Saturday, August 29, 2015

Spelling City

Last week I talked about using Mystery Skype in the classroom.

This week... ways to use technology as centers, or with your regular curriculum.

I have 2 programs for you to look into this week with the first being Spelling City

I started using this last year with my grade 5 and 6's and even though the free games were pretty basic (and childish for them) I did book us an extra slot in the computer lab to study our spelling words on this program... so I think they liked it.

How it works:
You can either type in your word list that you give your students or import lists that others have already created.  I always did the importing because my students were doing the Words Their Way program which MANY teachers have already done all the work of putting on the website.  I would just do a search for the sort and make sure the words were all included.  Easy Peasy.

Once imported I would rename the sort.  I had 3 groups in my class and each groups words came out of a different coloured duotang.  They saw the duotangs only about once a cycle while we were passing out the words but they knew which colour their words came from.  So I would just title sorts "green group", "red group", and "blue group" so that they would know which words to work on that week.  Any old lists I made sure they wouldn't be able to see.

I also sent home a letter to their parents about it.... so that they could access it at home to study their words.  Probably a bit more fun than sitting at the kitchen table and having your mom read off the words and you having to spell them back (which is what my mom did with us back in the day).  The nice thing about the letter is that they have one already made for you to fill in your info and print off for your students!

Other than sending them to the website once a cycle (usually the day before our spelling test) I didn't tell them which games to play or what they had to do on there.  Many would do the spelling test to see if they could get all the words right, they would often print a wordsearch of their words to go over later, and Hang Mouse, and Audio Word Match were the other 2 more popular games.

Not every student had headphones but you don't necessarily need headphones to play the games.

I had one student that was deaf that would give the headphones to her interpreter and then her interpreter would interpret what it was saying to worked perfectly.

The nice thing about this is that it does not require your students to register for anything.  It is just like they are going to a website (you'll have to give them your homepage URL) and playing games.  Their names are not stored on the website anywhere.

There was only one thing that I didn't really like (well, asides from the games being too childish for my students)... they could see the premium membership games that I wasn't paying for.  The premium membership was just over $50 (likely american) which I guess I could have used some of my classroom budget for.  It includes space for 25 students (which would have been enough for my class).  It would be something to consider in later years when I'm not so concerned with using my classroom budget for all the materials that I need for the year (because I will already have things like a classroom library and resources).

Would I use it again?

What do you think, will you use it?
How would you use it?  I could also see this being used as a center during some reading/writing centers

Also, what spelling program do you currently use (if you are using a program)... I'm interested in finding a different one!

Stay tuned next week for another easy way to use a math website in the classroom!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mystery Skype

I've been looking into different ways to incorporate technology into the classroom lately and came across "Mystery Skype"

Mystery Skype is basically a Skype session that your class would have with another class somewhere in the world.  During the Skype session they are each trying to guess where the other school is located (by city) by asking yes and no questions.

Paul Solarz has a GREAT explanation of the whole thing (including student roles AND a seating arrangement).  You can find it all here.

If I were doing this in my classroom the first thing I would do is to divide the class in half and have each class pick a different place in the world (I think I would go with country to make it a little easier to start with).  They would need to do a lot of research on their country to start with and keep it a secret from the other half of the room (which would also be picking a country in the world).

Then I would give each half of the class the different roles and have them go against each other.

In Mr. Solarz classroom he makes sure they all have laptops to work on so that they can do research while the questioning is going on (to come up with the next questions and to try to figure out where the other group is).... in this case we would also need the laptops to answer the other groups questions likely.

After we did a couple of trial runs in our classroom I would set up a Skype session with one of my teaching friends in the same province as mine... just because students would likely have more knowledge of our province and some of the different towns/cities around us.

After testing it out with a class nearby us I would venture out to different parts of the world.

The benefits?
Students learn to think quick
They learn to do quick research
They learn about different parts of the world
They get to use technology!

Would you ever consider setting up a Mystery Skype session?

Saturday, August 15, 2015


The Unique Speaking Club
Totally Unique Speaking Club

Whatever you call it this club is golden.

I've spending this week looking through all the TUSC roles my students had this last year, adding to them, and re typing everything out.  I think I now have about 30 or so roles.  I have about 23 that I definitely want to include (for some roles students have an option between a couple of things) and for any students that are in my class above 23 I will give the class the option of which of the last 5 or so they want to include (or maybe let those presenters pick between the last 5).

