Wednesday, December 21, 2011

SketchUp Dream Room

I have had the chance to spend the last month working in a computer lab with elementary students. A project that I had the cycle threes (grades 5 and 6) start working on is using SketchUp to design their dream room. When finished, they are going to present a "virtual tour" of their room, showing off what they chose and why they chose it.

Obviously, they needed an introduction to SketchUp before they would be able to complete the assignment. I used the SketchUp support website to introduce the tools and techniques they needed to use to navigate and work in three dimensions.

Once they had a chance to experiment, I gave them the assignment. They had to use models I provided to furnish the room - I used models available in the 3D warehouse. I have tried to make the assignment as open-ended as possible, but with real world constraints. For example, the students must work within the walls of the room provided (because they can't move walls in their room in real life), but they don't have to build the walls or install doors or windows themselves...

The assignment is a four-page document (2 double-sided pages), the empty room is available on the 3D warehouse, and the evaluation criteria is a single page. I have even included an example of a completed room with all the requirements. Please feel free to modify anything as you see fit, and enjoy!

Happy holidays.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quebec teachers take note!

Researching an unrelated issue, I discovered EducaLoi. It's a Government of Quebec website that discusses various legal issues, and gives an easy-to-understand description of the rights and responsibilities of parties involved.

They also have a section for teachers. This is really a great resource for understanding what the Education Act says you must or must not do, what your responsibilities are to students and to society, and what rights you have as a teacher. It's a good resource for any teacher who hasn't taken the Education Law class recently (or even those of us who have!)

Take care.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Set Mathematics and iTunes

Set mathematics, Venn diagrams, Union of sets... Are your eyes glazed over? What possible application could this have in your students' lives?

Depending on the socio-economic status of your school's population, it's likely that many classrooms are filled with students who are familiar and comfortable with iTunes, iPods, and mp3 players in general. They likely use them on a daily basis, but there's a high chance that they haven't seen the math that iTunes is capable of harnessing to their advantage.

If you've got iTunes on your computer, take a look at the smart playlist. It's a playlist that contains songs that meet user-defined criteria. You can use any of the fields of meta-data that iTunes stores for each song (such as song name, artist, genre, play count, skip count, last played, album artist, and so on). iTunes is free, and at most of the school computers I've used in the past, it is installed or easily added.

Now here's where things can get interesting: you can define sets of songs in order to create a playlist that updates itself. I use a complicated algorithm to compile a playlist of music that shuffles automatically, drops songs I've heard or skipped, and makes sure I listen to higher rated music more often than lower rated music.

This is all calculated through set mathematics. It's a convoluted algorithm that's tricky to get into here, but a few years ago I put together a prezi detailing how to go about creating a playlist like mine.

This might be an interesting way to motivate students to think about set mathematics and set operations. A real-world application and real-world problems that students want to solve can help cement their understanding of what could be an otherwise abstract and dissociated topic.

Enjoy! And, as always, comment or email if you want to find out more or need clarification.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Math in Real Life

I really enjoy it when math reveals itself in facets of everyday life. The golden ratio, the distribution of prime numbers, and fractal patterns are all really neat concepts that can show students how math can be found everywhere you look.

Dr. Ron Eglash of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has developed an interesting website. His project shows a myriad of ways that math can be found in different cultural designs. My personal favourite is the way he relates grafitti art with principals of cartesian and polar geometry.

It may be too advanced for most elementary students, but secondary students may find it a good motivator to start looking at the world through a mathematical lens. The site contains tutorials and lessons, as well as information about the history of each cultural feature.

Take a look at the culturally situated design tools website, or post a link on your classroom web page to let your students investigate their own interests.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Educational Technology Guy: Technology I Use Everyday as an Educator

Now that the semester is over, I'm trying my best to catch up on all the work I've put aside in favour of homework. That means that I have less time to post cool things I've found.

To keep you satisfied, here's a quick link to check out for some really useful tools. Take a minute to check it out.

Educational Technology Guy: Technology I Use Everyday as an Educator

Happy Spring!

Friday, May 6, 2011

What can we do with social media?

The whole concept of social media has been on my mind recently. I watched a really interesting TED talk recently, about effective use of social media. I've been reading many blog posts pointing to use of twitter, skype, and Google forms to facilitate communication, find and connect with people anywhere on the globe, and collect data. I've even come across some interesting perspectives about social media while researching for a paper about standardized testing, which was a connection I didn't see coming.

