In the month of July during my Summer Break from school, I have spent a little time every day reading teacher-related books to be inspired and gain some new ideas to keep my teaching practice fresh. The book I finished recently is the one Larry Swartz brought out last year titled Word By Word.
The book centres on vocabulary building and has many suggestions for activities that can be implemented in literacy centres. The aim of vocabulary building is to encourage children to collect words and to use them in their writing and speaking activities.
“Many of us – including young people – are collectors of things: stamps, coins, plush toys , dolls, figurines, comics, spoons, snow globes, etc. The goal … is to have students become word collectors so they can store them, use them, marvel in them, and expand their knowledge about them.” ( p11, 2019, Pembroke Publishers)
I am already implementing a couple of the activities in my classroom suggested by Swartz. I look forward to trying out a few more of his suggestions to get the kids excited about learning new vocabulary and using the words that they have learned.
If we were having coffee, I would greet you with a resigned smile. We have now passed the 2 month mark of the social distancing and stay-at-home mandate – and the ending of this seems so far away. Ontario is moving into stage 1 of loosening the noose on Tuesday 19 May, but that will not in any way alter my current lifestyle. I cannot help but sigh as I look forward to another two weeks of remote teaching. It has not yet been confirmed whether or not we will go back to school on the 31st May – I am thinking we will be told in a week or so. Somehow I don’t think we will.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that tomorrow is a public holiday in Canada – Victoria Day – and yet it will seem the same as every other day. Tuesday will be filled with meetings as we discuss where we are going to place children for next year’s classes. I think that doing this remotely may be a bit of a challenge but we will do the best for the kids in our class. I am wondering what next year is going to look like and what the impact of the COVID-19 virus will have on our practice. At least the monotony of Tuesday will be broken by our small celebration for my youngest daughter who is turning 19 years old. My plan is to buy her a cake and to cook one of her favourite meals.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the remote teaching is becoming easier – but there are times when I am out of ideas to keep my students engaged. They do love my Google MEET sessions with me and sometimes when talking with them, their chatter inspires an idea to take seed in my brain.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that not only am I uninspired to create classes, but also to write blog posts. This past week, no ideas sprang to mind but I am hoping that the upcoming week will be better. The temperatures are slowly inching up so I am thinking it is time to set up our balcony which will give us another space to work in. Luckily our wifi reaches the space so we can take our laptops outside to work. Maybe breathing in the fresh air and sitting at a different table will be inspiring.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am reading (too much!) and am working on a crocheted afghan (while listening to audiobooks). I am also still enjoying my morning walks in the neighbourhood which have definitely become a part of my daily routine. I am looking forward to the time, though, when I can meet with friends and share a cup of tea or coffee in real time.
Before schools were closed in response to the COVID-19 virus, my class and I had almost finished the unit on Communities. We had explored mapping and had competed a number of tasks. Unfortunately I am unable to introduce them to the final activity that I had planned for the class but I did come up with an alternative.
Using the Google Maps application, I encouraged them to explore the aerial view of their neighbourhood (we had explored the school’s neighbourhood in class). Once that was done, I asked them to to draw a two block radius of their own neighbourhood using Google Maps as a reference. When assigning the task, I listed the success criteria for them so that they would know my expectations. The task was a perfect way for them to put into practice what we had been learning in class.
The children have done a magnificent job. Here is a section of the first submission I received:
I could see that the student had spent a long time on the task and that she had replicated her neighbourhood block accurately. Another student did not draw her immediate surrounding area but instead chose a block that was more interesting to draw:
I love that she coloured it in so beautifully and her legend showed a knowledge of the area. My favourite aerial map submitted took the student over a week to draw:
Her map followed all of the success criteria and shows an excellent understanding of mapping. If we were in the classroom, her map would have been pinned to the board outside:
I am currently thinking of another long-term assignment that my students can work on. Next week is an oral one – but the week after? I am not sure yet.
This week has been a challenge for me as I sit in front of the computer to work on lesson plans for my students, post daily tasks, answer emails from parents and the school admin, as well as correct the tasks that my students have submitted. I am not used to sitting at a table in front of a computer for an entire day and it has been hard for me to adjust.
On Thursday I had my first remote get-together with my class. The children were so excited and were talking non-stop! The meeting was a success and will enable me to move onto the next step – meeting with my students in small groups. I have planned sessions for next week and we will see how it goes.
I do miss being in my classroom with my students in front of me. It is so much easier to work with young children without the barrier of distance. In the classroom, I do not have to rely on the parents to help me teach their children – and I do not have to rely on quirky technology or dodgy internet connections. In addition, in the classroom I am able to help those children who remain quiet and often fade into the background.
Hopefully, though, I will soon be a physical presence in front of my students and interact with them throughout the day. In the meantime, I will continue to figure out ways to connect with them and to expose them to experiences and ideas that will enhance their learning.
I want to share a video with you that encapsulates a lot of what I am experiencing at the moment with distance teaching. Obviously a lot of the content has been exaggerated for its comedic value – but buried within the humour, there are seeds of truth.
As we move into the next week of remote teaching, we have been told that the date for the re-opening of schools has been pushed back once again. As of now, our schools will hopefully open 14 May. Until then, our province will continue with the State of Emergency and the social distancing protocol.
What has been your experience of remote teaching/learning?
Two weeks ago when planing my lessons for remote learning, I found I was struggling to keep all the necessary dates and lessons organised in my head. As my lesson planner is locked away in my classroom at school, I decided to create a table in my bullet journal to help me organise all the learning experiences I had created for my students. The plan was meant to help me keep on top of things as I worked on lessons for the month.
