Sunday, August 31, 2014

Aboriginal Education & Universal Design for Learning - Chapter 7 of U.D.L

   To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536

- Non-aboriginal teachers often feel nervous and unqualified when
  it comes to teaching about aboriginal culture

Challenges to Social and Academic Inclusion
- History of Racism
     - Once Canada became a country, education was divided into two
        categories:
        1 ) Status Indians had their education regulated by the federal gov.
        2 ) Non-status/Inuit/Metis were under the provincial gov.
     - After several years of inadequate programming, with little focus
       on academics or cultural integration, the Indian Control for
       Indian Education asked for:
       1 ) Local community control
       2 ) More First Nations teachers
       3 ) Creation of relevant curricula & resources for F.N students
       4 ) Instruction in F.N languages & culture
     - Suicide among F.N use is higher than those of other backgrounds
- Underfunding & Dehumanization
     - Funding is regularly lower for F.N communities than others
     - Many times issues jump between the federal and provincial
       governments and things fall through the cracks
- System Does Not Reflect Aboriginal Experience
     - Most on-reserve teachers are not from a First Nations background
     - Teachers should make education a priority for themselves and
       acknowledge their lack of background
- Lack of Awareness & Misunderstanding
     - Students coming from reserve schools often have large gaps due
        to lack of educational environments & are placed in exclusive
        learning spaces

Opportunities for Social & Academic Inclusion
- Elders recognized that every person could contribute to society in
  some way

Connecting Block Three: Systems & Structures
- All provinces & territories have policies in place in regards to
  Aboriginal perspective and education
- Teachers have to hold the bar high & challenge students to
  meet the high expectations we see them to be capable of
- Some Aboriginal teachers do not have a memory of a compassionate
  teacher to model themselves off of

Connecting Block Two: Instructional Practice
- All students need to learn about F.N culture
- Each province/territory has educational resources and supports to
  assist in this if you do not know where or how to start

Connecting Block One: Social & Emotional Learning
- Model respect with all students and families
- The Medicine Wheel
- The Seven Teachings

Monday, August 25, 2014

Random Back-to-School Thoughts & FREEBIES!

     Today begins the LAST week before school is back in full swing and, to get a sense of how my day is going today, check out my latest tweet:


     I find that when I sit down to work on stuff for school during the summer I have NO problem flying through the curriculum aspects... you know... the content, "what do I need to teach" stuff. The small details, however, like anchor charts, hand-outs, course outlines, organizational labels, etc, are SO much harder to get done. I'm one of those people that has a hard time visualizing those elements without actually being in my classroom. Which brings up another point, our school is still a crazy construction-zone! (so is my house, but that's another story).

     Last year I ventured into my classroom for the first time around the beginning of August. I spent the next two-three weeks peacefully painting furniture, designing bulletin boards, etc in complete silence as I was often the only person in the building besides the custodians. I could then spend the week before school putting together small details and mentally-preparing for the year to begin. Fast-forward to this year and I have yet to get into my classroom... *deep breaths*

     Technically I could have gone in today as the construction is far enough away from my room now, but we still didn't have any access to internet and I couldn't print anything off since the floors were being done in front of the main office (the only colour printer is in the office). Hence, I decided to hibernate freak-out at home and attempt to create some of those "small detail" items that had been alluding me all summer.

     First off, supply labels! My supplies are kept in deeper rubbermaid-style tubs in a shelving unit in the classroom... yes you can pull them out to see what is in them... but supply labels are much cuter and more efficient. I made a set of 9, which includes one for our Interactive Notebooks (I.N.B) and Mental Math (M. Math) folders. I've uploaded the set of all nine to Google Drive, so feel free to download and use in your own room!
classroom supply labels, free classroom supply labels, classroom supplies printable

      Speaking of supplies... do your students walk off with your pens and pencils ALL the time! In my room, it is like an epidemic!! Our school secretary actually has a cute habit of taping giant silk flowers to the ends of her pens so that people remember to put them back before they walk out of the office with them. In need of a solution, but wanting something my students could relate to, I came up with my own set of classroom supply memes. (remember I teach High School). I plan on printing these off in colour, laminating them over a pipecleaner or straw, and taping it to the ends of my pens in similar fashion to what our secretary does! I created these using Meme Creator, feel free to use them if you'd like!