Being immersed as I am in this topic, it's not surprising that many conversations I have with people end up focused on social media tools. Not so much the "how" of it, but really the "why." As education professionals, why should we be using social media tools? What need does it fill? What can it do that is not currently being done (or what could it do more efficiently than current methods)?

I have a confession: I am not on facebook. I have never posted my photos on facebook. I am not a fan of the typical uses of facebook. I am especially against things like FarmVille. But that doesn't mean that I don't use social media. If you're reading this, then you can tell that I use social media.

Blogs. Web forums. Social networking. Twitter. Professional networks. Even text messaging. Wikipedia describes social media as "media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques." All of these tools can facilitate communication from inside the classroom to people, knowledge, and resources that exits outside those four small walls.

So what do we do with social media? The really simple answers is that we do what we want to do - even if it's FarmVille. But what do we want to achieve with social media?

Here's a list of goals I think are worthwhile, and may be achieved through implementing social media techniques into education:
  • Communicate with parents and students outside of class. Parents often don't have a clear picture of what topics are being covered, upcoming events, and assigned homework. Students can sometimes be forgetful. Tools like blogs (which can be set up to email each new post) can really help keep everyone in the loop.
  • Share resources. This one should be an obvious point, coming from me. Sharing links, files, videos, and even other social media are all good ways of providing information to students, parents, and other teachers.
  • Collect information. Statistics without faces can be dull. Having students perform a survey of peers or even just the web in general can be a good way to get live data to work with.
  • Communicate with experts. I use web forums and email often to communicate with experts, find out opinions, and gather information. I'm always surprised by how quickly most people respond with any help they can offer. Everything from allowing use of their copyrighted material to providing research reports free-of-charge. Most people on the web are happy to help a non-commercial, educational cause (especially when it costs them nothing but a few minutes).
  • Collaboration. Teachers seem to be a very insular lot. We like to stay in our classrooms, doing our own thing. If we can communicate and collaborate more, it is likely that the quality of ideas will improve. "Two heads are better than one," right? What about two million?
I'm sure there are quite a few other needs that can be filled (or helped) through social media. If you've got one, post a comment!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Independent Learning Resources for Students

Some of my students are expressing interest (or even concern) in math topics that have come up on the current math exam. In my experience, when a student expresses an interest in a math concept, it's a great opportunity, and I really don't want to let it slip out of my grasp.

Image: WikiMedia Commons
Unfortunately, schedules, other work, and the vast amount of things that need to get done can sometimes get in the way. There are only so many recesses and lunch periods to spend giving students extra help. Add in any student extra-curricular activities that take that time, and you're left without much of an opportunity to engage those students in the learning they are craving.

That's where some online resources can come in handy. Most of my students have internet access at home, so I can send them home with some links to videos and practice activities. That way, when we finally have another opportunity to practice together, they haven't lost the motivation to learn.

Khan Academy has an amazing, vast array of learning resources. Videos and practice exercises are the basics that the site provides, but there's quite a bit more to it. You can set up a coach/student partnership, where the coach can see each student's progress through the lessons available on the site. I would recommend that you take a few moments to explore their website, and they're not-for-profit, too! You won't have to pay, and your students won't pay, either.

Another site I've been trying out lately is Math Playground. I came across it while looking for a demonstration and practice activity for a specific (and apparently difficult-to-find) math concept. They have short video explanations, and related math practice exercises. I haven't yet had an opportunity to look through much of the site, but from what I've seen, it looks promising. The video explanations are clear, and the audio and video are much better than the typical I'm-writing-on-the-white-board-and-you're-looking-at-my-back-while-I-speak-and-by-the-way-I-filmed-this-with-my-old-webcam kind of materials found all over YouTube.

The key criteria for this type of resource (when I'm looking for them) is that students must be able to engage in the learning independently. Different types of resources exist, where students can collaborate with a teacher or tutor within a virtual environment, but that kind of resource is outside the scope of this post. I am looking for places where students can explore topics covered in class in more detail, at their own pace, on their own time, without needing any other help or support.

