Startin' it UP!

This has been an exciting and thought FULL week for me.  Fewf! Last week I was offered a three week start up position in a grade 7 class.  I gladly and excitedly accepted this start up and got to planning straight away.  For those of you who are unsure, a "start up" is when a TOC teaches during the first few weeks of school until the position is posted and filled with the actual teacher.  The TOC doing the start up can very well become the actual teacher for the class, given they apply for the job and have enough seniority/qualifications to be the successful applicant.

Now, this start up is not just ANY three weeks of work for me.  No, no.  You see, my amazing, talented, game-changing friend (my former practicum mentor teacher) now works at the school I'll be teaching at for three weeks (and maybe beyond?)  When she and I found out about the idea of me potentially starting up a class at "our school" we looked at each other and made this face:

This is the "oh my goodness, can this actually be happening this is so awesome" face.
This is the "oh my goodness, can this actually be happening this is so awesome" face.

Okay, maybe my friend didn't make this face, but I definitely did.  Since I finished my final practicum with this lovely lady a year and a half ago, we've been dreaming of the day when we would work together again.  Well, people, the day has come!  Even if this time only lasts three weeks, you all better believe that I am going to make the very best of it.  Not only do I get to work alongside one of my most favourite and inspiring people of all time, I also get to be in a community of fabulous educators and admin staff for these three weeks (I suspect some of you are reading this right now...you know who you are!)  Even my blogging/teaching/running buddy, Meaghan, will be at this school! Expect some major blog updating and an inundation of "Back to School" photos from us next week.

After all this excitement started to sink in I got two phone calls...offering my last year's dance/drama and music jobs back.  I was baffled and torn.  I really did not expect to get my jobs from last year back and I really had my heart set on my "dream three weeks - or maybe beyond".  I had a lot to think, talk and wonder about.  I'll spare you the endless details and conversation I had with numerous people, but know that it was probably one of the hardest choices I've ever had to make.  I realize I am extremely blessed to have THIS as one of my hardest life choices.

I took a long look at my vision board for this school year and the word GROW kept popping out at me.  In the end, with a slightly heavy, yet brimming with excitement, heart I decided to let my last year's jobs go and to take the risk of a three week start up without definite full time employment beyond those three weeks.  I am so grateful that I am in a space and time of my life where this kind of risk can be taken with an adventurous mind and spirit.  Having made my decision I dove in headfirst and began setting up my classroom (something I've been dreaming of doing since I was 7 years old and playing "school" with my younger sister, handwriting my own imaginary attendance lists and the like...)  Here is the photo evidence of my three days of hard work:

Stepping in to this gorgeous classroom with brand new desks and feeling 100% overwhelmed.
Stepping in to this gorgeous classroom with brand new desks and feeling 100% overwhelmed.
With a TON of help from my lovely friend, we got the desks moved around into a more desirable & communicative teaching environment.
With a TON of help from my lovely friend, we got the desks moved around into a more desirable & communicative teaching environment.
While my friend worked on her classroom (three doors down from mine!), I started "Karley-fying" my room.  I'm going for a theme of openness, communication, trust and gratitude (with a bit of plain ol' middle school hilarity in the mix).
While my friend worked on her classroom (three doors down from mine!), I started "Karley-fying" my room. I'm going for a theme of openness, communication, trust and gratitude (with a bit of plain ol' middle school awesomness in the mix).  If I only get to be in this space for three weeks I want to make sure I start the year off with a calm, yet inspired, tone.  My inner (and outer) yogi exploded all over this classroom.
I had this vision to create a giant tree out of paper and fix it upon that nasty back wall.  We are going to create our classroom charter and keep it up there to ensure we all get daily reminders of what kind of people we want to be(come) in this community.
I had this vision to create a giant tree out of paper and fix it upon that nasty back wall. We are going to create our classroom charter on the tree and keep it up there to ensure we all get daily reminders of what kind of people we want to be(come) in this community.

So, it's been a busy week! I have many people to thank for getting me through this week still intact, so let me take moment here to shout out to you all: Joel (the man listens to my teaching highs and lows 24/7, so he gets to go first), Meaghan (seriously, you're amazing), Karen (I'm still repeating the face from up at the top of this post), Nadine (I just love you), Carrie & Sean & Brent (thanks for supporting what's best for me, and for listening).  Very excited for next week!!!

Karley


Go To Lessons: Primary

Since most of our posts relate to intermediate/middle grades I thought I would add my go to primary lesson. It's only one lesson because it has three parts and can take up a bunch of time! I did this lesson on my first day of 100% teaching on my second practicum (grade 1/2) and it went so well that it became a regular in my TOC plans!

