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Saturday, 5 December 2015

Using Disney's "Inside Out" With Middle Schoolers

I love Disney movies!  My first memory of going to see a movie in the theatre was with my mom and sister when I was about 3 to see The Little Mermaid.  Since then, I've been hooked.  I still go to see Disney movies with my sister when they come out in the theatre, but now we also take her 5-year old son (most of the time).

When I saw "Inside Out" this summer, I loved it!  It takes place inside the brain of an 11-year-old girl named Riley.  The main characters are Riley's emotions - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger.  The emotions interact with each other and steer Riley through her days, creating memories.  Riley's core memories (important times in her life) create aspects of her personality as Personality Islands.  Riley's 5 main personality islands are Goofball Island, Family Island, Friends Island, Hockey Island, and Honesty Island.

When Riley was young, Joy was steering most of her actions, but in the course of the movie, Riley's family moves away from their hometown and Sadness becomes more prominent for her. Because of a fight between Joy and Sadness, Riley's core memories are lost to the "memory dump" and the two emotions try to save them before Riley loses her personality forever, leaving Disgust, Fear, and Anger to manage "headquarters" and inform Riley's actions in the present.

The movie is touching and really puts an importance on all emotions.  Joy realizes that Riley needs to feel sadness sometimes and that it's okay if she isn't happy all the time. 

After I saw the movie, I immediately started thinking about ways I could use it with my students.  I'm teaching Grade 8 this year, and one of the Health and Career outcomes for Grade 8 is to discuss how personality traits could relate to possible careers.  I decided to show the movie to my kids and have them think about their own personality traits and core memories.  Their assignment was to create a poster to show off their personality islands.

We generated criteria together as a class, with the students deciding they should have at least 3 personality islands and they should have at least one representing important people in their lives, one representing important hobbies, and one representing character traits.  They came up with the marking criteria and created the rubric themselves.

Here are some finished examples:

I think they turned out great, and the conversations that happened around emotions and memories were very interesting to hear.  Have you seen Inside Out?  Have you done something similar with your students?  Let me know in the comments below :) 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Middle School Science: Making a Model of the Respiratory System using a Pop Bottle and a Balloon

My Grade 8's have been learning about the respiratory system in science.  This week, we made models of the respiratory system using a pop bottle, a balloon, and a plastic shopping bag.

I got the idea from Habits from the Heart and created a lab worksheet for my Grade 8's to follow.  I have guided the students through all the labs we've done up until this point, but for this lab, I stepped back and let the kids take the lead.   I told them that I would help if they got stuck, but it was their job to work with their partner to follow the instructions on the handout.

Most of the kids followed the instructions very well, but the trickiest part was creating the handle on the bag, and securing the elastic band.

Here is one of the finished models:

I loved going around to the different tables to see the reactions from the students when they pulled and pushed the diaphragms (plastic bags) of their models and saw the lungs (balloons) inflate and deflate.  They were excited to see what happens when we breathe.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Grade 8 Animal Cell Models

Over the past couple weeks, my Grade 8 Science students have been learning about the structures of plant and animal cells.  The culminating project for this topic was to create a 3-D model of an animal cell, highlighting the organelles that can be seen with an electron microscope.

For each organelle, the students needed to create something that looked accurate, and needed to label each structure.  

Here are a few of the completed models:

I think they turned out beautifully! 


Thursday, 8 October 2015

100th Blog Post! - Free Classroom Quotes Posters

This is my 100th blog post!  I'm excited to reach this milestone, and to celebrate, I'm offering my newest TpT product for FREE!

I created a set of colourful classroom quote posters with quotes from popular children's books.  Authors include J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, and more!  

Here is a peek at the posters.

You can download them all for FREE by clicking on any of the pictures, or by clicking here

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Grade 8 Science: Writing Descriptive Observations

Last week, my Grade 8 Science kids completed a lab to observe the characteristics of living things.  In it, they compared dry yeast and salt, then put each into apple juice to observe the reactions.  The first step in the lab was to describe the dry yeast and salt in a table, looking at the colour, size, texture, and shape of each.

When I looked over the lab reports my kids had turned in, I was more than a little disappointed with their observations.  I had more than half of the class simply writing the word "small" for size of the grains, and I even had about 5 or 6 kids write "salty" for the texture of the salt! 

This made me realize that I hadn't given them enough clarification on what was acceptable, scientific language for observations.  To help them understand the level of description I wanted, we completed a simple activity.  We went outside, and I asked each student to find a leaf.  We have a beautiful maple tree that takes up a large portion of our grounds behind the school, so many students chose maple leaves, but some picked chestnut leaves, pine needles, and other foliage they found.

When we came inside, I asked each student to write a detailed description of their leaf, charting every tear, stripe, colour change, spot, and distinguishing feature they could observe.  