What sites do you encourage your students to use? Where do you go for clarification of a concept or topic? How do you help those students who are interested? Post a comment to let me know!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Using a Feed Reader

There is a vast array of fantastic resources available for teachers online. So many great people are posting things like professional development ideas, teaching resources, or even full lesson plans (ahem). It's mind-boggling to think of the information available to teachers these days.

But how are teachers supposed to keep up-to-date on all of these fabulous things? There's teaching, marking, planning, meetings, conferences, parents, and students to keep track of on a daily basis. Spare time? Not really. Spare time to browse the web and research the latest developments in education research? Really unlikely.

RSS Icon
So why not have the information come to you? Yes, with the wonders of Web 2.0, now you can have content delivered straight to your browser, desktop, smartphone, or email. Many great websites have an RSS icon (Really Simple Syndication). Click on it (there's an example on the right), and you'll probably end up at a website with a stream of text, only some of which is legible. Don't panic! This is called an RSS Feed. Just copy the URL (you know, the part that starts with the whole http:// business) from the address bar of your browser.

Now open your favourite RSS Feed reader. I personally like Google Reader (I set it as my home page, and always keep it open in a tab on my browser). There is an incredible variety of feed readers out there, for many different platforms. Just do a quick web search for "feed reader" and whatever platform you're interested in (e.g. iPhone "feed reader" or windows 7 desktop "feed reader"), and you'll probably find several options.

Now that you've set up your reader, keep your eyes open for the RSS icon. Each time you find it on a website you like, you can click on it, and subscribe to the website's RSS feed. It's similar to a magazine subscription: when there is new content, it will be delivered to you. You don't need to go looking any more! Have a favourite resource that you're always checking? Click "subscribe" and you'll always be up-to-date on the latest developments.

If you're still not certain, check out this Common Craft video explanation. It's fast, simple, and very well explained (Common Craft does a great job explaining many different things in their simple format).


Common Craft video used with permission.

P.S. Here's a list of feeds I subscribe to (in no particular order): 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Odd Loops

I love pointing out interesting phenomena. Just take a look at the post about Fibonacci for an example. One thing I have noticed about myself is that I tend to over-explain, so I have tried to get out of the habit, and just allow children to explore those things on their own terms.

Image: David Benbennick, Wikimedia Commons
Have you ever seen a möbius strip? It's "a surface with only one side and only one boundary component." That's right: a real, three-dimensional object you can hold in your hand, with only one side and only one edge. You can even make one out of paper! It's a loop of paper with one half-twist in it.

Show it to a kid, and you'll probably get a less-than-super-enthusiastic response. So what? It's a paper loop. Have the child cut the loop in half lengthwise, and they'll have a strange situation on their hands: you end up with one loop that's twice as long, and half as wide. Cut it again, and the same thing will happen.

Do the same thing, but this time put a full twist in the paper and cut it in half. I won't give away the result here, but try it for yourself. Really do it. It'll take a minute of your time, but it might make you think a bit about what's happening. That's what you're going for with your students: they'll need to think about what is happening. Ask them the questions. Let them teach you about what's going on. I think you might enjoy it.

Oh yeah, there's a plan for it, too. Don't think I would leave you to figure out everything on your own! That's not what I'm here for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fibonacci & Art

Anyone who has ever had to look at the Fibonacci sequence has probably thought "So what?" It seems very easy on the surface: each number is the sum of the previous two. Simple, right?

Image: WikiMedia Commons
Not really. When you start to look into it, Fibonacci's sequence starts to crop up in unexpected places. Expressed as a ratio between two adjacent numbers in the sequence, the Golden Ratio (or Golden Section) is the reason some shapes just look right. DaVinci thought so.

When I learned about this, it struck me as amazing. Who knew that math actually happened in real life? That there was a way to describe the pattern of seeds on the top of a sunflower. That leaves grow in a pattern that optimizes the efficiency of catching the Sun's energy. That math is actually interesting!

A few years ago I wrote a lesson about the Fibonacci sequence. It's really an introductory lesson, meant to give students the opportunity to explore and create a pattern based on Fibonacci. You don't need to be a mathematician to teach it (not even a mathemagician). It's a fun way to get students thinking about patterns, and that they might just run into some math outside of the classroom.