This lesson is based on the book "Children Make Terrible Pets" by Peter Brown. It is one of my favorites for drama activities because the main character is oh so dramatic!

Part 1
I make sure to hide the book from the kids because the title and picture would give away a key part of the lesson
For the first part of the lesson I do a drama activity called a Swish Story. A swish story is where you tell a story and have students silently act out parts of the story. The "swish" is the sound you make at a scene change when students head back to their seats. When I do the swish story for this lesson I use the characters names (Lucy and Squeaker) and tell the same story but I never give away any details about what species the characters are.

Swish Story example: One day Lucy (student stands up to be Lucy) goes for a walk in the forest (a couple students act out trees) when suddenly she hears Squeaker (student acts out squeaker) who was hiding in a bush (couple of students make a bush for Squeaker to hide behind)

The students really love acting out the Swish Story! I usually make it last about 20 minutes including the explanation and practice of a swish story.

Part 2
Next I have to students make guesses about what kind of creatures they think Squeaker and Lucy might be. I really encourage creativity here (I've had peacocks and fairies and everything in between!)

I give students a worksheet and they return to their desk to draw and color a picture of what they think Lucy and Squeaker look like.

This part usually takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how much detail you ask for in the drawing.

Part 3
Read aloud time! If you have spread these activities out throughout the day then students will be VERY excited to find out the real story. This part is simply reading it aloud but I always make sure that I add conversation about how our drawings weren't right or wrong and just creative ideas. At the end of the story we have a discussion about pets (the story ends with foreshadowing about a new type of pet...)

As I said this is one of my favourite lessons to do and I've done it in grades 1, 2 and 3. I think the activities could easily be adapted to other stories as well and I would love to hear where you take the ideas! Please leave a comment or message me if you end up using this lesson!

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Go To Lessons: Phys Ed

So as you may have read here, we have been trying to compile some of our favourite "Go To Lessons" for different subjects. Most of these were developed for the substitute teacher but can easily be used as one off lessons for the regular classroom teacher as well. Also, check out our new Teachers Pay Teachers store for more ideas!

This here is really my "Go To" lesson for any PE class I teach (grades 4 and up) - I use it pretty much everytime I teach PE if there isn't a lesson plan left for me. I like it because the three games are a progression on each other and all three are really popular with students. I follow the old adage where you finish a game on it's high point and then switch it up but by keeping the games relatively similar I find that students are engaged throughout the class wondering what comes next.

I always play them in the order that follows and then if there is time left in the class I ask the students to vote on their favourite game and we re-play that one.

*Head Shot Rule: If anyone hits anyone in the head it is a 2 minute sit out whether it is an accident or not. I always use this rule and stand by it because it makes kids really careful about their throws and eliminates the he said she said of "But I didn't mean to..."

1. Ga-Ga Ball

This started as a summer camp favourite for me but has soon become a go to indoor game as well.

Goal: To be the last one standing

Supplies needed: dodgeballs (usually 6-8 in a class of 25-30), half of a gym (must have distinct boundaries)

Rules: To start the game we throw the balls in the air and yell "Ga-Ga Ball" as they hit the ground. After that all the balls must remain on the ground and cannot be picked up at any point. Students must use and open hand or fist to hit the ball towards others (we play knees down for this game as the ball shouldn't be leaving the ground). If you get hit below the knees you need to remember who hit you and go to the outside of the boundaries. When the person who hit you gets out then you get to go back into the game. I usually yell "free life" a few times and have everyone get back in just to keep it going.

2. Poison Ball

This is an easy progression from Ga-Ga Ball by just adding a couple of rules (same equipment and boundaries).

Rules: You may now pick up the ball but when the ball is in your hand you cannot move your feet. You must hit waist down for this game and if you are hit you sit down right where you were hit and can't move from that position. If you get a ball while you are down you can hit someone who is standing up to get back up (so they go down and you get up). Again, I often yell "free life" and let everyone back up to keep the game going.

3. Chinook Ball

This game only has one change from Poison Ball but it definitely adds another element that works really well (especially in the older grades!)

Rules: Same as Poison Ball except now if you are down and you get a ball you can pass it to other people who are down (as long as it doesn't touch the ground in between) to make a train. When someone who is standing gets hit by the ball then every person who was a part of the train gets to stand back up. This usually keeps the game going long enough without needing to call "free life."

20130828-200512.jpgI love how well this sequence of games works together! I really like that by the time you get to Chinook Ball the kids really buy into the teamwork aspect. I find it makes a big difference doing the progression instead of just playing a couple of different games and the class feels way more organized to me. My biggest tip for PE lessons... Join in! The kids will absolutely love it if you play with them and it makes for a nice break in the teaching day to run around a little bit.

