Monday, 15 September 2014

Attending Virtual Conferences

I attended my first virtual conference two years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. If you've never done a virtual conference (sometimes called unconferences by their whimsical creators), they're really worth looking into. Here's why!

How it Works

Virtual conferences work much the way a regular conference would: they have keynotes speakers and regularly scheduled sessions you can attend to learn about topics that interest you. Instead of physically travelling to the conference location, though, the conference occurs online. Most conferences use a virtual environment such as Blackboard Collaborate. This is basically an online classroom where you can chat with other session attendees and view the powerpoint of the presenter(s), as well as asking questions. So you basically get what you would out of a physical conference, except...

Why It's Awesome

Although there will always be a certain allure in large numbers of dedicated professionals getting together in physical space, there are many reasons virtual conferences are worth checking out. 

1. Cost

The obvious reason is financial. Many of us can't afford to travel around the world (or even the continent) checking out the newest and best educational conferences, as much as we might like to. Virtual conferences remove that barrier -- most of them are completely free, and there's certainly no travel cost involved. 

2. Convenience

Unlike traditional conferences, virtual conferences almost always record sessions and store them on the website for future playback. That means that if you can't access a session at the time it's presented, you can easily view the recorded session at a later time. It also removes that conflict of two simultaneous sessions that capture your interest!

3. Creating Connections

Virtual conferences let people interact as fully or minimally as they see fit. The funny thing, though, is that within a chat room, most people seem to feel pretty liberated. There's a lot more audience participation than in traditional sessions (and if you're like me -- the person who dreads the moment the chirpy presenter says "Let's all get up and try it out!" -- you get an added bonus).

4. Accessibility

Many people who could not present at a physical conference due to time or cost constraints are very willing to present online. And it's not like you don't get the big names -- Quest Boise had Lee Sheldon as a keynote this year, among many other fantastic speakers. 

5. Support

Virtual conferences are very good about accommodating people of all technical levels and comforts. You can almost always find someone willing to help you out, and it's not hard to set up the virtual environment. Just ask -- someone is probably willing to walk you through the steps.

I'm Sold. What Now?

Thought you'd never ask!

Gaming in Education has their virtual conference kicking off tonight with two amazing keynote speakers (who I won't be able to see because I'm at a school event... how fortunate that they're recorded for me to watch later!). 

You can view the entire conference schedule here. And you may notice that I'm presenting tomorrow night at 6:00 MST on using game design for assessment in the classroom. I'd love to see you there!

Question of the Day:
Have you ever attended a virtual conference?

As I said, I've attended a few -- most recently Quest Boise 2014, and of course I plan to take in some of Gaming in Ed!

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Sunday, 14 September 2014

How Making Ice Cream Teaches Cooperation

Last week, I mentioned that I sometimes use an ice cream ball to teach cooperation at the beginning of the year. A number of people seemed curious about that, so here are the details.

The ice cream ball is the YayLabs Play and Freeze Ice Cream Ball Ice Cream Maker , which you can get from Amazon or many camping supply stores. It's pictured above. Basically, how it works is that you put your ingredients (cream, sugar, etc.) into the metal tube on one end of the ball and seal it up tight. You then open the ball on the other end, which allows you to pack ice and salt in there. From there it works like the old freezer bag ice cream method, except that it's a ball, so you can shake it, toss it (I don't recommend this, although the company seems to think it's a great idea... once it's stuffed, the ball weighs about as much as your average bowling ball), or roll it.

So, how does this teach about cooperation?

Yummy Metaphors

I usually start by choosing one kid (and I usually choose THAT kid... you know the one. You can tell even on the first day) and having them come to the front of the room. I tell them the ice cream ball needs to be shaken quickly for about 20-30 minutes before it will turn into ice cream and invite them to get started while the rest of the class times them.

They always start out vigorously enough, but it starts slowing down quickly (see the aforementioned bowling ball comment). When they start to lag, I jump on it right away: "Shake harder! We aren't going to get any ice cream at that rate!" When the kid is tired or quits, I ask if they'd like some help. If not, we keep going until they decide that maybe help would be a good idea after all (for the record, this has never taken longer than three minutes).