If you're interested, the plan is available here. Take it as a starting point, and enjoy the journey. Don't be surprised if your students start to find Fibonacci's numbers everywhere. Believe them!

If you didn't already, click on the math is interesting link. You'll probably enjoy Vi Hart's math doodles series - it's an interesting perspective on topics like this one.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Teach Yourself about Technology

If you're interested in technology, there is no end to the amazing tools available online for educators. The problem lies in spending the time necessary to find and learn about all this great software. That's why you're reading this, right?

Sharing ideas is as the heart of the Springfield Township High School Library Guide, which is packed with information about many different kinds of tools available online for the teacher who wants to integrate technology into his or her class. From video editing to QR codes, this is an amazing resource to find out about something you've heard of (maybe you want to know more about augmented reality, with the release of the new Nintendo 3DS).

The great thing about this site is that it is packed with resources and information that is directly applicable in the classroom. The information is mostly presented in video format (with a few exceptions), making it accessible to you and your students, regardless of reading level.

I have added this to my list of websites to check out regularly. They've set up a few different RSS feeds to help you keep up to date on the latest page and guide updates.

Happy viewing!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smart Board Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

Because I visit other classrooms once in a while, and I talk about technology with other teachers quite often, I get the chance to gain insight into how teachers are using the technology they have in their classrooms. I have noticed something when I visit classrooms with Smart Boards in them: many teachers tend to use their Smart Board as a replacement for the white board (which replaced the chalk board).

This is not a bad thing! Smart Boards work well as a replacement white board (although I wouldn't mind them being quite a bit bigger). The problem is that this tends to be the full extent of the Smart Board use that I have seen. If teachers stop there, then what's the point of putting Smart Boards in the classroom in the first place? I have even heard this lament from some teachers - they don't have the resources available to help them take advantage of the more advanced features. The really sad part is that in my current school, the web filter blocks the Smart Tech help and support website.

This is a source of personal frustration for me. I believe passionately in the importance of technology in the classroom, but it can't just gather dust! Research shows that in order for technology to be useful, it must be accompanied by professional development for teachers.

I gave a workshop at my school for teachers who are already comfortable with their Smart Boards. This was not a "plug this wire in here" type of workshop - it was to show what makes the Smart Board different from a plain old whiteboard. It was a lot of fun, and I know that at least a few of the techniques I demonstrated were put into practice. My objective, however, was not to give the teachers skills on the Smart Board (although that was a happy by-product); I wanted them to think about how they could change the way they use the Smart Board.

For a downloadable example, check out this file (you need the Smart notebook software to view it). It is a quick animation of the equivalence of one whole, ten tenths, and one hundred hundredths (that's 1/1, 10/10, and 100/100). An oral explanation of the animation is necessary, but it can be a useful addition to a math lesson on equivalent fractions. The notebook file makes use of layers, animations, cloning, and layout, but none of its components are complex. It is also available on the Smart Exchange website, which allows a preview (if you don't have the software).

It took me over a month, but I have put together a quick video of some of the techniques I demonstrated at this workshop. This is not an exhaustive explanation of how to do things (just use your favourite search engine to find that): I wanted to show off some of the things that Smart Boards and the notebook software are capable of.

Take a look - it's only 8 minutes. Think about how you might use the Smart Board, and what makes it so different from a white board. And, if you can, ask for (or demand) some professional development opportunities to teach you these skills! I'd be happy to visit your school to help you integrate technology effectively!

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Image courtesy of
Instructables is a website I've been browsing, reading, and (more recently) contributing to for a few years. It is a fabulous resource for all sorts of amazing ideas. I'll let the about section put it succinctly:
Instructables is a web-based documentation platform where passionate people share what they do and how they do it, and learn from and collaborate with others.
If you're ever looking for science fair ideas, just look in the science channel. Want to get some Halloween decoration ideas? They've got that, too! In fact, it's a great place to look for all sorts of amazing ideas, inventions, solutions to problems you didn't know you had, and amazingly creative and intelligent people. If you can't find what you're looking for, post in the forums, and people will be happy to help out. They even give out free pro memberships to teachers. The categories of instructables (or 'ibles for short) are too numerous to mention here, so you're likely to find one that fits your particular interests. If you want some ideas on how to use instructables in your classroom, there's an instructable for that. Imagine that: a great teaching resource that teaches you how to use it as a great teaching resource (gotta love that recursivity).