Meaghan


Go To Lesson: Dreams and Ambitions

I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction.  I am constantly putting out "good energy" for people, places, things...my good energy sometimes is generated in the form of a yoga practice, a run, a thought, a prayer, or (one of my favourites) a vision board!  I have used the act of writing down my exact goals, intentions, desires and dreams to help align my mind and actions for many years - 17 years to be exact.  Clarifying my needs and deepest desires has helped me achieve numerous amazing things in my life, including: meeting my husband (I am NOT even kidding...message me on Facebook if you want the full story!), my dream house (just bought it together with my husband this past March), and my dream job (it's currently only 3 weeks in duration, but it's a start).  When one's deepest desires are written down or drawn on paper for the Universe to take charge of...stuff happens.

My vision board for the 2013/2014 school year.
My vision board for the 2013/2014 school year.

I developed this lesson "You May Say that I'm a Dreamer..." to do with a class I TOCed in for one month last fall.  The lesson has students determine what some of their dreams might be by writing, drawing or taking notes in the following categories: Dream House, Dream Vacation, Dream Pet, Dream ______________.  I introduced the lesson to my grade 8 class by sharing my own personal "Law of Attraction" stories (the house AND the husband).  I then turned on some "chill time" music and gave my class about 30-40 minutes to work on their dreams.  This class, notorious for being one of the more challenging classes in the school, got straight to work on their dreams.  I couldn't help but wonder if anyone had ever asked them to bare their hearts and souls and minds in this way before, let alone given them the TIME to do this.  My guess is probably not.  Some students filled in all four topics with pictures and notes, whereas others focused on one or two of the subjects.  One student in particular chose to design her dream house - she used the back side of her paper and created the most amazing piece of architecture I have ever seen a 13 year old draw.  It was out of this world incredible.  When I asked her where her ideas came from she said to me, "Mrs. Alleyn, you should see the houses I've designed...I have a box full of blue prints at home".  I never would have guessed in a million years that this student was an architect in the making.

What I love the most about this lesson I created is that the teacher (and the students) learn so much about each other during this process.  This lesson doesn't have to be a long, arduous task - it can be a "one off", one block type of thing.  I repeated this lesson with a grade 6 class I TOCed in this spring and the process and results were very much the same (except this time I got to include new pieces to "the dream house" list I had for myself...)  The best part of this lesson?  A few months after I TOCed in this class one of the boys came up to me and asked me if I ever did get my dream house I told his class about on "that day we did the dream sheets".  I smiled a huge smile and said to him, "yes, yes I totally did!"

There's something to be said for trusting in your deepest heart of hearts that the Universe will provide for you, so long as you know what you really want and so long as you allow it to happen as it is meant to happen.

If you get the chance to dream with your students this year, PLEASE let me know how it goes.  I just LOVE stuff like this.

Karley


Go To Lessons: French

Since it's almost that time of year for us... BACK TO SCHOOL! We thought we would do a couple of posts on our "Go To Lessons" for different subjects. Along with this, our Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) site is up and running so go check it out!

Whether you are a substitute teacher or a classroom teacher we are hoping our ideas will start some inspiration for sharing those NEVER FAIL (ha!) lessons that you use.

I'm going to start with my "go to" lessons for French. I find French is the one subject where it's always good to have a back up lesson in mind when you are substituting - and I know I always love those one off lessons that are a little more fun for a core French class.

1. Guess Who

I got a Guess Who sheet from a prof in my education program but I feel like it is pretty easy to create your own (if I make my own ever I will let you all know!). The sheet I use has 9 different aliens with various amounts of eyes, mouths, legs, etc. Basically I go over the key terms for the different body parts, how to ask questions ("Est-ce qu'il a...") and then review the numbers briefly. I usually do a couple of rounds where I choose the character and they have to come up with a question in a group to narrow down their options. After we do a couple of rounds as a full class I have them play within their groups. This lesson is usually good for a 45 minute class when you go over the question asking and key terms before you play.

2. "Ami! Ami?" by Chris Raschka

Like any good substitute, I carry around a good supply of go to books in the back of my car. This is one of my favourites! I have a sheet (available for free here) that I carry with me in case I need a quick lesson for a French class. With the students in small groups I have them cut up the phrases and try to put them in order. It's usually pretty tricky to get it exactly right but I try to get them to look for clues (like punctuation) and I explain to them that it is just a simple conversation between the two boys from the cover. After they are done we read the book and they see how many they got in the right order. If there is still time at the end I get them to read the parts of the book in two teams (with points for expression or prizes if you carry them with you!)

