Saturday, May 31, 2014

Surviving the Chaos: Middle/High School Year End

I'm so pleased to be part of Two Peas & A Dog's second annual "Chaos" blog hop for teachers of grades 6 through 12.

My year end student engagement tip for you is to make sure the students know the content you're covering (or reviewing) with them is still real and relevant. Of course you want to add some elements of fun & appeal to their interests to help them stay engaged, but as soon as they sense that you're done teaching, they will be done learning. We don't really want to babysit them for the last 3-4 weeks any more than their parents want that time to be wasted. And honestly, they'll be bored, and that will be more work for you in the end.

My organization tip is write down ALL of your school-related passwords in your planner, or somewhere else that will be the first thing you need when you head back into the school (likely a week or two before you actually get PAID to start being there). Six weeks from now, you're really not going to remember all the idiosyncratic patterns for the dozen or so different logins... unless your board is MUCH more methodical than mine with these matters. And the IT department might get the larger issues sorted out much faster in September if they didn't have to handle 4000 calls for password resets.

Thanks for joining us! Twenty teacher-bloggers collaborated on this end of the school year celebration by donating a product to the Surviving the Chaos blog hop bundle. The entry form is at to help keep you organized as you hop over to each blog to obtain the secret letter. Once you've got all the letters, fill out the Google form to receive your upper-grades (6-12) product bundle. 
Thanks for joining our end of the school year blog hop! We had a great turn out and gave away hundreds of prize packs! All good things must come to an end...the giveaway is now closed.  However, our good old fashioned survival tips remain free for the taking! 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Notice & Note - Online Summer Book Study

This summer, I've got a few PD plans already under way.  I'm taking an AQ course (that's short for Additional Qualification here in Ontario) and then of course there's the standard professional reading list. I've been interested in some different strategies to help me be a better "literacy" teacher. One thing I'm working on right now is a fun new (to some of us, at least) way to do a Book Club.

This online Book Study is hosted by Melissa from Dilly Dabbles, who is an Instructional Coach, edublogger and graphic designer, and a bunch of other edu-bloggers (aka teachers who like to write & share with you!) will be joining in.  We'd love for you to join in with your comments and reflections as you read along with us.  No need to have a blog to be part of this! If you don't have the book already, you can order one here:

Check back soon for more details on Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, by Beers and Probst. Here's our anticipated schedule.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Meet Viki - A Bright Idea for bilingual/multilingual educators

Recently while I was at home with a virus, and indulging in a bit of day time TV, I heard about a website that I'd like to share with you. Although VIKI could certainly be for classroom use, I actually got excited about it for an entirely different reason. As teachers, we give a lot in many ways. There's always room for one more way to make a difference though isn't there? Especially when it involves volunteering, putting your language skills to use (and yet in such an easy, peasy way!!)

Honestly, I can't even say for sure which TV show it was, but Marlee Matlin gave a plug to which is like a wiki, but its goal is to provide subtitling to a wider range of video. She talked about what it was like growing up without closed captioning on many TV programs, and what she did to fight against that. Now the same issue exists for YouTube and other online media. (I previously wrote a blog post about how terrible YouTube's auto-captioning is.)

What a perfect opportunity to contribute to the world you want to see! Personally, I've often been heard complaining about the dearth of quality, accessible materials (especially of an audio or visual nature!) to explore in French class.  And the new curriculum for French in Ontario has a much bigger focus on culture than in the past... but that does not have to mean just francophone culture.

So what on earth am I talking about? How does Viki make it easy to contribute? When you visit the website, you are met with a floating invitation to jump right in and provide subtitling for even just ONE line of a video. I tried it out & it's easy, rewarding, and a little bit addictive, like a word puzzle game!

(Any other 4 Pictures, 1 Word fans out there?)

Really, if you speak ANY language, pop on by to see what video project you might like to spend a few minutes contributing to. Yes, there are even English videos that need English subtitles. As an educator, I feel like making the world more accessible to all if definitely a way to give back!

That's my "Bright Idea" for this month.  Be sure to pop by any of the following Sales-Pitch free posts by edubloggers listed below WITH an indication of grade level, and if we're not all that well acquainted yet, I'd love for you to follow me on Twitter, facebook or even TpT.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

That's right... it's sale time!