Imagine my chagrin when I realised yesterday afternoon that this weekend was the Easter weekend! Staying at home has meant that the days seem to merge with one another and weekends seem to have no meaning. Luckily I realised my error before Friday this week so all it took to correct my plan was a few red lines to cross out activities as well as some arrows to move tasks to another day. Changing the dates for the scheduled posts on my online classroom was also a quick fix.
As I work on my planning for the rest of next week, I smile to myself as I think of the panic I averted caused by my forgetfulness.
If we were having coffee, it would once again be virtual. This week I have connected with many online: my colleagues as I have ‘attended’ staff meetings, as well as a number of webinars in order to improve my knowledge of the Google apps available to us at our school board to provide distance learning to our students.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my online classroom seems to be working well. Each day I am learning something new and trying to implement it in tasks for my students. It has been exciting to see the boys and girls in my class submitting their assignments. And it is definitely exciting to think that they are doing their work independently. A few students have handed in more than one assignment – and I am sure they are uploading it independently by now. I think that a lot of what I have taught them on the iPad when face to face is now being used at home in our current situation.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that even though I am doing a little exercise at home I know it is not enough. I am seeing some weight gain and it is frustrating as I have worked so hard to lose weight over the past few years. My husband and I have now started a habit of taking a long walk in the late afternoon (for an hour). I am hoping to see the results of that soon as it is definitely helping me to get my steps in!
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am pleased with my productivity during the past week. I also read an excellent fiction novel on postpartum depression titled Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer. Look out for my review on this one as it is well worth the read. Speaking of reviews – I am a little behind on them so expect a deluge as I try to catch up!
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the days are feeling less cold – though you still need to wear a jacket when walking outside. I do look forward to the warmer weather so that I can set up our balcony and create another space for my family and I to spend time in.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you to look after yourself and stay healthy.
On Thursday and Friday I sat in front of my computer for hours trying to figure out how to set up a Google Classroom so that I can communicate with my students online. It was not easy doing so as I could not walk into a colleague’s classroom and ask for help. Thursday ended with my online classroom set up. I had made a post with links and attached documents.
On Friday, I worked through the more challenging step – connecting my grade 1 and 2 students to my digital space. I finally connected with two colleagues who gave me some advice. A tweet mentioned by my principal led me to the space where I could create passwords for my students – passwords that they would need to access the platform. By the end of the day yesterday, everything was set up and I closed my laptop with a sense of satisfaction.
I have emailed parents instructions and am waiting on them to attempt to log in and connect. There has been some back and forth between parents as they encounter problems but hopefully by Monday everyone will be connected. The week has been challenging for me as I worked through ways to create an online learning space for my students. It will be worth it, though, once we have crossed this hurdle.
If things were normal, yesterday would have been the first day back at school after the March Break but instead we are all practicing social distancing and staying at home. In the morning, I logged into my work email and responded to the ones I had waiting for me from the parents. Reading the email from my principal, the message I got from it was to be patient. I then decided to work on binding the inquiry my class had worked on and completed before the break.
While working, I listened to the second digital book I have borrowed from the library. I chose a book that was immediately available: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. I have previously read and enjoyed some of her stories so knew that this one would pleasantly pass the time while doing a mind-numbing task. I am loving the story so far – and laughing out loud at some of the antics the characters get up to (as well as what they say!).
This morning I woke up to an email once again reminding us to be patient as the school board works on the guidelines for distance learning: they want to consider the implications of not all families having access to technology; and the fact that many parents are expected to work at their own job. Today I will begin to figure out my planning and think of ways in which parents can implement what I had planned for the rest of the school year.
Today I begin my second day of working from home while my own children learn from home. The experience is going to be challenging in the small space we have but we are up for it.
During the past week, my students have been playing with tangrams – I have given them the opportunity to copy patterns and images that I have printed out on numerous cards. They love moving the shapes to create different things and spent the 20 minutes set aside for the task actively engaged in in the activity. At the end of last week, I gave them the opportunity to create their own images which they did so with confidence.
Yesterday was the chance for them to show me what they could do. Using a pair of scissors, they cut out the tangrams, placed the shapes to create an image, and then glued the pieces onto a new sheet of paper. Thereafter, they coloured in their image and, using the sentence up on the board as a guide, they wrote down what they had created.
The response of one student made me smile: “J’ai construit Mme Kook-Chun qui fait le Zumba avec les tangrams.” (I made Madame Kook-chun who is doing Zumba with the tangrams).
I smiled for so many reasons: she knows my love of Zumba, she placed the pieces accurately, and her inserted phrase was written perfectly! This is a response that I will definitely be keeping a copy of. 😀
On Friday 21 February, all four teacher unions in Ontario united and walked out of classrooms – that is a total of 200 000 members – to show solidarity. The members working in my locale were asked to go and picket at Queen’s Park for one shift. The day dawned with blue skies and crisp air. It was chilly – but not as cold as it had been for previous walkouts.
When I arrived at Queen’s Park, the crowds were already gathering and by 10:15am people filled the closed off streets around the park. The flags of the four unions waved above the heads of educators fighting for the right of a decent public education programme.
I was proud to be standing with the others (it was reported to be over 30 000 bodies at Queen’s Park – including some parents with their children). Children in the province have a right to a decent education without having to pay for it and I was proud to be their voice at the rally.
We walked the route at a slow pace with each turn taking about half an hour. At the end of the day when I arrived home, my feet were aching (winter boots are not made for walking!) but I was satisfied with making a stand.
The teachers of our union, ETFO, have now entered phase 6 of the strike action. No walkouts have been planned but some physical and online picketing are to occur within the next two weeks. Time will tell whether these efforts will make a difference.