We then pass the ball around the room and each kid shakes it for one minute while we work on something else (a questionnaire or puzzle or the like) at the same time. After each kid has had a turn, I pop the ball open and take a look. If the ice cream isn't ready, we have another few kids take a turn.

Once the ice cream is ready, we dish it out (it only makes a small amount -- just a taste, really, but the kids seem satisfied with that). And while we eat, we discuss how much easier it was for everyone to take a one minute turn with the ice cream ball than it would have been for one person to shake it for twenty five minutes (the original kid is always pleased to pipe up and corroborate this point!). From there, we make the obvious connection about how the same is true of our schoolwork, our classroom chores, and even keeping our class mentally healthy and positive: one person working alone will quickly be exhausted, but twenty five kids all working together will barely notice the work.

They remember this lesson all year (okay, let's be honest: it's because they get ice cream out of the deal). But all I have to say is "Remember the ice cream ball?" and their eyes light up in comprehension. In fact, I didn't do this activity this year, mainly because I didn't feel like buying the ice. But now, I think it's going to become my second week of school team building activity -- because it's fun, it's memorable, and it works!

Question of the Day:
What lessons do you use to encourage teamwork among your students?

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Sunday, 7 September 2014

Five Ideas for Back to School

As the first week of school wraps up, I wanted to share some of my favorite tips that I've collected over my teaching career. This week was my eleventh first day of school, and over the years I've tried out a lot of first day tips. These are the five I've stuck to through thick and thin -- the ultimate survivors, if you will! Unfortunately I don't remember where most of these ideas come from -- some are mine, some come from books and blogs. But they've all been adapted over the years so that they work for my classroom, and hopefully they'll work in yours, too!

1. On the first day of school, every kid should go home able to tell their families one thing they learned, show one thing they made, and have one thing they received from their teacher. 

I've stuck to this rule for years, although the actual things have changed. The thing they learn is often a big vocabulary word, or a math trick, or a word in Japanese. The thing they make has ranged from an origami water cup to ice cream to a bookmark. And the thing they take home is sometimes the same -- but often not. I've also given out bookmarks, small candies, and back to school survival kits. The point is for each kid to get something as a souvenir of the first day of school. 

2. Summer letters

Every summer, I take some time to send a short letter or postcard to each student. It's a nice way to keep contact between school and home over the break, it makes kids less nervous about the coming year, and it establishes a positive relationship between me and the students before the start of classes. 

3. Focus on agreements

The concept of creating classroom agreements (as opposed to rules) springing from students' conception of the perfect classroom comes from Tribes Learning Communities (which you can learn more about here). I focus intently on these agreements for the first four weeks of school. I would never tell you that my classroom is full of perfect listeners or free of conflicts, but the focus on agreements over rules makes a huge difference. 

4. Goal Setting

Many teachers set goals with their students, and I'm no exception. Students fill in checklists to identify their strengths and areas of need.  Inspired by Jane McGonigall's Superbetter, they then set three goals and identify bad guys (things that could hurt them), power ups (things that will help them), and win states (how they'll know when they've achieved their goals). We reflect on these goals weekly all year, setting new ones as needed. 

5. Something fun

Every year I try to find something that's just really fun and do it on the first day of school. I might show a funny video, or play a silly game. I have a Ice Cream Ball Ice Cream Maker and we've done that, too. Often the activities have a meaning to them too (for instance, the ice cream ball I use to show how much easier things are if we work together), but the main part is always fun!

These are my five core back to school activities. The others change, but these five are always the same.

Question of the Day:
Are there any back to school routines you never change? Why?

Over eleven years of teaching, very little of what I do on the first day of school now still resembles my very first day in grade three! The above five, though, have remained standard. While I'm always up for learning and changing, there's something to be said for the mantra if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Free Social Studies Project Based Learning Unit on Democracy

image by bencherlite

As promised, some talk about project based learning -- and a free project based learning assignment from my social studies collection on democracy.