Good luck with all of your small-details in your classroom!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leadership, Policy, and Practice: Block 3: Systems & Structures - Chapter 6 of U.D.L

     To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536


Policy and Practice in Ministries of Education
- The essence of the education system is still closely modelled after
  the post WWII design, which did not address inclusive education
- Inclusive education has been formally addressed by UNESCO for
  more than ten years
- Policy on Inclusive Education
     - Every province in Canada has a policy towards inclusive education
     - Manitoba's policy is called the Appropriate Educational Programming
       Act or Bill 13
       "Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual
        to feel accepted, valued, and safe."
     - Many times, students are placed in the classroom but are on such
       an individualized program or segregated with an EA that they are
       not involved in the social or academic life of the room
     - Inclusive classrooms help all types of students (gifted, low achieving,
       those with learning disabilities, etc)
     - Perceived lack of resources, lack of training, or unavailable support
       leads to resistance towards inclusion
     - Incorporating the Universal Design for Learning has been part of the
       Appropriate Educational Programming Act since 2005, yet many
       schools have not incorporated it
- Curriculum Development and Assessment
     - Curriculum does not always allow for cross-curricular opportunities
       which result in students sometimes covering similar topics in
       multiple classes without the teachers realizing it
     - Standardized testing has not been changed to be inclusive
- Community Education and Involvement
     - Teachers and parents should see each other as allies
     - Make sure that what you asking of families is realistic; try to find
       their strengths
     * Case Study: Jose (reading with a light box)

School Divisions: Supporting Inclusive Education
- Creating a Vision for Inclusion
     - Segregated classrooms leads teachers to believe that other teachers
       are responsible for "those students"
     - To successfully implement change, divisions need to:
           1 ) commit to and believe in inclusion
           2 ) see difference as a resource
           3 ) encourage collaboration between staff & students
           4 ) encourage willingness in staff
           5 ) approach inclusion as a social/political/academic issue
           6 ) commit to inclusive ideals
- Professional Development and Capacity-Building
     - Teachers need support and regular feedback with new ideas,
        just like students do
     - Implementing UDL on a school or divisional level requires a multi-
       year plan
     - Some tips for UDL include:
          1 ) Focus on the big picture, you can't choose to just differentiate
               assignments yet still keep students in rows. Focus on one of
               the three blocks, if needed
          2 ) Have school "experts" that have been trained in certain aspects
               and can help support others
          3 ) Bring in a professional for PD
          4 ) Follow up
- Hiring Qualified Personnel
     1 ) Teachers need to have a strong understanding of curricula
     2 ) Teachers need to mix their understanding of disabilities,
           teaching strategies, and curricula, so they know how a
           student will interpret the information
     3 ) Teachers need to take full responsibility for their students
     4 ) Teachers need to fully understand their students as 
           individuals

___________________________________________________

     I looked more into the Manitoba Education Philosophy on Inclusion, which is summarized as:
- Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual to
   feel accepted, valued, and safe. An inclusive community consciously
   evolves to meet the changing needs of its members.
- Through recognition and support, an inclusive community provides
   meaningful involvement and equal access to the benefits of
   citizenship
- In Manitoba, we embrace inclusion as a means of enhancing the well-
   being of every member of the community.
- The philosophy of inclusion goes beyond the idea of physical location
   and incorporates basic values and a belief system that promotes the
   participation, belonging, and interaction

Monday, August 11, 2014

How Much Time Is Enough?

     In Manitoba students will be back in the classroom in approximately three weeks... three seemingly-short weeks... and I am beginning to plan out how those crucial first few hours, days, and then weeks, will play out in my classroom. When I look back at the beginning of last year, my first year in the classroom, I strongly feel like everything went as smooth as it could have been. I had over planned to compensate for my lack of experience, nervousness, and excitement... the students were reserved while they got used to the new setting and were pretty accommodating when it came to school procedures that I was unfamiliar with... and we slowly acclimatized to one another as the first few weeks progressed. I felt that this time was a great learning opportunity and necessary since I didn't know my students yet and they didn't know me yet either.

     This year, however, I know ALL of my students before class even starts and they have all had me for at least one class before. (Take a look below to check out what my teaching schedule looks like). In similar fashion to last year, I am still the Grade 8 homeroom teacher and will, thus, be their primary teacher. You will notice that they are with me ALL morning, EVERY morning; which makes planning awesome because this is the only time in which I have flexibility to change around classes if needed.
- I had this year's Grade 8's last year in Grade 7 Science and there are
  no new students joining this class.