Here is what my current TUSC line up of jobs looks like:

1)  Chairperson
2)  Secretary
3)  Previous Secretary
4)  Time Keeper (I'm still debating on whether this one needs to be included... mostly because the time keeper doesn't really have a speaking role during the meeting and I feel like any student could watch a stop watch for the 3 minute mark and still do their role)
5)  Sports Desk OR News Reporter
6)  Word Explorer
7)  Internet Pick of the Week
8)  Cook
9)  Top 10 List OR demonstrator
10)  Surveyor
11)  Commercial
12)  Movie Critic OR Book Talk
13)  Speech
14)  World Records OR Wacky Animal Facts
15)  Poetry
16)  If You Knew Me
17)  Comedian
18)  Artist Profile OR Hobbies OR Curator
19)  Citizenship Award
20)  Historian OR Where in the World
21)  Impromptu Speech
22)  Speech Evaluator
23)  Audience Evaluator
24)  General Reporter

Math Problem Solver
Photo Analyst
Take the.... (monkey)

Last year we ran our TUSC meetings every Day 1 (on a 6 day schedule) this meant that students always had just over a week to prepare for the next meeting)

The benefits of running T.U.S.C in my classroom were amazing.

My students learned how to speak in front of the classroom for at least 3 minutes.  I had one student that had difficulty reading and would sit with me during TUSC meetings so that I could whisper the words to her that she was stumbling over.  After a few meetings of doing that I had her move to the front of the room and I would help her from my spot.  After a couple more meetings she had confidence to stand at the front of the room without any help.  When she did stumble over a word another student came to the front to help her out.

My students learned how to give and receive constructive criticism.

They learned to listen until it was their time to speak (we did question/comments at the end of each presentation so long as they weren't over their time limit to help with this).  Having them sit in their spots relatively quietly and paying attention for about an hour is HUGE!

They learned how to do good research and to NOT plagiarise.

They learned how to be creative but still following the guidelines (sometimes they really surprised me with how creative they could be!)

They practiced their writing skills.  One of the rules for TUSC was that they would have what they were going to say written out (they could have typed it out later on but they must have had at some point written it out in their TUSC duotangs... this helped with plagiarism too).

They learned responsibility and to get their homework done.  For the first couple of meetings I gave the class LOTS of class time to work on their presentations.  This way I could help them and explain to them what they needed to do.  After a couple of meetings there was always 2 other people that had worked on your role before you and they could either go to them for help or remembered what the previous presenter had done for their job.  After the first couple of meetings my students were getting their TUSC jobs done on their own time at home (for the most part).  To go along with this they also had to come prepared.  If they were not ready for the meeting they had to apologize to the class for not being ready and were sent to the library to complete their role (to present the next school day)

And of course they were improving their presenting skills.  Things like speaking loud and clear enough, being enthusiastic, making eye contact, standing tall, and enunciating different words.

I'm sure there are many other benefits of running the TUSC program.  In this humble teachers opinion it is definitely worth it!

If you are interested in starting your own TUSC meetings in your classroom you can easily find some resources online.  Here are a couple of sites that I used to help me supplement what I already had (with the handouts ready to print if you choose to use them as they are)
TUSC and Handouts
Totally Unique Speaking Club

I would also be happy to share what I've put together for my class this year (assuming I still get a class for this year).  I'm still working on getting everything together (so give me another week or so) but if you are interested in it email me at

What are your favourite TUSC jobs?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Teaching Portfolio

Since I currently don't have a teaching position for this school year it seems that I have two options
1) To apply for them now... as they start to slowly start popping up this last month before school starts
2) Substitute Teach

The not so secret third option and do both
(this is the option that I'm currently embracing)

I haven't had to go on an interview now for a couple of years because I had my terms at the same school.  If I end up getting a job this year I will have to interview for it.  So I've been getting myself interview ready.... well... since June.  Naturally, I took July off from everything but now that it is August I'm back to getting stuff together.

The first thing that I've been making sure is together is my teaching portfolio.

Lots of people will say that they don't use them.  Lots of people will also say that they bring them to an interview and don't use them.  This used to be me.  Then one of my interviewers talked to me afterwards and told me that it was a shame that I didn't use it.  My portfolio highlights some of my best work and I put a lot of work into it.  Speaking doesn't necessarily let the person that is interviewing you get your whole picture.  Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to show them some student work or show them that lesson plan?