TeachersPayTeachers is having its annual Teacher Appreciation Sale.  You know the routine by now, right? "Up to 28% off," which means whole stores (or selected items are on sale for up to 5, 10, 15 or 20% off, and then TPT offers a Promo Code for another 10% off your entire purchase.

Don't forget to use the Promo Code at checkout to get the additional 10% off over & above anything that individual sellers discounted their work.

I have a pet peeve about these sales... and that's the number of sellers who either don't know about them (because let's face it, I *DO* spend way more time online in forums etc. than some teacher-authors!) so ... here's something I'm doing to help you, in case you have the same issue.  All of the sellers below offer materials for grades 5 or 6 and up, PLUS they've agreed to discount their stores.  If by any chance someone forgot, slept in, what have you, just send them a quick Q&A through the TPT site to ask if they're planning to discount it still.  They're all great, and I'm sure you'll get a pretty prompt YES.

For clickable links, here's a list:

Teaching FSL and Liz's Lessons are your sources for modern language materials.

Social Studies, English/Language, Math, Science and other subjects covered here:

Danielle Knight (Who made the awesome graphic for us!  Thanks Danielle!) 

Juggling ELA

The SuperHERO Teacher

The Creative Classroom

A Space to Create

Teaching High School Math


All Things Algebra

Miss Math Dork

James Whitaker

For the Love of Teaching Math

The Classroom Sparrow

Teaching Math by Hart

2 Peas and a Dog

Addie Williams h

21st Century Math Projects

Michele Luck’s Social Studies

Margaret Whisnant

Created by Mr. Hughes

Making it as a Middle School Teacher

Tracee Orman

Science Stuff

Krystal Mills

Kate’s Classroom Café

Nikki Kersbergen

FisherRena Education

Charlene Tess


Jean Adams

Ruth S.

From Chopsticks to Mason Jars

The Tutor House


Happy Shopping!!

Mme Aiello

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Lesson with "aller" in the present tense

Need to review the verb "aller" with your middle school French students but want some context rather than just a grammar lesson?  I found this funky 3 minute YouTube clip -  a silent film! - which could be really interesting to incorporate.

To use something like this in class, students need a specific task during the viewing. For example, I would ask students to try to determine how to say "go" in French before sharing the video in class, (with a reminder to keep this to themselves rather than calling it out aloud).

Either stop the video about 70 seconds in, when they ought to have the answer and give them a new focus then, or assign them two tasks at once if you think your learners can handle it. (I would personally prefer to accomplish the two tasks at once which will allow for a more authentic, uninterupted viewing experience.)

Ask students to make comparisons between modern cars & driving and what they see in the video.  They may notice things like no roof (or a collapsible one only). no apparent seat belts.

Some possible questions for post-viewing:
  • Qui sont les personnages dans le film?
  • L'enfant n'est pas un "bébé". Explique cette manque de cohérence.
  • Comment est-ce qu'on fait référence à une famille en français? Quelle est la différence comparé avec l'anglais (ou ta langue maternelle)?

    (Scroll down towards the end of the blog post to see the "answer key" I would use... obviously discussions can take different directions, but it's still good to have an idea of what you might like to elicit.)
Here is another cultural teaching point you could use:
"de Charybde en Scylla" - This is an expression that means basically "from bad to worse" A common English idiom that is similar would be"from the frying pan into the fire." The actual French expression refers to two monsters from Greek mythology.

Scylla & Charybdis - courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My notes for answers:

Personnages: M. Bouchu, Mme Bouchu et leur fils. Aussi il y en a un policier.

Entertainment was clearly very different 100 years ago. Baby film actors not as common in 1920s! Audience expectations related to "reality" have changed a lot.

Les Bouchu - no "s" at the end of the family name, whereas in English we do either add an "s" or refer to "the Aiello family" as a unit, which would take the second person singular verb form (like "elle" which would be the subject pronoun to replace it).
This is a great chance for your students whose first language is something other than English or French to make connections to their mother tongue and to share their thoughts with the class if they wish! Encourage them to be proud of their own experiences and connections they make in their learning.

Have a great week!

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