     In the afternoon I am mostly teaching high school math (with the exception of one random Gr 8 social class on Friday!).
- I had this year's Grade 9's last year in Grade 8 and, since I was their
   homeroom teacher, they had me as their primary teacher last year. There
   are, however, three new students who will be joining us from another
   school in our division.
- I had this year's Grade 10's last year for both Grade 9 math and science
  and I also had them for a few months during my student teaching placement
  as well. This class is actually smaller this year due to a few students
  transferring to a nearby vocational school and there are no new students.


     Here comes my question... to what extent are the back-to-school procedures and policies necessary in a class where you already know one-another? I was re-reading some information by Harry Wong and was reminded that, "On the first day of school, your students want to know seven things":
1 ) Am I in the right room?
2 ) Where am I supposed to sit?
3 ) Who is the teacher as a person?
4 ) Will the teacher treat me as a human being?
5 ) What are the rules in this classroom?
6 ) What will I be doing this year?
7 ) How will I be graded?
Of these seven, I hope that my students will know the first 5 before they even come back to school for the fall. Numbers 6-7 can easily be addressed in those opening few classes but I feel like the procedures and policies that we spent so much time on last year can just fall into place... or is that just wishful thinking? I, of course, will spend time reviewing:
- my expectations for when you are in the classroom
- my classroom rules (all two of them)
- where supplies are and how to get them
- how to use our classroom website
- how to use the classroom blog
- etc
- etc
- etc
but I really shouldn't have to spend much time on this, should I?

__________________________________________________

I'd love your feedback!
Please leave comments below, thank you :)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Teaching in the Classroom: Block 2: Inclusive Instructional Practice - Chapter 5 of U.D.L

     To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.


Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536


Classroom Ecology
- The physical space of your classroom affects your students as much
   as what happens within your classroom
- The direction in which the desks face demonstrate who is in power and
   what kind of interactions can take place between individuals
- Interest Areas
     - Decide what activities will happen in your classroom and make sure
       you have space to accommodate them
     - Ex. science labs, student meetings, technology stations, etc
- Personal Territories
     - Take into account what belongs to who (more important in single
        grade classrooms, not so much when students change rooms for
        every class)

Pedagogy and Classroom Management
- Teachers manage their students and then complain that they act out
   once they leave the room, it should not be a top-down approach
* Case Study: Derrick (paper balls)
- Dealing with Challenging Behaviour
     - Bring down situations and solve conflicts together
     - Too many rules overwhelm kids and are unnecessary

Starting the Year
- Don't jump right into curriculum; establish expectations and model
  behaviour by:
    - Working through the RD program
     - Introduce partner and group work
     - Introduce centres 
     - Then begin curriculum
- Introducing Partnering & Group Work
     - Discuss what does partner/group work look like? sound like?
     - Role play partner work
     - Discuss active listening
     - Practice sharing ideas/"reporting the group's findings/thoughts"
       and discuss the importance of everyone always needing to be
       prepared to be the reporter
     - Have a visual reminder in your room and use prompts to ensure
       the students invite everyone to participate in groups and work to
       find everyone's strengths
- Introducing Work Centres
     - Use centres that address the different types of multiple
       intelligences
     - If you have 9 centres, use approx. 15 classes
     - Ensure all students are participating positively
     - Barriers That Students Feel
          - Grades: they are worried that the performance of others in a
             group will affect their assessment 
          - Pace: they are worried that certain students may affect their
            ability to complete tasks on time
          - E.As: any other adults in the room should interact positively 
            with any student in the room

Teachers in the U.D.L Classroom
- Circulate during centres and complete formative assessment so you
   recognize which ones need enrichment, support, or oral options
* Case Study: Cory (suck at verbal-linguistic)
- Co-Teaching Scenarios
     1 ) One Teaching / One Drifting
           - One teacher delivers curriculum, one circulates around
           - Advantages: timely help, on-task students, saves time
           - Disadvantages: teacher control, one seen as an aide
     2 ) Parallel Teaching
          - Plan jointly but split into small groups to teach
          - Advantages: small groups, separate students, better planning
          - Disadvantages: learning equally, pacing, noise level
     3 ) Alternative Teaching
          - One manages the class, one pulls a small group out
          - Advantages: help meet specific needs of students
          - Disadvantages: labelling groups as "smart" or "dumb"
     4 ) Station Teaching
          - Teaching responsibilities are divided up and teachers hold
             certain centres
          - Advantages: easier to differentiate, small groups, cover more
            material
          - Disadvantages: lots of pre-planning, pacing, noise levels
     5 ) Team Teaching
           - Both plan and share instructional time, teachers converse &
              both manage the room
           - Advantages: active roles, equals, risk-taking
           - Disadvantages: a lot of pre-planning, needs defined roles
- Working with EAs
     - It is their job to facilitate engagement