After about 10-15 minutes, the students each had almost a full page of descriptions.  I then asked everyone to put their leaves together on a table.  The goal was to write a detailed enough description that someone else could easily find their leaf among the rest.  They took turns reading out their descriptions with two or three other students designated as the "finders."  The descriptions were very detailed, and every leaf was found.

 If I did this activity again, I think I would have each student choose a leaf from the same tree, just to make it a little more challenging, but I got my point across about making specific, descriptive observations.

Have you done something similar in your science class? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Back to School Activities with Grade 8

My feet are sore, I'm exhausted, and I already have a cold, but I made it through the first week back!

Tuesday was our first day back with the kids.  I am teaching Math, Science, and French to two groups of Grade 8's this year and both classes seem like great kids.  One group is much more active and energetic than the other, but the kids seem really nice and respectful towards each other and to the adults in the school, which is a huge relief!

Our school is a 6-8 Middle School, so my kids this year are the oldest.  I have been reminding them daily that they are setting the example to the 6's and 7's of how to behave at school, and they are rising to the challenge of being leaders already.

I wanted to start the year off with my homeroom group with expectations for the year.  I really like the My Job/Your Job model of establishing classroom rules and expectations.  Students write down what the teacher's job is and what the teacher's job isn't, and what their job is and isn't.

I like this model because it reminds the student's what I am expecting of them, and what they can expect of me without using the word "rules."  I'd much rather have Classroom Expectations than a list of Classroom Rules.  I think it just sounds better.

On Tuesday (our first day) I broke the students up into small groups and had them brainstorm together to fill in the four boxes, then each group shared out their ideas.

After the groups had all shared, I compiled the expectations into a chart to hang up in the class.  (I don't have a copy of it on my home computer, sorry).

There were, of course, a few silly and inappropriate suggestions - they are Grade 8's after all - but they came up with a great group of expectations that are hanging up on our wall that I can refer back to when I need to.

On Wednesday, I gave my homeroom group an art activity to show off their interests.  I asked each student to trace his or her hand on paper, then fill the hand with images, words, symbols, colours, and patterns that meant something special to them.  I made one for myself as an example to show them:

Not only did we get fantastic art to hang above our lockers in the hallway, but I was able to see their work habits - who was using class time well, who was on task, who completed the task, etc.

All but 3 students finished their hand and I love how they turned out!  I've had two teachers in our hallway comment on how beautiful they are :)

On Thursday afternoon, my partner teacher and I (she teaches them English and P.E.) brought the two classes together for a team building activity.  They put themselves into groups of 5 or 6 with a mixture of kids from both classes.  We gave each group a roll of tape, 10 elastic bands, and 2 newspapers and asked them to build the tallest free-standing structure they could.  They had 30 minutes to work and build.

It was fun to see the different strategies they came up with.

In the end, only four groups were able to complete a free-standing structure, but they all had a great time trying!

My favourite part of the activity was the debrief afterwards where each of the four "winning" teams talked about how they had to change up their strategy at some point.  They realized that if you start a challenge one way, but it isn't working, it's okay to shift perspective or strategy along the way.

It's been a busy week, but a fun week.  Now I'm off to mark math assessments before a block party this afternoon!  Happy weekend, everyone :)

Monday, 7 September 2015

School Planning Day in the Woods

While my first day back to school with the kids is tomorrow, the staff had our official start day last Thursday.  In our district, we have a School Planning Day built into the calendar, usually in the second or third week of classes.  This year, it falls on September 21.  Most schools, however, decide to do the planning day before classes start - which makes a lot more sense!

I'm switching schools (again) this year, and my new school decided to hold our planning day off site at a salmon enhancement centre.  Although the majority of the day was spent in grade group meetings, part of the day was dedicated to touring the facility and taking in the beauty of the surroundings. 

We took a walk through some of the trails and breathtaking doesn't begin to describe the beauty.  These pictures do not do it justice!

This is a salmon ladder.  It has run dry because our summer was so dry.  Hopefully, we will have more rain and the stream will connect with the ladder soon.

Everything was unbelievably green! 

The moss covering the trees was absolutely beautiful!

This is the beginning of the trail.  We saw an owl in the trees, too, but it was too quick for my camera.

 It was so nice to get away from the school and to explore a new site so close to our campus.  I'm already thinking up ways to take my classes here for a field trip.  It would fit so well into the science curriculum!

And the best part of all is that we now get a free day off on September 21 because we already worked through our Planning Day :) 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Math Clip Art Set

I've been working on a new clip art set, and it's ready to unveil!

This is my Math Clip Art Set.  It includes 33 images (17 full colour, 16 black and white) which can be used for personal or commercial use.  You can click on the picture or click here to download.