So, I mentioned last week that I spent a lot of the summer learning about project based learning. I like the idea, but I've resisted it for a long time because of some basic confusion in terminology -- ie, I was assuming that by "real world problems," people meant that the students needed to solve a problem immediately visible to them and clearly definable in their classroom. For example, in terms of democracy, I thought I would be limited to holding class elections, which sounded boring and not workable in the realm of fantasy I intended.

I've since realized that "real world problems" just means problems that have application in the real world. Instead of "Suzie and Paul went to the store and spent $4.99. If they had $10.00, what was their change?," you might say "A family of five is trying to budget their groceries for the next week. Money is tight, and they only have $75 to spend. Plan a nutritious menu for the family that stays within their shopping list."

The first problem isn't really a problem at all -- it's just a fancy way of saying what's 10 - 4.99? The second requires students to understand  nutrition, finances, how to research prices or read grocery flyers... it has a lot more meat to it, and while getting change is technically a problem that kids can relate to, the second is an actual situation someone might face, and that it would be useful to solve.

It's a lot more interesting, too.

It's The End of the World As We Know It

The project I designed is specifically designed to fulfil curricular requirements for grade six students in Alberta, but if you're studying democracy, it will work for you. There's only one activity (lesson four) that specifically relates to the textbook we use in class, and you can feel free to adjust it to match your own requirements.

The basic premise is (in an attempt to capitalize on certain well known "reality" tv shows and post apocalyptic fantasy novels): scientists have realized that a possible meteor strike could mean the end of the world as we know it. If this comes to pass, students will find themselves exiled to a small island uniquely situated to avoid the environmental devastation that the rest of the world will undergo. Students must find a way to govern themselves on the island.

There are four main lessons and a final activity to this project. The lessons consider:
  • What types of government are there, and what do they look like?
  • Why do we need government at all?
  • What would be the challenges of starting out a new government?
  • How can you persuade others to your point of view?
Students will work with a group to come up with a way to govern the island, as well as a potential leader (or leaders). As a final project, students must persuasively present their idea to their classmates. Students must then decide how the government will be governed. This is the part I think will be interesting, because I have no intentions of interfering. If the kids decide to have a king, they get a king. If they decide to break into tribes and rule themselves independently, so be it. The plan right now is to use their decision later in the year with another project.

The project begins with viewing some of the reality show Kid Nation, which you can find on YouTube. There's room for some interesting language arts and media links in there if you also use (a heavily edited) version of this article, which is a Cracked article written with one of the actors from the show.

There are quite a few documents in the file, which you can find linked here. I would start with the one called "The End of the World As We Know It," which outlines the entire project, and the one called "EOTW project calendar," which goes through which handouts and lessons you will need each day. Many of the resources you will see are free downloads from the excellent It should be largely self-explanatory, but if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or catch me on Twitter (@missrithenay) and I'll be glad to help!

Question of the Day:
Do you use projects for teaching? Why or why not?

As I said, I resisted the idea because of a misunderstanding of what real world problem meant. Some people may still argue that my problem is not real worldy enough -- but I'm at peace with that.

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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Back to School and a Busy Summer

Image by Avalore

Well, it's been a busy summer! Next week, I plan to share a project based learning assignment I've been working on in social studies. In the meantime, with teachers back at school next week and students the week after, I wanted to share what I've done with my summer.

1. I finally read Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess. For the last year I've heard nothing but buzz about this book. The #tlap community on Twitter is vibrant and active, and many educators I personally know and respect love the approach.

My own opinion is more mixed. Actually, this review sums it up very nicely. I liked a lot of things Burgess had to say about enthusiasm, immersion, and engagement, and I agreed with much of what he said. But there were a lot of things in this book that did not appeal to me -- the emphasis on "edutainment" and the teacher as a performer, at a time when I firmly believe we should be shifting the responsibility of learning away from teachers and onto students, stand out as primary concerns. The book also advocates a one size fits all model of teaching, which I tend to resist. That said, I got some great ideas for lesson hooks which I plan to use this year, and some good reminders about being fully engaged in what we do.

