My Top 5 Defining Moments

@MrSoclassroom recently blogged about his top 5 defining teaching moments. I thought I would chime in as it is a good way to reflect

Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces & Visible Random Groupings

I think everyone is familiar with Alex Overwijk. I saw him speak many times at OAME about how he was revamping his 10 applied math course. Over a year ago we decided to jump in and try it. We started renovating 1 room and replaced bare walls and bulletin boards with whiteboards. Jump ahead to today and we have all but one of our math rooms set up for VNPS. Watching the students collaborate on problems at the whiteboard has improved everything from engagement to assessment. As I have some enriched classes this semester, I have found Peter Liljedahl’s site extrememly helpful for putting together some great thinking classroom questions for the first day of classes.

Spiraling & Activity Based Teaching

The first course we tried spiraling with was 10 applied math. We followed Mary Bourassa’s resources and added some other activities from Jon Orr and Alex. This was generally the course we saw poor engagement and results when it comes to students being successful. Both of these have increased dramatically, as well as, attendance. When I taught this course last semester, all but one of the tests had perfect attendance. Students were more confident in their math abilities and enjoyed coming to math class. Looking forward to continuing to develop the grade 9 academic course this semester.

Twitter

Now, I originally started my twitter account for the purpose of sharing my hilariously funny jokes outside of the classroom through the hashtag #funnyhogg. However, I find myself doing this a lot less (probably because I have exhausted most of the math jokes). So until I teach chemistry, I will have to work harder to find jokes (but even all the good chemistry jokes argon). Twitter has become so much more for me, it’s how I follow so many great educators who share their effective teaching strategies. The hashtag #MTBoS and so many others have helped me find great activities, resources and people to collaborate with.

Classroom Visits

A year ago, myself and 2 other teachers travelled to Ottawa for 3 days to visit Alex Overwijk’s classroom. As we were embarking on the new journey of spiraling our courses and using VNPS and VRG, it was a great opportunity to see this in action. We visited his classes for 2 days and spent a half-day chatting with him. It was so amazing to see the engagement and how well students collaborated. Since returning to our board, we have had quite a few visits from teachers from other schools. I encourage everyone to open their classrooms up to visitors. We can learn so much from each other and I often feel that we worry about being “judged.” I also love visiting other teachers’ classrooms and this is something I would like to continue doing moving forward.

Assessment

When I started teaching, I was extremely worried about making sure I had enough data in my mark book to calculate a final grade. I have spent the last year working to change how I value assessment and evaluation. This is something I need to continue to work on, but I no longer worry about what is in my mark book. There are a lot of people going “gradeless,” but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that. I give a lot of formative quizzes in my classes where I just write feedback on them and record them. I am working on google form that I can use as I walk around while students are working on problems with their VRG. I also tried conferencing for the first time last year after one of our tests. Hoping to continue this as we move into the new school year.

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