3. Verb Corners

This game requires a bit more knowledge of French then the other two but it is pretty simple to play and can be done indoors or out! I use four different verbs that they know how to conjugate (usually avoir, être, faire, aller) and put each verb in a different corner. With everyone in the middle I yell out a conjugated form of one of the verbs and they have to run to the corner with that name (e.g. "Je suis" and they run to être). If we are outside, after a couple of rounds for practice I have it become a race and the last one to the corner has to shout out the next conjugated verb from the middle (with help if needed).

Hope these ideas are helpful for you!

What are your "Go To French Lessons"?

Meaghan


1 Million Child Refugees

While we get ready for back to school in our happy, safe, comforting corner of the world, something tragic is happening in Syria.  The UNHCR announced today that over 1 million children (75% of them under age eleven) are now refugees - the largest count of child refugees since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.  Watch this.

Follow this link to read the article associated with the above video.

Please join Meaghan and I in sending our thoughts and prayers to these children and families tonight.


My "Someday Job"...

So around here "Back to School" fever is just starting to set in. This involves waiting impatiently by your phone for calls about jobs, thinking about lesson planning, trying to fit in those last few "must do's" of the summer and all the rest!

In amongst that I've started working summer camps as I needed a little bit of income after a summer of not working. The camp I'm running is a food prep/nutrition camp offered throughout the city at a very low cost to families. I was a little nervous stepping into the role as it isn't within my realm of experience but I have really loved the mix of teaching and summer camp that it has brought. It's really started me thinking about what my ideal teaching job would be. Now being a new teacher in a tough district means I will take pretty much anything and everything in the next couple of years until I build up my seniority but until then I can dream about my "Someday Job." My "Someday Job" isn't the for sure be all end all of my teaching career because I change my mind about what I want to do daily if not hourly; my "Someday Job" is just the job that I want to do for sure for at least a year because it has the components of a lot of my favourite aspects of teaching.

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A "dream job" kind of feeling...

So what would it be?

Grade: 7/8

I absolutely LOVE middle school! Most people I tell that too look at me like I'm a little insane but the ones who don't, the ones who "get it", just nod and agree because there really is no place like it! Every middle school I've been in has been different but there is something at the core of this age group that I just absolutely love. Grade 6 is a little on the young side for me so I've ruled that out. I absolutely love both grade 7 and grade 8 for very different reasons so I think a grade 7/8 split class would be my favourite (and yes I know most people don't wish for split classes but I like the balance of combining age groups!)

Subjects: Math, French, English (and maybe Phys. Ed)

Math is my favourite subject to teach because I love using manipulatives, working out problems and watching those "Aha!" moments. French is a new one to this list - over the past year it quickly became a favourite because of the flexibility of the curriculum and the ease of tying it in with my passions in global education. English or Language Arts makes this list easily because I love watching students develop their communication skills and I love how much insight and connection you can gain through a subject that you can easily relate to their passions. And then there is PE... I love physical activity, sports, nutrition, and health education in general but I haven't had too much opportunity to teach it at the middle school level. Elementary PE I could do in a heartbeat but I think I need some more professional development to feel totally comfortable with PE at the middle school level.

Other factors...

When I get this job I think I'd like to know at least 2 weeks before school starts so the panic isn't as crazy as the "one weekend to plan everything" kind of stress. I don't really care what school I'm at as long as I get to work with some of the amazing staff that I know in our district. Also, I'd obviously like to have a classroom right next to Karley so we can team teach, idea share, and blog about it all - We know that you readers would love this too right? Come on school district!

So what about you...

Are you in your dream job or "someday" job right now?

What grade/subject would it be? Or what school would it be at?

Meaghan


These Last Days of Summer

Summer 2013 is coming to a close very quickly.  I'm already looking forward to fall, boots, sweaters, coffee (although I drink that all year round...but it's just so fall-y to me) and SCHOOL! I am so excited for school to start.  Here's what I've been up to during these last days of summer:

Wrapping up our two week vacation with our second of three summer weddings.  This one was our first Indian wedding! My best friend of 17 years is in the blue sari (her brother's wedding).  What an amazing experience.
Wrapping up our two week vacation with our second of three summer weddings. This one was our first Indian wedding! My best friend of 17 years is in the blue sari (her brother's wedding). What an amazing experience.

 

As soon as we pulled into our driveway, my husband, Joel, and I ran to the garden and checked out our squash/corn field.  We're feeling pretty good about this harvest!
As soon as we pulled into our driveway, my husband, Joel, and I ran to the garden and checked out our squash/corn field. We're feeling pretty good about this harvest!

