The Goal is a Love for Reading

Reading assessment tools are only one piece of the puzzle and we need to treat the assigned levels in a way that reflects that. The reading assessment tool can only tell us what level a student is at on one day at one time with one book. There is so much more to a reader than what you can gather from one reading assessment. We can’t let their assigned level limit them.

Take time to listen to them read the book that they can’t put down, the book that’s about their favourite video game, or a book they find hilarious. Listen for the word patterns they struggle with, ask them genuine questions about the book and plan your instruction around moving them forward.

Give them time to find these books and texts that spark a love for reading. Read aloud to them. Model how much you love reading. Surround them with good books and teach them that reading everywhere and can take place anywhere.

“Reading is like bathing, you have to do it every day. You can’t just take four showers on Monday and be good for the week”

–Jen Jones

Remember that reading can happen everywhere and doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Reading is not limited to leveled books or books at all. It’s okay if they have read the same book 4 times, they’re building confidence. It’s okay if they’re choosing to read a book that you think is above their level, they’re exposing themselves to words they’ve never seen before and making meaning of what they can read. Let them read without limiting them.

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What to Do When a Student is Being Physical

Originally, I was going to write my 4th blog post about mental disabilities. I instead decided to put mental disabilities with illnesses in order to inquire about what to do when  student is being physically violent.

Restraint: I personally have seen during my practicum students that are a physical danger to themselves and others be restrained. My question is, it that okay? We are often told that we are to not touch a child in any circumstance as a pre-service teacher, even if it’s given your 5 year old student a hug back. So what should we do when a student is running into on-coming traffic or is about to physically harm another student? Do we have the right as teachers to restrain a child in those circumstances? According to the Criminal Code of Canada we are protected under the supreme court to restrain a child if they are presenting themselves as a danger:

Section 43 of the Criminal Code says:

Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.

However, are there regulations to this according to the Ministry of Education in British Columbia? Here is the document answering that question:

According to this guideline “physical restraint and seclusion are used only in exceptional circumstances where a student is in imminent danger of causing harm to self or others”. It is important to note that if you have a student in your classroom that is at high risk of frequently being dangerous (ex: a student accompanied with a mental health issue that I have examined in my previous posts) that it is “expected to have been trained in crisis intervention and the safe use of physical restraint and seclusion”. Children that are frequently dangerous are also expected to be supported by  “positive behaviour supports and interventions, behaviour plans, emergency or safety plans, and other plans to prevent and de-escalate potentially unsafe situations”.

Physical restraint and/or seclusion should always be the very last resort. There are other strategies that we can use as educators to create a safe environment and de-escalate the situation. These strategies consist of:

-Reducing access to victims of the student with active aggression

-Avoid confrontation with the aggressor

-Use non-verbal cues when communicating with student like the universal signs for  stop, sit, stand, or walk

-Intervene as soon as you notice agressive behaviour

-Communicate expectations

-Wait for help and ignore student

-Provide other options like having the student go for a walk

Resource for this info:

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Mental Health Issues

Mental health plays a huge factor in children’s aggression. Mental health issues can cause a deficit or eradication of the impulse control which prevents a child from understanding when their anger is getting out of hand. Some mental health issues that may cause aggression with links to better understand what the issue is and possible treatments are:

-Bipolar Disorder

-Frontal-lobe Damage



-Oppositional Defiant Disorder

-Conduct Disorder

-Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder


-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (view my previous blog on complex trauma)

-Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

What to do when student is being actively aggressive?

As we can see, there is a large spectrum of possible reasons as to why a student may be aggressive. What we can do as educators to help a student is being aggressive is understanding what is an appropriate reaction to a mental health issue based aggression. However, there are overall strategies that teachers can use to aid children with managing their anger. Educators need to be assertive and calm when confronting a student experiencing aggression. Teachers can also create environment changes in their classrooms to aid with anger management. The environmental changes can be (but are not limited to) making a cool down area, keep possible weapons like scissors in a teacher-controlled area, post classroom expectations on the wall, teach class evacuation protocol and create a location for evacuation, provide calming tools like headphones or fidget toys, and use a strategical student seating plan to keep designated student in close proximity.



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Benefits of mindfulness

Cognitive benefits: executive function is a set of mental skills that constitutes attention, switching focus, planning, organizing and remembering details. Research shows improvements in behavioural regulation and metacognition.

Social benefits: deficits and excesses in social behaviour can affect learning, understanding, and the classroom climate. Mindfulness incorporated into the classroom can lead to better participation in activities and foster care and respect for others.

Emotional benefits: emotional problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression can affect self-esteem, performance, and social interaction in students. Recent findings suggest mindfulness practice gives the ability to manage stress. A study by Schonert-Reichl and his colleagues, mindfulness practice leads to higher scores on self-report measures of optimism and positive emotions in elementary school students.

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so…what did we learn??

hi hello, welcome to the final blog post. at last!

i feel like this has been a long journey, but lbr, a lot of us are posting these frantically to hit that 4 post 10 comment minimum requirement!!! don’t be ashamed, it was bound to happen from the start, no matter how much prompting was given for us to start earlier. we made it.

anyway, here’s a funny video that is vaguely about critical thinking without being very serious or accurate, it’s just plain entertaining, and it’ll have you going “MEEEEE” at multiple points, so that’s fun.

so…what did we learn? not from the video, but like, the other blog posts in general. and even better, how can we apply this into our teaching practice? here i have some fun, quick, and easy steps to start teaching critical thinking.

