Archive | PDF RSS feed for this section

Sharing Means Caring – Lesson Share

23 Feb

As a teacher, I have never in my life found a lesson plan and used it in its entirety – ever.  I recognize that there is no need to “reinvent the wheel” but the more I teach the more I realize how different each teachers intentions are when they develop a lesson plan.  This is the magic of teaching.  Yes, we have common goals regarding the specific skills and knowledge that we need our students to learn during a lesson – but the approach and the details that we use to reach that goal are very different.

So instead of packaging a neat lesson plan (which may or may not meet the criteria for a “lesson plan” where ever you are at this point in time) I am going share the overall idea, resources and purpose of my lessons.  Do with them what you will.  My favourite way to lesson plan is to set the purpose and goal of my lesson and then Frankenstein the best ideas from lots of different lesson plans into something that works best for me and the students I am working with at that very moment.  As every teacher knows, one lesson that works wonders in first first period can flop in third period because the dynamics of each group of students is so different.  It’s more important to be flexible and creative then it is to have totally organized and detailed lesson plans – because at any moment something could happen that will through the entire plan off track.  Now what? Improvise!

Please feel free to share your own ideas and how you used or twisted any other ideas (whether from here or somewhere else) to make a lesson plan that worked!

LESSON IDEA #1 – Impressionist Movement – Self Portraits and Impressions of the Past


As an alternative teacher I wanted to develop an integrated curriculum where one assignment would meet the curricular expectations of two (or more) different courses.  As a drama and history teacher I find it easiest to find curriculum links between the arts, English and Canadian history courses.   I will focus on the arts aspects of my curriculum in this Lesson Share.  In the first unit we explored the Impressionist Movement.  It was a great way to introduce and set the stage for the first unit of the Canadian history course which explores the beginnings of Canada’s industrial age and gives context to the fundamental changes in thinking about how the world functioned at the turn of the century.  We began by learning about the history of the Impressionist Movement and how it changed the purpose and style of art.  We then learned how to paint as an impressionist artist using the touche technique – dry brushing and mixing acrylic colours on the canvas.  Once students had practiced the technique they were give two assignments to complete. One, an impressionist style self-portrait painting and an impressionist style painting depicting how different groups of Canadians viewed Canada between 1900 and 1919.


Integrated Arts – (ALC 20)

B3.1 describe how creating, presenting, and analysing a variety of art works has affected their personal values and their awareness of the values of their community and culture and those of other cultures
B4.1 identify skills, character traits, and work habits that are developed through the processes of creating, analysing, presenting, and/or promoting art works, including integrated art works/productions
C1.1  use appropriate terminology related to elements, principles, and other key concepts when creating, analysing, or presenting various types of art works
C1.2 demonstrate an understanding of elements, principles, and other key concepts associated with the various arts disciplines
C2.1 demonstrate an understanding of common symbols and themes in past and present art works from a variety of cultures
Knowledge –
My students watched a video and had a short reading to complete to gain an understanding of the Impressionist  Movement.
Skills –
Students needed to learn how to paint using the techniques of the impressionist painters.  As a group we watched a video and broke down the steps.  Students were given the opportunity to practice the technique until they felt comfortable.
Application –
Students were given the task of creating a self-portrait in the impressionist style practiced in class.  They were asked to use colours that best suited their personality based on symbolic representations of colours (as provided to them).
Throughout the creative process students worked in groups and with me, discussing their choices along the way.  Which picture will I use that best captures who I am?  Who am I? What do I value? What defines who I am?  Which colours best represent that?  Does it matter that this painting doesn’t really look like me at all?  What does this painting represent about me?
Here is the finished result…
  • We learned a new skill (touche painting technique)
  • We learned about the industrial revolution and gained different perspectives on its cultural impact
  • We explored self-identity and personal expression
  • We created artwork that became the center point of our classroom for the rest of the semester.
  • The skills developed during this unit were later used in by students in different units as a new tools for creating integrated art projects.
IMG_0458 IMG_0475

Resources for Teachers – Restorative Justice in the Classroom

23 Feb

I am always looking for new resources regarding the use of restorative practices in the classroom and it seems over the past year or so there have been some really great guides and readings developed for educators.

Happy Reading –

Restorative Justice Community/Classroom Conferencing: A guide for parents and teachers

Written By Nicole Pakan & The Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities (Edmonton)
This document is a specific guide for a more traditional use of restorative justice practices (conferences used to address behaviour issues) in a school setting.

Teaching Restorative Practices with Classroom Circles

Written by Amos Clifford and Center for Restorative Process (Developed for the San Francisco Unified School District)
This document is a guide for educators who ant to facilitate circles in their classroom as a way to develop trust, build community and address classroom issues.  The guide includes a circle tool kit and lesson plans.

Restorative Justice Module Classroom Activities, Links, and Resources

Developed by the John Howard Society of Alberta
This document provides handouts that can be used to teach about restorative justice, its purpose and how to facilitate a restorative mediation.  The document also includes a list of other useful resources on the topic.

Writing a Research Essay: Where to start?

19 May

My students have a very difficult time grasping the idea of “doing” research.  When they get their essay outline, the focus is always on the thesis and supporting paragraphs, so that’s what they jump into.

My first question is always, where is your research? Then, what are you arguing? They are missing some vital skills and basic understandings about research and essay writing that gets them stuck every time.

In anticipation of summative assignments I ran a workshops on the process of writing a research essay.  Here is what I covered and the materials I used;

Step #1

Where to begin? We first reviewed the initial brainstorming.


Research Essay Graphic Organizer

  • What is your topic?
  • What question do you want to answer concerning your topic?
  • Complete your initial research:
  • What information did you come across that would answer your topic question?
  • What are you going to argue or present to your audience? (It’s important to choose an argument that will help inform and then focus your research.

Step #2

Find credible information that will support the focus of your essay.

Hand Out:

Research Notes Organizer

  • Find a variety of sources, including books! Go to the library!

When you find a source…

  • If it’s online you must check that the source is credible. (Who has complied the information? Is there a date of publication? Does the author cite the information they are providing?)
  • Tip #2 – Skip to the back, check the index first to see if the book even has what you are looking forward!
  • Tip #3 – Skim read everything first to make sure the book, journal article or website has the type of information you are looking for.
  • If the source has information you can use or that helps you to better understand your topic, get out a research note organizer.
  • You need to record the author(s), editor(s), title (including the edition and volumes), date and location of publication and the name of the publisher.
  • As you find information, write down the page number and be sure to note if what you record is a direct quote, summary or paraphrase!

Step #3

Get organized and then start writing!

  • Using the Research Essay Graphic Organizer begin to develop your thesis and supporting paragraphs.
  • Find quotes, statistics and facts that best support your argument!
  • As you are writing the paper you must record the source where the information came from.  Although it may be time consuming, it’s important to cite the information right in the rough copy of the essay!  It will take much longer to have to go back through your notes and try and find the right information at the end.

Step #4

Citing your sources

  • Plagiarism is a big deal! Do not forget to cite your sources in the text and at the end with a bibliography or works cited.
  • Find out what type of formatting your teacher prefers.
  • Follow the instructions, step by step.  When you get to university you can lose marks for having punctuation out of place in your citations!

These are great sources of information on citation;

MLA Citation

APA Citation

Chicago Manual Style

As teachers, sometimes I think we forget to teach some of the most basic skills such as skim reading or find sources of information, but they really don’t know! We have to teach it to them!  If you have any suggestions or ideas to help support high school students with research essays, please comment below!