27, 2015 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

http://lethbridgeherald.com/news/local-news/2015/04/27/martin-takes-writing-plunge/

 

I absolutely loved having a book signing yesterday at Chapters in Lethbridge! This was my first event to promote my fantasy novel, Spirit Rider, and it was wonderfully successful.

 

For too long I was apprehensive about promoting my work because I don't like "selling" myself. I took a piece of my own advice, however, and quoted from my book that:

"You do not serve yourself, nor anyone else, by remaining small."

 

 


A reporter from the local newspaper, the Lethbridge Herald, did an author profile after my book signing event. You can find it here:

http://lethbridgeherald.com/news/local-news/2015/04/27/martin-takes-writing-plunge/

 

As always, you can find me at:

Twitter @agracemartin https://twitter.com/AGraceMartin

LinkedIn Public Profile ca.linkedin.com/pub/a-grace-martin/94/268/834/

Facebook Spirit Rider https://www.facebook.com/Spirit.Rider.AGraceMartin

Facebook Author and Teacher https://www.facebook.com/agracemartin

 

Tumblr: agracemartin.tumblr.com

Spirit Rider Book Signing

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 12:15 PM Comments comments (0)

My first book signing for Spirit Rider is tomorrow! I am so excited to be promoting my book at Chapters in Lethbridge.


Hope to see you there!

PSII April 20-24, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (0)

My final week of practicum went so smoothly that I have very little to reflect upon as far as course content goes. What I do want to reflect upon is my relationships.


I think that it is important for teachers to remember that you never know who you will affect and how deeply you will affect them. I built some very rewarding relationships over the span of this practicum, and I will be sad to leave. I know that I am teaching the age group that I resonate with the best, and look forward to my next practicum in high school.


I am choosing not to disclose the most meaningful interactions that I have had with students and teachers at my PSII practicum school, but I will say that I have learned a lot from each of them. Thanks to all and a fond farewell!  I hope to return next year after I have graduated as a substitute teacher (or perhaps as a full-time contract if there is a position available)!


PSII Thurs-Fri April 16-17, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 12:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Thursday April 16, 2015

Today was a special event day because a guest presenter, Robb Nash, came to the school. My Science 14s had review time this morning, which was productive and fairly uneventful. After losing one student for fifteen minutes after allowing a bathroom break I found her in the library and was able to help her finish her review. The 9As and 9Bs all finished their notes in a timely fashion. The 9As are further ahead, having watched a 13 minute video that the 9Bs have not seen.

Robb Nash's presentation was just as great today as it was when I saw him at a different school this past fall. I really resonate with his message to students and admire how he covers a wide range of subjects (from substance abuse to suicide to finding your "why"). I think that a lot of the students needed to hear his message and will benefit from it. 

The end of the day was interesting. I wish that all students had asked to stay in the gym because then supervision would have been easier. Half of my class waited in line to meet Robb Nash and half were chatting in the bleachers. I lost a quarter of those students when they were encouraged to return to the classroom. The last few minutes of the day were hectic, but I played science-related youtube videos in my room.

Here is a picture of myself and two of my fellow student teachers with Robb Nash:



Friday April 17, 2015

Today I observed both Biology 20 and 30. My teacher associate/mentor proctored the exam that I was giving to the Science 14s that I usually teach in block 2. Graham Boyle is a fantastic teacher and I learned a lot from observing his classes. I spoke with him about the difference in classroom management between my junior highs, my lower academic Science 14s, and his higher academic grade 11s. He made an interesting point that he does not see a difference because he always starts a course with an extremely strict and structured environment. He said that in the first two weeks of a course he is not a fun person to be around because he is so firm. When he has students where he wants them for behaviour, he relaxes a little. I found this form of classroom management interesting, but I am not sure if it would work with my personality.

I was grateful that I had planned a video day for the 9As because they were clearly having a high-energy Friday. Since we are talking about the environment and different forms of energy, I decided to show them a clip from the documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" I gave them a worksheet to fill out during the video. I will find out how well they answered those questions when they hand them in next week.

PSII Mon April 13- Wed 15th, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Monday April 13, 2015

Today I spoke with my teacher associate/mentor about dealing with Grade 9 attitude. It was an insightful conversation in which I changed my mind about starting the week with the 9Bs by bringing up what happened before the break. It could set a bad precedent because what happened yesterday should not have sway over current lessons. We also talked about saying “tough” when a select few Science 14s don’t want to work. The same individuals have a bad attitude on a daily basis, so I can be firmer with them. I am also very glad that today I took in an open book quiz for formative assessment. It was alarming to see that students do not understand efficiency, but that just means that I need to go over it before their test.