Image courtesy of
It's also a great place to write informational texts. Document a process using photographs, write about it, annotate your photos, and put together a step-by-step instruction manual. Pretty useful for procedure-heavy homework assignments, or to have student practice writing this type of text. It's also got a real-world audience, making the students' efforts much more authentic. They can share their work with the world, and get feedback about how many views they've gotten, what comments readers have for them, an overall rating, and much more.

Take a few moments to look.


(Please note that instructables is in no way affiliated with this blog, its author, or this website. I just think it's a great resource. They have kindly allowed permission to use their images in this post.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why we need to change how we think about students

I often find myself explaining why I am so passionate for open-source. I have various arguments, theories, and opinions that you probably don't want to spend time reading (especially if you're already reading this blog).

But I've never put my thoughts in as much clarity as Sir Ken Robinson. Take a look at the situation educators face today, and how the way we were taught in elementary school isn't good enough anymore. Keep in mind everything you know as a teacher, and put yourself in your students' shoes, if only for a moment.

Take the eleven minutes and forty-one seconds to watch it. Please. You'll be glad you did.

How will you revolutionize your approach to learning and sharing? If it's fine for you to use ideas you've found, why not let your students? How will you assess their learning, their development, and their academic ability after this paradigm shift? Perhaps more importantly, how will you avoid training the creativity, originality, and spontaneity out of your students?

If you know how you will do it, you need to share it. We need to work together to revolutionize education to fit today's world. The classroom needs to come into the 21st century - our students were all probably born then!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Looking for a way to "wow" your students? Tell them you can read minds. Even better: tell them you can prove it (but only if they work really hard and there's some time at the end of the day).

I really enjoy sharing little things that impress students to no end, and there are math facts you can exploit to take advantage of it, impress your students, motivate them to work hard, and work a little math practice into their day all at the same time. A quick Google search of "math tricks" is a good place to start.

Think about this: if you take any number and multiply it by nine, the sum of the digits in the answer will always be nine (provided your math is correct). Now look at it like this: no matter what digit you get students to start with, you can always get them to end up with the same number by multiplying by nine, then summing the digits. Work in a little more arithmetic just for practice, and to obscure your trick. Then tell them their answer without looking at what they've written.

Better yet, don't tell them. Show them you wrote it on the smart board before you even began!

Take a look at this notebook file. Try it out for yourself, and see if it makes sense to you. Then change the operations required to get students to practice the math skills you want them to learn.

You might just blow their minds...


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lesson Plan Template

For my internship, I write a large volume of plans. Each plan must follow a specified format, with sections, headings, and spaces for Quebec Education Plan competencies, and Professional Competencies (if you haven't heard of them, don't worry about it unless you want to teach in Quebec).

To make my life slightly easier, I put together a template in OpenOffice. Each time I double-click it, I get a new document with every section heading written, and I just need to fill in the details. It saves me time and energy - two things I'm running short of lately.

You can download the template here, or a GoogleDocs version here (if you don't use Open Office, you should).

To make your own template in whatever word processor you prefer, create your layout, then choose "Save As..." from the file menu, and look for the document type drop-down menu. You should find a template option. Once you've saved your template, each time you double-click it, you will get a new, untitled document with all your headings set up the way you like. Pretty handy!

I've also posted a couple other forms I use: a tracking sheet for things I've handed out and want back (like permission forms), and a blank schedule for weekly planning. The time slots are marked according to my school's schedule, but they're all customizable for your needs. Find them in the "Forms and Templates" folder.

I hope you get to save a little time by using these tools. If it helps, let me know! Post a comment, so I keep putting work into these tools and sharing them with the world. We all need positive feedback once in a while!

Happy planning,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Space Plans

Image: "EarthRise"
I planned the first week of a theme unit for Kindergarten about space, and in the course of researching the topic, I came across NASA's resources for teachers.

If you can, take a few minutes to browse or search through their materials, because they are packed with plans, printable worksheets, illustrations, and ideas. I've read through a few, and they were vastly interesting.

Other notable sites include this incredible flash animation of the solar system. It's the only one I've seen where you can center the universe on the Earth and see how the motion of the planet appears to astronomers (something I'd never considered before).