Assessment For, Of, and As Learning with Diverse Learners
- Assessment: informal or formal, guides teaching and learning
- Evaluation: snapshot of where a student is in comparison to a
  standard
- Reporting: communication of progress
- Students do not have to do pencil-paper tasks in order to fully
  prepare for a pencil-paper exam
- Methods of Assessment
     1 ) Observation
     2 ) Conferencing
     3 ) Portfolio Assessment

_____________________________________________
I WANT TO KNOW:

How often do you use formal centres in your classroom? and what Grade level/subject?
I used centres regularly in math and quite often in science but it was less formal.

Please leave your thoughts below :)

Friday, August 01, 2014

August Currently

     If you haven't encountered a "Currently" post before, it is just a fun post at the beginning of each month that serves as a way to share what is Currently going on in your life! You can link up and share your own "Currently" post by visiting the wonderful Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.



Block 2: Inclusive Instructional Practice - Chapter 4 of U.D.L

     To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.


Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536


The Planning Continuum
- Students need to connect concepts in order to develop deep
  long-term understanding (teachers can set up year-long plans
  to help accommodate this)
- Planning For The Year
     - Try to set up an even number of units per term to ensure
        that everything gets covered and you can easily manage
        your time (combine connected units where needed)
     - Set up units between different subject thematically in order
        to build strong connections and big-picture thinking
          - Ex. Human Impact (Social Studies) and Ecosystems
            (Science)
          - Easily done when multiple subjects are taught, but require
            careful planning and open communication when done 
            between teachers
     - Build in other subjects so that all subjects are included
     - Determine what units will fit into what term. There may
       be a natural skill progression or seasonal progression
- Strategies for Variations on The Year
     - In multi-grade classrooms, teachers may build two-year plans
       that allow them to cover both grades units over the two years or
       combine similar units from both grades
     - In one-class classrooms, teachers may collaborate with other
        teachers
- Planning the Units
     - Start with the end in mind and determine what assessments will
       fit the needs of the students while covering the outcomes
     - Understanding is a conceptual approach, which emphasizes
        thinking
     - Outcome is a skills-based approach, which emphasizes performance
     - Determine essential understandings from each subject and then
       combine to reach approx. 15 understandings for three units
- Creating Inquiry Questions
     - Hook students in
     - Build questions off of the essential understandings developed before
- Creating Rubrics for Assessment For, As, and Of Learning
    - We need to assess using different methods to meet the needs of our
       students but do not change standards for students
    - Use your essential understanding as the highest level of your rubric
       since it is essential, then use descriptive verbs to build the rest
     - Give students input in the rubric in the sense that they revisit the
       rubric and alter as necessary after the project/activity has already
       been explored
     - Use formative assessment to understand where your students are
        starting from
     - Make sure you incorporate multiple intelligences and don't "teach to
       yourself". A lot of times, teachers who are musically-inclined incorporate
       a lot of music in their rooms, kinaesthetic incorporate movement, etc
     * Case Study: Sara (music lyrics)
- Planning Lessons
     - Follow a pattern that allows for a gradual release of responsibility
     * Case Study: Karl and Mitchell (memorized rap lyrics)
     * Case Study: Nate and Michael (industry)

Literacy Across The Curriculum
- Covering topics thematically can help a student's literacy because they
   have a basis to build vocabulary off of
- Reading fluency means they can recognize 95% of the words
- Don't get into the trap of grouping by ability level
- Buy 5 copies of 6 varied books about the same theme

Numeracy and Integration
- Making sure to include math in your thematic approach drastically
  strengthens the ability to make connections and helps ensure that
  math concepts are not taught in isolation
- Ex. Teaching about the north in Grade 4 Social Studies, practice
  fractions to demonstrate the population of First Nations, Metis,
  Inuit, and Other - Fraction in food groups - Create a song using
  a certain beat

_____________________________________________
I WANT TO KNOW:

How closely do you include math in the thematic approach?
I feel like math has a more specific skill progression that needs to be incorporated and this may not fit naturally into a thematic approach.

Please leave your thoughts below :)