Tuesday April 14, 2015

One of my Science 14's was not here today and the classroom dynamic was much different (far easier to handle). I had over-planned and had extra resources because I wanted to do hands-on activities, but this particular student consistently refuses to participate. The 9As were very talkative today, so I spent a lot of time on classroom management, silencing chatter, and wait time.

Following up on my conversation from yesterday, I am so happy that I did not start my 9Bs with a lecture about respect and what happened before the break. They were so well behaved; it was one of my best lessons with them.


Wednesday April 15, 2015

Today I taught a lab on how to take blood pressure that did not go as smoothly as expected. Most of the meters were working, but I did not see a lot of small tears in the cuffs when I was preparing the lab. Some students played around and tried to inflate the cuff as far as it would go, and got readings of 300 over 200, which I explained to them was not accurate. Even though the equipment was not all functioning, the students still seemed to get the gist of blood pressure readings.

The 9As took notes well today, but I noticed that when I did an investigation activity with them using the textbook, most got very confused. I took in their worksheets, but noticed that their messy charts would have been very difficult to mark, so I only used it as formative assessment. As a note to myself, if ever I want to collect an activity summatively, I should provide the students with a printed handout to complete the activity on.


I am noticing that my teaching practice has become very routine. I do not have as much to reflect upon now as when I initially started, because the almost all of my lessons go well.

PSII Thurs April 2, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Thursday April 2, 2015

Today was the last day before the spring break. This morning I visited the principal. I had a question from the previous day in which I overheard a miscommunication between a student and teacher that got emotionally heated. I asked him how do we, as teachers, continue to maintain an unconditional positive regard for students and yet still deal appropriate discipline to them when they misbehave?

The principal said that there are three things that a teacher needs to know.

(1) First, have a short-term memory when it comes to behaviour. What happened yesterday has no bearing on how you welcome your students today.

(2) Second, recognize that your classroom might be the safest place for students, so develop strong relationships with them.

(3) Thirdly, if you have done the first two steps diligently, then dealing punishment is not a personal attack upon a student. There should be an understanding that there are consequences (good and bad) for every choice that a student makes. It does not mean that a teacher “likes” a student any less, but the teacher’s “I” of emotion should never enter the situation.


I really appreciated this conversation and set to continue cultivating positive relationships with my students.


In block 2 I tested the Science 14s on Chapter 8, which is a closer look at cells. I did not want to start a new topic today, so instead I gave them a fun lesson about parasites. We then watched “Ice Worlds” from Planet Earth, which I will reference for adaptations in our next chapter after the break.


The first group of grade 9s were, as usual, fantastic and very well behaved. However, I had some attitude issues with the other group of grade 9s. While doing math-related practice problems, several students concerned themselves more with who was getting better marks in math class than in what they were supposed to be learning. I also received some negative attitudes toward the study sheet of practice problems that I gave them—most saying that they wouldn’t bother doing it. Finally I had several students gang up on a boy for being on his phone during class time. I am aware of a previous history of bullying against this individual and I instantly recognized that his peers were trying to get him into trouble. I told the students that I did not see him on his phone, so they could let me deal with it later. Even as I re-directed their attention to the lesson, another student piped up about the lack of punishment. After the spring break I might need to have a little chat with my 9Bs about proper attitudes and respect in the classroom, including a much needed reminder to MYOB (mind your own business).


PSII March 29-April 1, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Sunday March 29, 2015

I have created my week plan and Ch 8 biology test and study guide for the Science 14s. I originally thought that I would not test them on many concepts for this chapter because they have very low memorization skills. However, I decided that almost all of the questions on the test should have a helpful hint on the study guide. If students complete their study guide, they should receive 100% on their test. Those who do not pay attention and do not fill out a study guide will be out of luck. I have decided to have high expectations of my Science 14s this week because I believe that they are capable of learning biology even without memorizing a lot of names and diagrams.

I have also decided that I will take my time with the science 9s this week when it comes to their math-related section. I will go over simple algebra, remind them what variables represent, and walk them through each step.


