Monthly Archives: May 2012

Preparing to Present

Most of the students are finished reading their non-fiction text, doing their internet research, and interviewing someone. They are also in the midst of overcoming their challenge. We are at the point of building a presentation (step four on the handout for those of you following along). In class yesterday, I showed the students some presentation options.

Glogster – for making posters online. You can upload pictures, link websites, and add text.

Prezi – powerpoint on crack.

Xtranormal – make your own video with cartoons and robot voices!

Lucid Chart – So simple to use that instead of sarcastically asking someone if they need a flow chart, I’ll just make one.

There’s of course Microsoft Powerpoint, which can be a really effective way to present, but is often misused. Show this video to your students to start a discussion. (There’s different versions of the video out there, some longer and some shorter, so search around and find one that suits your needs).

There’s also Publisher if the student wanted to make a brochure as their how-to guide. I would suggest you print out a sample brochure so that students understand which is the front flap, inside flap, etc. when they’re making theirs.

After going through these options, students excitedly got to building their presentations using at least one of the above options. In blog world. In reality, they stared at me until one student said, “Can I just make a poster?”

After more explaining, and showing them with a bit more detail how to use the websites, a few of them signed up for a gloster or prezi account and are giving that a try, and many warmed up to a brochure. Sometimes I assume that since students have cell phones and Facebook accounts, they’re all technology guru’s who love to do things on computers, which isn’t necessarily true. Some of them are intimidated by technology, or frustrated because when they do try new things, they experience technical difficulties due to computers not loading, the internet being down, or not having an email address to register with. What I really wanted to do was urge them to try something different, and some are. It’s the small victories. I made you a flow chart.



When I planned this unit, I pictured the students receiving the assignment with smiles and excitement, then hurriedly signing out books from the library, reading them silently from bell to bell, and maybe even breaking out into a coreographed song and dance about overcoming challenges.

That did not happen. Students begrudgingly came to the library and found a book, some of them after a significant amount of whining. The past few days in class have been a mixture of them reading, daydreaming, whining, and chatting. Perhaps it’s the rainy weather, perhaps it’s the time of year; whatever it is, the students have not quite bought in with excitement yet.

I decided after a day or two of their vacant stares at their books that they needed some more guidance. So I made the following handout:

Step Two Supplement

The hope of this handout is to give the students more structure and guidance. The difficulty of an inquiry unit is akin to teaching a child to ride a bike: you need to let go at just the right time. Too soon, and they’ll fall, too late, and they won’t have learned to do it without you. That being said, I’ve never taught a child to ride a bike, so I don’t have the timing of it or of inquiry units quite right yet. I figured this handout would be like training wheels – hopefully, with it they will be able to use their time in class effectively. 

I did two things this past weekend: I read my book and I ran. This is the book I’m reading for my challenge:

I’m on page 165, and so far I have come to the conclusion that Dean is not human. He ran this…

…and this…

The only morsel of motivation I have to run that far would be to be able to eat a whole cheesecake. I ran 8k this weekend. That merits at least a slice.

The Assignment

Now that you know the inspiration for the assignment, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the thing. Before I share the assignment with you, let’s go over the rules:

1. You are allowed to use assignments I post.
2. Before using said assignments, you must give students a lengthy speech on one of the following topics: littering, recycling, exercising, or “kids these days.”
3. If someone sees the assignment and offers you a promotion/money/cookie, you must forward the cookie to me or buy me a gift with the money. Promotion is yours to keep, but if I someday come to you needing a favour, illicit or otherwise, I expect no hesitation or need for explanation.  

That being said, here’s the assignment:


For anyone wondering, I aligned this assignment with these curricular outcomes: CRA10.4, CCA10.1c, CCA10.2

We started step one last week. I gave each student a duotang and the assignment to put into it. I briefly explained that in this unit they will overcome a challenge, and we went through the assignment package together. They were less than enthused. Had I at this point stood at the front of the room and led the students in a traditional group brainstorm, I would have lost them. They were tired and unmotivated. Before giving it to students, I showed this assignment to two wonderful consultants, who will henceforth be know collectively as E.T., and T suggested a carousel for the brainstorming activity, which was genius. This involved writing the six brainstorming areas (habits to quit, habits to start, fears to overcome, etc.) on large poster board and putting them up around my room (and some in the hallway, just to shake things up). Students picked a partner and each partnership got a marker. They each started at a different poster and I gave them thirty seconds to write down as many ideas as they could, and then we switched posters. Students were excited – some were actually jumping up and down and shouting out ideas as their partner wrote rapidly on the sheet. I timed the students and yelled ‘go’ and ‘stop’ as gameshow-hosty as I could. When we were done, we all sat down and went through the posters, and they wrote down (on their handouts) at least five ideas for each area.