There's also the solar system calculator, which can help you get the scale right. No more styrofoam balls and coat-hangars; we're looking at Mercury (which would be less than 5" from the Sun) being more than forty feet away from my favourite planetoid, Pluto. Make sure you've got a long hallway for this one (and a magnifying glass, too). One option might be to take the whole class outside to place their scale models of planets, but check to make sure your property is big enough...

Finally, I've put all my space theme unit plans on GoogeDocs here. They're all mishmashed together in the folder, so you'll have some reading to figure out which one goes where (but the names are self-explanatory). References to sources of information are included, but the NASA links are outdated (use the one above instead).

Enjoy, and happy teaching! (Has anyone else noticed that I really use a lot of parentheses?)

P.S. If you're wondering where the image came from, NASA has amazing images in the public domain, all at Just do a search for NASA, or if you know the name of the image, take a look. My favourites include EarthRise (above) and the Blue Marble collection of images. Pretty cool stuff.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Anyone who has had a chance to talk to me about technology for any length of time has probably gotten a glimpse of my distaste for PowerPoint. It's not that I don't like it as a tool, but I have some fundamental difficulties with how it has permeated our academic society.

I'm not alone in this opinion. Seems that PowerPoint has become an industry standard in many different disciplines, but it's not being used effectively. I have always railed against any type of visual that duplicates content or distracts viewers from the message of the speaker. To me, a slide showing what the speaker is saying is an invitation to read instead of listen. And if I'm going to read, I'd rather read a book, an article, or even the closed-captions on a television program (they're all designed to be read, rather than just looked at).

Even a well-done PowerPoint can muddle the message of an otherwise great presentation. What's the most important part of what's being said? What is the unified message? How do I remember the core concept that links everything together? After a while, every PowerPoint turns into a never-ending stream of bullet points, background themes, and images. I've spent hours putting together a non-linear audio-visual PowerPoint (for a school assignment), which would have been easier, faster, and more effective with a tool like Flash.

But I don't have time to learn Flash, or the money to drop on an application that I might never use frequently.

Enter Prezi. It's a presentation software, but that's where the similarity to PowerPoint ends. It's flash-based, but much simpler to use. How is it different? Take a look below, or browse around their site to look at some of the presentations published there.

The pros? Here's a short list:
1. It's free (and an upgraded account is free for educators & students).
2. It's easy to learn. Only a handful of commands can create amazing results.
3. It's web-based. You can't lose a copy, you can share easily, and you can even collaborate online.

The cons?
1. It is limited in some ways (e.g. you can embed videos, but you can't put background music)
2. The desktop editor is not free, so you've got to have web access to use it.
3. You can download the presentation to run without web access, but it is in a proprietary format. If it were available as a flash format, you would be able to embed it into your Smart Board notebook files.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Progression of Learning

Last month at our professional development day, I had a chance to learn about and become familiar with the progression of learning documents from the MELS (Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport).

It adds on to the QEP (Quebec Education Plan) and facilitates lesson planning, because it lays out in detail what students learn and when. There's a nice video describing what the symbols mean, and it's a really handy resource to have when planning long-range. I use it to provide end goals (i.e. what I want the students to understand and demonstrate), but it also shows the progression, which is nice because you don't end up putting the cart before the horse.
The progressions are divided into the different areas of the curriculum: English Language Arts; French (both base level and immersion); Mathematics; Science and Technology; Geography, History and Citizenship Education; Drama; Visual Arts; Dance; Music; Physical Education and Health; and Ethics and Religious Culture. Each area has its own document.

Unfortunately, I did not get a copy of the progression, because I am still a student, and not yet on the board's list. Turns out that they've got everything posted on their website. Hooray! However, you need to know how to do an advanced web search just to find the documents, because they do not seem to be listed in the English section of the MELS site.

If you're not too familiar with how to do that, just follow the link to which will give you the progression of learning for elementary school. There's also one for high school, available at


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Science Plans

(Atom Image:
One of my favourite courses during University was the teaching science methods course (thanks Kamran!) I wrote a few plans during that semester that I thought were really neat, fun, and interesting.

Now seems like as good a time as any to share them with everyone. They're available here. Please feel free to check them out, download a copy if you'd like, and use them in your class.