Monday March 30, 2015

This morning I observed another teacher's science 10 class. His classes are a very predictable routine with a student directed format using the textbook as a resource. I asked one of the students who was finished how the transition was from science 9 to 10. He said that he is an independent learner so he finds this class easier. However, I noticed several students falling asleep because the energy is very low in the classroom. I would like to implement some student-directed strategies into my future classroom, but I think that I work best with a balance between hands-on activities and direct teacher instruction.

Today I introduced the Science 14s to their biology unit, starting with cells. I am glad that I over-prepared because I ended up going through ALL of my materials that I had planned to use for the next two days. I pushed the students to complete their notes and was very glad that 9 out of 10 students handed in fully finished notes by the end of class.

I did not give back the Science 9As their tests because I have several students who need to write still. I did not do the calm.com session today, but I introduced them to electricity in the home. I noticed that I was not as consistent about cuing the 9As with this lesson as I was with the 9Bs. I realized that this is because I did not review what I was going to say immediately before class (during my lunch hour). When I review what I want to say before class I am more organized and my delivery is clearer.


This afternoon I watched the math 20-1s for 45 minutes and the math 20-2s for 90 minutes. It was very interesting to see the change in dynamics between the two groups. The 20-1s are very dedicated to getting work done while the 20-2s are more likely to sit and talk. Classroom management with the 20-2s seems a lot like management with my science 14s. They can be more challenging to rein in and need to have a certain amount of fun and chat time in class. As a teacher, it is my job to tread that management line between chaos from too much talking and rebellion if they are not allowed to talk at all.


Tuesday April 1, 2015

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of observing a Bio 20 class. I learned a lot about efficiency and smooth transitions. I talked to the teacher about his organization. He said that he writes down EVERY step before he teaches. He said that his lesson plans are very detailed and organized. His organization is very important to him because if you don’t give students something to do, they will get off task and talk too much.

The Science 14s and I had a very fun lab day today. Everyone was safe in his or her handling of the microscopes. We looked at slides and then created models of cells using candy.

I had to rein in my very chatty 9As but I had a very well-behaved class with the 9Bs. I think I need to adjust my organization for the math problems. I need to have every value calculated FIRST so that I do not have to wait upon students calling out calculated values.

PSII Thurs-Fri March 26-27

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Thursday March 26, 2015

Today was a special event day with shorter classes. The Science 14s were taught 7.4 and then had time to create study guides to bring into their test tomorrow. The special event was prom speeches, which was occasionally boring but I hope that it helped school spirit. I confiscated two orange floor hockey balls from high school students in the stands who were playing with them and dropped them loudly. The 9As took a few minutes to settle, and then we did our 2 minute calm.com relaxation. By the time I got them settled again we were 10 minutes into the class time. I’m not sure if the benefits that some students receive from the relaxation time outweigh the value of class time used for other purposes. I think that in order to see results the calm.com visualizations need to be used for a much longer period. Some students have still not bought in to the quiet time.

Friday March 27

Today was test day. I think that the Science 14s were happy to be done with simple machines. Contrary to my planning, they were not as interested in the topic as I thought that they would be, probably because ramps and pulleys are not as interesting to them as larger-scale mechanics. The 9As only had time to write their tests, but the 9Bs received a review before and a topic 7: electricity in the home lesson after. The 9Bs seemed to do much better on their tests—I think because they had a more immediate review beforehand. This was a difficult test for a lot of students, but some got 100%. I do not want to penalize the students who did well, but I want to help the students who struggled. So I will be taking five of the more poorly done questions from this test and putting them on their topic 7 and 8 test. By re-measuring this outcome I can give students the opportunity to raise their average.

PSII Tues March 24-Wed March 25, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I felt very bad about the class I had with the Science 14s this Tuesday. Simple machines including levers, pulleys, and wheel and axle tools were clearly a boring topic for the Science 14s. Two girls at the back worked together on their assignment, and I am quite happy with them doing so, but their talking interrupted my instruction and distracted the other students. I’m weighing the “hill I would die on,” because I am not willing to pick a fight with a student, especially when I don’t think that it will help them. I am very stressed about trying to make this course engaging for students, and yet I know that I cannot treat my Science 14s the same as I would treat a different group of students the same age. There is a lot of down time because 90 minutes is simply too long for these students to maintain their focus. I have decided that I cannot feel “guilty” about giving my Science 14s free time. It is more valuable for the students to talk and ask me questions at the end of every class. A positive note is that a group of boys wanted to know about the motors and generators at the back of the classroom. I was more than happy to explain the motors to them, and they had fun playing with them.