  1. use think-alouds and questioning in your teaching
    •  just like the previous post with the woman reading aloud to her class, make short stops at different intervals to remind students to be thinking about the story in a critical way—in this case, by making questions. even prompting questions or deeper thinking by asking those through provoking questions aloud while you’re reading can help get the gears in motion. the more questioning we encourage, the more critical thinking skills are accessible.
  2. get creative with your check for understanding
    • my sponsor teacher does this funny thing where he randomly (but purposely) says the wrong thing—like substituting apple for orange—in a repeated instruction. that’s his quick and easy way of checking for understanding. lots of kids are super quick and responsive to things like this, the sillier the better. of course, this might not work in a really young class or a much older group, but i think the sweet spot sits between grades 2-5. it’s fun and easy and allows students who aren’t catching those changes to start to watch out for them, thus engaging them in listening. alternatively, it inadvertently forces kids to do that quick “wait…does that make sense?” check in their own heads. this leads to questions or, for more advanced critical thinkers, coming to a solution in a logical order.
  3.  use guided inquiry to challenge students perceptions
    • things like mystery doug/mystery science are great examples of guided inquiry lessons that scaffold and engage students while also presenting them with inquiry-based learning that can challenge common perceptions kids may subscribe to. presenting students with commonly believed myths or ideas and then providing them with the evidence and tools to disprove this can help students naturally end up at these conclusions themselves. instead of telling students that light travels in a linear path, have them explore that idea and come to that conclusion themselves. it’s far more engaging and far more interesting.
  4. in the vice versa of the previous, present students with the challenge of disproving perceptions
    • one example of this is having students work in pairs or groups to make a project for why recess shouldn’t be banned in schools, or doing an “adults for the day” exercise where students are tasked with planning out their ideal day as an adult and then play a “LIFE”-esque game where students are presented with challenges and circumstances that get in the way of doing whatever they want. these types of activities force students to think critically about what they value and what they already know, as well as encouraging students to search outside of their lived experience and consider the perspective or circumstance of others. these activities are just some examples of what are, basically, endless possibilities!!!
  5. start early!!!!
    • honestly, this one seems pretty self-explanatory. start early! kids as young as three can start thinking critically, obviously in a different capacity to that of a thirteen year old but hey! still valid. critical thinking skills are learned, nurtured, and need time to develop properly. we can’t expect to start teaching critical thinking one day and have it stick from then on. just like reading, writing, math, etcetera, it! needs! time!!

so, there. we have come to the end. hopefully this has been helpful or interesting or something. i’ve learned a lot, mostly that four blog posts is a lot more than i think it is.

thanks for tuning in amigos. auf wiedersehen!


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STEAM and Assessment

Hello and happy Halloween,

For my final blog post I will be focusing on STEAM and assessment. STEAM is often times interactive and hands on which is quite different from the traditional teaching model, as a result, educators must adapt their method of assessment.

After researching different ways to effectively assess STEAM activities I realised there is not one clear answer. In fact, there are a variety of methods one can use to assess students in STEAM, and no one method is superior to another. Students can utilise technology to document their own work, for example, taking pictures of their creations. Students can also sketch their observations rather than follow a traditional writing model. There is truly an extraordinary amount of options for STEAM assessment.

This diversity in methods of assessment also allows teachers to differentiate between students. For example, students who are unable to write about their creations, may be able to sketch them much more effectively. This allows students to focus on their project rather than stress about their writing.

Attached is an interesting article outlining different assessment practices in regards to STEAM projects.

How to Grade STEM Projects

Thanks for your time!

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Incorporating mindfulness

As a teacher you know that every child is different. Every child learns differently, and every child will feel differently throughout the day. A great starter activity for each day when the students come in at the bell is to have them sit on top of their desks, criss cross apple sauce, having them take deep breaths. Talking to them about how today is a different and new day, anything that happened yesterday doesn’t matter anymore, we start fresh. Walking them through what their day is going to look like (reading the day plan) is an excellent way to knock down some of the anxiety some students may have about not knowing what they are doing.  This simple step at the beginning of each day can help to calm students down from whatever they have brought into the classroom with them.

Other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your classroom may be:

taking a mindful break: this can be anything from a quick stand up and stretch break, or a go noodle dance break. Breaking up the times that students are sitting in their desks for so long is an awesome way for kids to become present again in what they are learning.

mindful listening: my favourite mindful listening task is the dinging of a bell. You start off by telling students to close their eyes and focus on their breathing, you ring the bell and let it run out. Before the second time that you ring the bell, you tell your students to try and listen to the sound for as long as they can hear it.

checking in with your attention: throughout the day while you are teaching, be able to stop your class in the middle of a lesson and have students check in with their attention. Ask students: are you paying attention? Was your mind wandering? If so, where did it wander to? Be sure to let your students know that your mind can wander and it is a normal thing.

mindful ending: leaving a little time at the end of each day for a mindful moment can be great for closures. Have students think about what they have learned or what they have accomplished, and giving them time for their systems to calm down before the bell rings.

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