Classroom Aquarium documents the procedures to setting up an aquarium in your class, and some possible applications. For me, this is an invaluable teaching tool - you get a chance to inspire emotional connections, the process of inquiry, and the value of environmental conservation. It's also a nice decoration!

States of Matter is a straightforward lesson using water as an example. I couldn't get my hands on any gallium (like this guy did). Pretty standard stuff here, but a nice procedural lesson. Probably good help if you've got to substitute in a science class (or if you need to get a sub and don't have a plan fully fleshed out).

Finally, the Floating Orb plan. It's my personal favourite, but I don't want to give too much away. Check it out to see what it covers. All I'll say is that static electricity at Christmas time was never this much fun!

Happy teaching!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pre-Kindergarten Plans

I wrote six plans for a pre-kindergarten class a few years ago. I've finally gotten around to posting them, and you can find them here. The plans cover science, art, and math, and seemed to work well with the children in the class I taught.

One of my favourite lessons was the "Classroom Treehouse" where we actually made a house structure from cardboard boxes, and installed it in the room. I haven't got any photographs of it any more, but the children really loved it. They especially enjoyed being a part of the building process.

Take a look and see what you think. The plans are:
Snow & Ice - Experiment with states of matter and explore the properties of snow and ice in the classroom (Science)
Shape Animals - Create animals by choosing shapes from a set and assembling them (Art)
Mardi Gras Necklace - Use beads and string to assemble a necklace (Art)
Favourite Things - Children make a picture of their favourite things (Art)
Paperclip Measurement - Use paperclips to measure items in the classroom (Math)
Classroom Treehouse - Construct a building that the students can play in, and use for imaginative play.

I hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, March 10, 2011 and Language Arts

There's a website called XtraNormal that creates what they call "Text to Movie" videos - type in a script, and click through a few options, and bingo, you've got a movie.

I used it a few months ago, and then tried it again recently. They've now moved to a pay-per-use business model, which is too bad, because I enjoyed using their tools. However, if you poke around, it turns out that you can open an account, then send them a message asking for free credits for educational use.

I tried it out, and they gave me a bunch of free credits. So I decided to use some of them right away, and came up with this video. I thought it was kind of funny, and ironic because of the emotional nature of the poem, read by a machine.

Maybe it'll help students think of prosody, timing, pace, and meaning in poetry? Maybe it will make them try to read in different ways? Maybe it will just pique their curiosity.

Try out XtraNormal if you're interested. It took a couple weeks for them to send me the email to let me know they'd given me free credits, but you don't have to use any until you're ready to publish. It'll publish right to YouTube, too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What's this blog for?

During the internships in the teacher training program I'm in, my colleagues have described some amazing lesson ideas, written great theme unit plans, and come up with really wonderful things that I would love to implement when I have a classroom of my own. They're even willing to post them to the online conference used by the school! How great is that!?

Except that once the semester is over, everything is locked up, and no one can access the materials anymore. I have lost hundreds of great ideas that my fellow students spent hours developing. It got to the point where I felt it was not worth the effort to post and share my lesson plans, because nobody would be able to access it by the end of the semester.

Then, last fall, I came up with another solution: GoogleDocs. I worked in a group to develop a really fantastic theme unit for Grade 6 on Social Networking. We put a considerable effort into the project, and I was enthusiastic about the result. I posted all the materials to my GoogleDocs account, and encouraged other students to download them and use them. So far, I don't think that many people remember or used the link we gave them to access the information.

So I'm giving it to you now! Everything is available for download at this link. Please let me know by posting a comment if you found it useful.

This blog is intended to be a new medium for sharing lesson plans, resources, ideas, and curricular material. Post links, upload to your GoogleDocs account and share your plans, or just write about ideas you've got. Respond to ideas with extensions, adaptations, modifications, or just a thought that struck you.

I want teachers to get involved in sharing. We've got the knowledge, but we need to make access happen with less effort. It's not as if we're swimming in free time. Use the links below to share this blog with your friends on facebook and twitter, subscribe by email or use the atom feed, or just check back periodically to see what's new.

Open your lesson plans to the web. Share your ideas, and I'll share mine.


P.S. I've decided to embed our presentation below - take a minute to check it out and learn more about our social networking theme unit. Use the "Play" arrow button to navigate through.