The 9As are my more well-behaved group who have really “bought in” to my teaching style. I started the lesson with a two-minute quiet relaxation time with a musical audio from calm.com. I will try this again tomorrow but with a guided visualization audio for the two minutes. The 9As did not enjoy the exploratory stations as much as the 9Bs. This is interesting because my Teacher Associate/mentor told me that the 9Bs usually finish more quickly while the 9As like to take more time to play with circuits. I think that it was also a lack of organization with the 9As on my part. I did not send one group to each of the stations and so I did not set them up for as much success as I did with the 9B group. I found that the 9As are more interested in the content, but seemed more confused by it at the same time. I think that it is because they have not had time to do their worksheets yet, and that they will understand more once they have completed their assignment questions.


Wednesday I took the Science 14s to the lab with a lot of materials and asked them to come up with a Rube Goldberg machine or system of pulleys. They set up dominos to knock a ball into a cup, but could not make a very large set of dominos without accidentally knocking them down early. A different group of students used a Newton spring measure to find out that a fixed pulley reduced the amount of force needed to move a mass, but a movable pulley did not. We also spent some time playing with the hydrogen fuel cell car, but unfortunately could not get it to go forward.

The 9As received a presentation about AC and DC motors with videos to reinforce their learning. The 9Bs received the same lesson and then had time for a review game. I am glad that I did not start a new topic because I wanted to make sure that they were prepared for their Friday test. In reflecting about the review game, I think that “gopher get down” could be improved from my group of grade 9s. Some students who knew the answer were frustrated that they could not take a turn demonstrating their knowledge. Others did not feel safe at guessing an answer and getting it wrong. I could have either done team trivia or could have given each team two guesses.

PSII Monday March 23, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Today I tested the Science 14 and 10-4 students on their Chapter 6 content. One of my female students was very stubborn about writing tests on Mondays. I told her that my intention was to test them Friday, but there was no school on that day. She proceeded to make noise, sit sideways in her desk, and talk about how her hands smelled of celery. I attempted to manage her noise, but then noticed that a different student was sitting sideways. I decided not to tell that student to turn around because then I would have also have to attempt to get my more rebellious student to do the same. Instead I watched each student's gaze very carefully to make sure that they were not cheating. I have decided that next exam will need a spaced out seating plan.

The 9Bs got to do exploratory stations today. I chunked their 90-minute block into 5 minutes of reviewing their test, 5 minutes of reviewing the previous lesson, 35 minutes of notes, 30 minutes of exploratory stations, and 15 minutes of quiet seatwork.

I have an issue to address with one of the grade 9's. This student did not adjust well to the change of a new teacher in the classroom, proceeded to talk with her friends, did not pay attention, and consequently failed her test. I did not talk with her about her failing test mark today, because I wanted to give her time to process it. While she did not pay attention during the review, she did quiet down during the new material. On Wednesday when I see her next I will tell her that I want to keep her close to her friend, but that the chatter needs to stop. The ball is in her court and it is her decision to pay attention or not. I know that this student does not like me and I do not take that personally at all. I will continue to hold an unconditional positive regard for every student, even if they do not return the sentiment.

A common interview question for teachers is, “Is it important for students to like you?”

A common new-teacher response is, “not as important as it is for them to respect me.”

I think that most kids will not learn from someone who they do not like, but I think that it depends upon age and academic level. Small children and low academically achieving students refuse to learn from teachers who they do not like. However, highly academic students (in my opinion) will trust a knowledgeable teacher to get them through the course and their diploma/PAT exams. That teacher may be boring and they may not like them, but students respect high school teachers who can get them through their course.

I think that this grade 9 student is not learning due to a mixture of dislike, lack of interest, and lack of trust. The collaborative learning that I started with did not suit her learning style, so she lost faith in me as a teacher to get her through her exams. Similarly, she chose to not pay any attention to me because I am new and I think that she was uncomfortable with the change. Since she is still in the ninth grade, she does not have the self-awareness to take responsibility for her failure because it is far easier to blame me than to own up to her lack of work. As a responsible teacher, I will let yesterday be yesterday and I will focus on helping this student be successful today and in the future.

As an aside (and to finish off with some humour), I love all of my students unconditionally. I am not as sensitive as this cute puppy, but I do want students to trust me for their own benefit--not for mine.