The last interview I ever had (which I landed the job for) the people interviewing me took my portfolio from me right away and flipped through it during the interview.  One of them told me she could tell I was organized because of the way I had set up my portfolio... I'm just glad I came off that way because I sure didn't feel organized when I got to that classroom a few days before school started!

Anyways, lets talk portfolios shall we?

First, I put everything in my portfolio in page protectors.  These serve 2 purposes
1) It keeps everything protected (duh)
2)  Some of my items include multiple pages (such as a comic book that I have in a student work section).  Rather than putting one page of the comic in each page protector I put it all in one.  This way, people can still pull the comic out of the page protector and look at it if they want.  I also have all my teaching evaluations stacked in one page protector.  I'm just assuming the one they care most about is the latest so that is the one they can see by just flipping through but if they wanted to see the last 3 they could pull them out from behind.

Second, I put tabs going along the top of my binder so that I can quickly find a section.  I'm not sure why I put them along the top rather than along the side... now that I think of it that seems really odd.  But I have them there because if you wanted to reference some student work and show them what you did you can find it much quicker by at least flipping to the section it is in and then looking for it rather than flipping through the entire portfolio (mine is really large).  You'll see the tabs that I used in some of the photos below.

The sections I choose are:

In here I have some examples of lessons I did which include the outcomes I was reaching, the plan (I like the triple A approach), any worksheets that went with it and if possible some examples of student work.

I have unit plans (back in my practicum days we were required to make whole unit plans so I printed them off in smaller font to fit on one page in Excel so someone could see my day by day plan for an ELA unit).

 I talk about my use of a math journal and a picture of a couple pages from one of my students math journals.

There are a whole bunch of art lessons in there (I used to blog about my art lessons all the time and so I just copied what I wrote in my blog into a word document for the most part, printed off the pictures and stuck it in my portfolio).  My other technique for the art pages were to include a print up of an artist we were studying that I would have put together for my class and include it with some student examples.

I included a contest from Scholastic that I have my students enter every year.  They always have one on Haiku poems.  I think it just shows different ways to motivate students and that I do some work to look things up that could benefit my students.


I simply talk about the different kinds of assessments I have done (differentiated, running records, self assessment, etc).  I have examples of quizzes I 've given and my rational behind doing them that way, self assessment checklist for students, and a differentiated final project with student examples.

Student Work
This one is self explanatory.  A lot of stuff from previous categories could go in this one but for everything in this section I didn't print off a lesson plan to go with it.  I did include rubrics for some of the stuff though.

In the Classroom
To start this section off I have some pictures of bulletin boards I had put together.  One was an interactive bulletin board I had to do in university... looking back on it I wish I had the time to be that creative in my own classroom... one day.

Then I have a list of expectations, consequences for expectations, an implementation strategy and a classroom diagram.  These take up 2 pages and could likely use some updating.

The last thing I did in this section is talk about displaying student work and included a picture of my "MOLA" from this last year.

I'm not sure what it is like where you are looking for jobs but it is rare here to apply for a job that doesn't list something about technology being an asset.  I talk about 4 things in this section

1) Aurasma
2) Plickers
3) Virtual Museum
4) Pod Cast (I included a class website with this because the podcasts were accessed through the website)

Professional Development
This is pretty self explanatory.  I have any certificates that I got while doing PD sessions and a list of different ones that I've attended.  I'm in Canada so anything that I've done that is French I've been sure to include.  The ability to teach even just basic French could get you a job.

Practicum evaluations, teaching evaluations, letters of reference, etc.

Anything I've done that involved working with kids.  So, lots of volunteer stuff.

At the very back I have my transcripts from university, a very old child abuse and criminal record check, and a sealed copy of my transcripts (because back in university they told us employers might want it sealed... no one ever has)

And there we have it!
My teaching portfolio.

At the end of this school year I had my vice principal flip through it to try to slim it down... she ended up telling me to keep all of it.  She did suggest to include a little rational for why I included all this stuff in my portfolio though (I still need to do this).  A person interviewing you does not have a lot of time to read through lesson plans and other things likely but if you wrote one or two sentences to answer why you included different things... they could have time to read that.

Now it's your turn, what is your teaching portfolio like?
Tell me about it in the comments!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Teaching Center

Just a little video for your long weekend enjoyment!

If only we were making millions...

Enjoy the rest of your long weekend!

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