This is so much more than I would have gotten had I stood at the front and asked them for ideas. I’m a firm believer in doing things alonside the students when appropriate, and for this assignment, it is. The challenge I’ve selected is to run 15k. I’ll let you know how it goes. And yes, yellow marker is going to attempt to quit pot.

Overcome a Challenge

I just launched this unit, “Overcome a Challenge”, on Friday. Before I tell you about it, I’ll tell you how it came about. I have a passion for students who smoke. I want them to quit. I’ve never been a smoker, so I’ve never had to quit, but my dad has. I saw him smoke as a child, and I saw him quit as an adult. Every year I see a new crop of Grade 9’s come in, some who smoke and some who start to smoke throughout the year. When I talk to them, many know the health effects of smoking, but think they’ve been smoking too long to quit. Seeing my dad quit gave me the confidence that it can be done, and I wanted to spread that message to students. When I saw that the English A10 unit had the theme of overcoming challenges, I wanted to give students the assignment to quit smoking. That eventally blossomed into an assignment more open ended, for students to overcome a challenge of their choice, with the hope that students might want to try and quit smoking.

I’ve run a ‘quit smoking’ program for students twice, and I asked my dad if he would write up a ‘quit smoking’ testimony. Before I let you read it, you need to understand something about my dad: he doesn’t say much. When I was young, 5 years old or so, I stopped talking. When my mom asked me why, I got frustrated: I remember being frustrated with her because I didn’t want to talk. She eventually coaxed it out of me – I though that people ran out of words. I deduced that mom had saved hers up, because she talked a lot, and that dad was really close to running out, because he barely spoke. I still remember the joy I felt when my mom told me my voicebox was unlimited! But I digress, and while I may not run out of words, I may run out of your patience….the point of my story is that when I asked my dad if he could write something for me to read the students, I expected a few sentences. This is what I got:

I started smoking in my early teens. My older brother was already smoking and so were my dad and mom. Mom didn’t start smoking until she was 40 something. My brother and I went to a small country school and so did some of my cousins. At recess or noon hour they would hide in the barn in the school yard and have a smoke. I guess that’s about the time I got “sucked” into smoking. It was quite accepted for everyone to smoke in the 1950’s, ’60’s and 70’s. Although I didn’t smoke in front of my parents until I was aout 16 or 17. But they knew I smoked before that!
I remember ‘stealing’ tobacco from dad’s can of tobacco and rolling my own, which most smokers did in those days. Store bought cigarettes were only bought on special occasions and were a treat. The tobacco was rolled in little papers that were bought in special packages. You’d put the tobacco in it and roll it with your fingers. It had a sticky side to lick and paste it together. There were some automatic cigarette rollers that were invented in the 1970’s. I used one for a while until I could afford to buy ready made cigarettes, which cost about $18.50 for a carton. (a carton held 8 packs of cigarettes= $2.32 per pack)

I don’t think I was a ‘heavy smoker’ as I only had 15 to 20 per day. Some smoked twice that or even three times that amount! I remember my uncle was a ‘chain smoker’. He died of lung cancer at the age of 48. My dad also died of emphysema and an enlarged heart from smoking at 64.
Around the late 1980’s or early ’90’s, the government put out ads of cigarettes packages that showed how the lungs looked from smoking. People got the message from the ugly pictures-something we’d never seen before, and didn’t want cancer. At this time so many were dying of lung cancer. The gov. also increased the price of a pack of 25 cigs to$10.00. Most of this was taxes! This was the turning point to my quitting smoking. I tried cold turkey in 2002, but that only lasted a week or so. After that, I started cutting down. I would smoke half a cig. and save the rest for the next hour. I even tried a drug called zyban (an aid to quit smoking). That only made me depressed, which is a side effect of the drug. So I had to quit that.
After 2 years of ‘cutting down’ the amount I smoked and the time between smokes, I set a date of April 1st 2004 to make as my quite date. It took about a week until I could really say that I had quit!
To this day I have not touched a cigarette and have no more cravings (Well, maybe sometimes). I feel physically and mentally healthier. I really haven’t had any bad cold’s or even the flu. It will be 6 years April 1st 2010 that I quit smoking.
I figured out that after 6 years of not buying cigarettes, I saved $13, 468. ( I averaged the prices from 1970 to 2010) This doesn’t include the expense of having to drive to town to buy them! Since my dad died of lung cancer at 64, maybe I saved my life or a sickness related to smoking. I will outlive my father. I will be 64 in April.

If any students do choose to quit smoking, I’ll start their research by telling them my dad’s story. And maybe this time I won’t cry at the end.