PSII Wed March 18-Fri 20th, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On Wednesday we had a firefighter guest speaker come in during Science 14 to talk about protecting against dangerous heat transfer. The students LOVED it! There was a lot of very interesting information presented and the students were very excited about trying on the articles of protective gear. They especially liked the gas mask, which projected air pressure and vitals information onto the mask like the Iron Man helmet. The students we engaged for the full 90 minutes. 

I was very happy that the guest speaker's presentation went so well. The previous day a few students had grumbled about skipping class because they do not enjoy guest speakers. However, they were so intrigued that none even bordered on boredom!

The Science 9’s had their topic 4 and 5 test. I gave a quick review before the exam to help students with better short-term memories and to address any confusion before writing the test. I had the 9Bs for a longer time block and so I introduced topic 6 on electricity and magnetism to them.


On Thursday morning the Science 14s zoomed through section 6.3 and had a very long time to review. Some students were done their work with thirty minutes left in class and made comments about wishing the test was that day instead of on Monday after a long weekend. I talked with my teacher associate about this, and he reminded me that I had some slower-working students who would not have been ready to write their test. Differentiation requires that we give more time to those students who need it in order to level their playing field.

The 9A’s were extremely engaged in their electricity and magnetism lesson. My teacher associate/mentor said that my story of working with an MRI magnet was so interesting to the students that they were all hanging on my every word. I am very grateful for my background in scientific research because it gives me relevant and relatable stories to explain concepts to students.

I attended parent-teacher interviews again in the evening, but did not learn anything new that hadn’t been addressed on the Tuesday.


Friday was staff planning day. I held a one-hour yoga session in which I instructed 6 teachers. While I was teaching I was not sure that I was explaining poses very well because I had to pause and remind myself what side (left or right) I wanted to say to the people who were facing me. I ended up turning my back to face them the same in order to explain some directions for poses. I need not have been worried, the teachers I instructed were very happy with my pace, explanation, and reassurance that they did not need to force their muscles too far into the poses. I had to remind myself that not everyone is flexible enough to even attempt some yoga poses, so I modified my planned sequence to omit certain intermediate-level poses.

After my yoga instruction, another teacher instructed on laughing yoga, which was quite the abdominal workout and very funny. We finished our professional development with a mindfulness discussion about integrating relaxation techniques into the classroom.

PSII Monday and Tuesday March 16-17, 2015

Posted by agracemartin on April 25, 2015 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On Monday I tested the Science 14 and 10-4 students on their Chapter 5 content of heat and heat transfer technologies. After their test I introduced 6.1 absorbing and losing heat. We performed a lab in which we heated the same amount of cooking oil, vinegar, and water. We determined that cooking oil got the hottest because it has the lowest specific heat capacity. I found this lab very useful in explaining the concept that water can absorb a lot of heat. I was also reminded of the importance of preparing ahead of time, but thinking on your feet and not letting students know when you are preparing on the go. I had difficulties with the printer in my prep period before class, so I had to set up the lab experiment while students were writing their tests. My teacher associate commended me for not letting on that I was not prepared; the students did not know that I was working on my toes (or thinking on my feet as the saying goes).

I instructed the Science 9s on batteries as electrochemical cells. I handed out all of their worksheets and study guide, and got students set up with the Remind application. I organized the lesson into two parts: one instructional, and one work period with partners or groups of three to complete the review booklet (which was not taken in for marks).


On Tuesday I taught the Science 14s about insulation. Going into the lesson I was less than confident. I thought that my lesson was boring and had no idea how to make it more engaging. I spoke with my university consultant who reminded me that I did not need to be an idealist. “The way they talk about teaching at the university is not the same as teaching in the real world,” he reminded me. I think that I am finally starting to process that statement. I differentiated my lesson by asking students to design a four-room house with one heating source and got some great ideas. One student in particular drew a gorgeous home with a central fireplace. As it turns out, my lesson on insulation was not that boring at all.


I prepared my 9As for their test the next day, and could tell that they would be ready for it, even if they seemed a little nervous about it. In the evening I attended parent-teacher interviews. I found sitting in on these meetings to be very valuable. One student was given the much-needed advice to turn off her phone while studying. Another needed help finding where to look for answers in the notes and textbook because he needed to develop organizational skills and take better in-class notes. My teacher associate/mentor discussed strategies with students and gave their parents an idea of what grade ten would look like next year.


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