 

We had a pizza party with some of our dearest friends and got to meet their newest family member (who was born when we were on vaca).  The smile on my face cannot contain my happiness.  I LOVE these kids so much.  While holding baby for the first time I looked up at Joel and said, "I want one".  (Trust me, it's no secret in our house).
We had a pizza party with some of our dearest friends and got to meet their newest family member (who was born when we were on vaca). The smile on my face cannot contain my happiness. I LOVE these kids so much. While holding baby for the first time I looked up at Joel and said, "I want one". (Trust me, it's no secret in our house).

 

My lovely childhood friend, Nikki (who will graduate a new teacher this winter!), made a giant mess of my kitchen.  We made 34 jars of jam.
My lovely childhood friend, Nikki (who will graduate a new teacher this winter!), and I channeled our inner Barbara Kingsolver and made a giant mess of my kitchen. We made 34 jars of jam. *note: sleepy kitty who could care less about anything we do.
Let me present:  Karley & Nikki's Amazing Roadside Blackberry Jam.  We picked these berries roadside, right around the corner from my house and didn't even get stung by a wasp! Over the course of five hours we made 17 liters of local, naturally-sweetened jam and discussed our educational philosophies, while lesson-planning-out-loud.
Let me present: Karley & Nikki's Amazing Roadside Blackberry Jam. We picked these berries roadside, right around the corner from my house, and didn't even get stung by a wasp! Over the course of two five hour days we made 17 liters of local, naturally-sweetened jam and discussed our educational philosophies, while lesson-planning-out-loud.

 

One more week of summer to enjoy!  I really need to get started on my home (teacher) office.

Karley

 

 


Home (teacher) Offices

Up in our corner of the world we still have three weeks until school starts for the 2013/2014 year.  This being said, I am already in full on school planning and thinking mode (and I don't even have a job...yet).  One of the main things on my mind, besides the fact that I don't have a job yet, is my home office.  Some of you might think this is lame, but most of you are probably teachers and; therefore, completely understand what I'm talking about. (ps - my husband just suggested I change the title of this post to "Antsy Nancy" because I am totally embodying an Antsy Nancy right now.  The man knows me well).

I'm currently on vacation, but I have a "new to me" desk waiting for me at home in pieces.  I also have a garage FULL of teaching supplies, books, papers, binders, craft supplies, etc. piled in my garage waiting to be stored and sorted.  We moved this past spring and my teaching things haven't been unpacked yet, which means, yes, I used resources out of a pile in the garage for the last three months of school this year.  As luxurious as my vacation has been, I can't stop thinking about my disaster of a garage.  I need to get my office set up as soon as I return from vacation, otherwise the school year will start and I just won't do it.  I am 100% guilty of being a complete mess if I don't have my things aligned from the get-go.  (Prime example: My French binder from school this summer.  My teacher didn't hand out binders until day 3, but had already supplied us with at least 100 hand outs.  Result?  My binder is still a mishmash of random French handouts that will never, ever get sorted).  

Meaghan also moved recently and already has her stuff sorted out, including her home office.  She sent me this photo of her office last week and I've had home teacher office envy since then (thanks, Meg, for fueling my fire while on vaca!)

Meaghan's amazingly clean and tidy home teacher office space.
Meaghan's amazingly clean and tidy home teacher office space.

So what does everyone think? I'm a home teacher office newbie so I'm curious and desperate to know what have been your home teacher office essentials? I'm going to be setting up my space in our closed in garage, so does anyone have any suggestions on how to make that space more comfortable and homey rather than...garage-y?  Here's the space I have to work with, I'd love to hear your ideas!

This is our closed in garage before we moved in.  Now our stuff is everywhere...I definitely have my work cut out for me.
This is our closed in garage before we moved in. Now our stuff is everywhere...I definitely have my work cut out for me. PS - amazing hipster couch, hey?

Book Tale: The Secret Life of Bees

So this is one of my all time favourite books - I think I did a book report on it in grade 11?

71aw+LDGJUL

It has been made into a movie since but as always (even though the movie is well done) you MUST read this book! It is absolutely beautiful! The story is about a young girl who finds an unexpected family back in 1964. I don't want to tell you too much of the plot because I really want you to read it and be enthralled like I was... it is about love, acceptance, and the family that you choose.

Here is my favourite quote from the book, I vividly remember my mom reading this quote to me while we were sitting in the living room of our old house so much beauty in just a simple quote:

"You know, some things don't matter that much, Lily. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But liftin a person's heard - now, that matters." (p. 147)

Meaghan