2. I've been doing a lot of research into project based learning, much of it from the Project Based Learning (PBL) Starter Kit from BIE. I'm a bit behind on this, although a lot of the PBL I see aligns quite nicely with the idea of games based learning or quest based learning, something else I spent (more) time researching this summer. The book provided a good base for planning projects, and I really appreciated the line it drew between DOING A PROJECT and creating a unit based around a project. I feel like some of the professional development I've attended on PBL confused the two. I won't talk too much about this right now because I plan to share a project next week.

3. I attended the Quest Boise Unconference and got totally overwhelmed by all the amazing learning that happened there. If you're remotely interested in games based learning, check that link and go through the videoed presentations... wow.

4. I participated in the Metagame book club from the good people at Your Inevitable Betrayal, the educators' WoW guild. We read Cory Doctorow's book For the Win which lead to some really awesome discussions about the role of technology in kids' lives today, the economy, workers in developing countries, and many other deep topics. It's a great book -- I highly recommend it.

So much for my teaching. In my writing life, I had a few other things on the go.

1. I'm still writing reviews of educational games for Graphite, which is why I don't do them here as much anymore. You should check them out. Here's a great article (not written by me, sadly!) to start with.

2. I participated in Pitch Wars by Brenda Drake. Whatever comes of it, it was great to revisit an older piece of work and go through it with a fresh eye.

3. I wrote a book on the Mississippi river for Reading A-Z. More on that when it becomes available.

So all in all, a busy and productive summer!

Question of the Day:
What did you do with your summer vacation? Was it actually a vacation?

In addition to the above, I did in fact have a great holiday. We hosted a Japanese exchange student, which was fun, and I spent some time with my family in Saskatoon. Lots of lazy days in the sun, too! Oh, and my husband got me playing Neverwinter, so I'm finally on an MMO.

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Thursday, 26 June 2014

One Second Everyday, Revisited

Now that school is finally done, I have a final post for the year. After that, I'm going to do something I don't often do: take a break! I have a number of writing projects on the go that will take up a great deal of my time, so I'm going to put the blog on hiatus until September or, more likely, late August, when I start getting excited for back to school again.

Way back when, I discussed an app called One Second Every Day and an idea I had for integrating it with learning. I was pretty happy with how this project turned out. Here's what we did:

Back in September, I asked my students to take short videos or snapshots of their learning each Friday. We were already doing genius hour, so I just had them grab the iPads and take pictures at the same time. By the end of the year, most students had a collection of 25-50 photos and videos documenting learning and important classroom events. We then put them together using Windows Movie Maker, which was a bit of a disaster since there's a file corruption error that affected about 20% of my students and which we didn't have time to fix (you have to submit the files to Microsoft for correction). However, generally I, and the students, were pretty pleased with the results, so with their permission, I'm going to share them with you!

Question of the Day:
How do your students showcase learning at the end of the year?

This is the first time I've done the learning videos. Other years, I've done projects, graphics, posters.... so far, I think this is my favorite.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Getting Started With Twitter for Teachers: Teachers to Follow

If you're not on Twitter yet, it's time to start -- it might be a great summer PD project! How can Twitter be a PD project? The sheer volume of resources available there staggers the mind. Until recently, I wasn't much of a tweeter myself. However, my opinion changed completely once I found out how many amazing teachers tweet on a regular basis. I don't do a lot of personal stuff on Twitter (aside from following a very few celebrities, such as Felicia Day and Neil Patrick Harris), but it's a treasure trove for teachers.

If you've never been on Twitter -- or you're there, but not sure who to follow -- and you're interested in technology in education and games based learning, here are some of the very best educational professionals and teachers to follow.

The Basics of Twitter

I know some teachers are reluctant to try Twitter because it seems so alien. But once you learn a few terms and symbols, it's really easy.

@: The @symbol precedes your Twitter username. My username is Missrithenay, so on Twitter I'm @missrithenay. If you put that (the @ symbol together with a username) in a tweet, Twitter will tag that person and let them know you're talking to them, or that you mentioned them. 

#: The # symbol (called a "hashtag") is a way of tagging your post as belonging in a topic. For example, gbl stands for Games Based Learning. If I post a comment that relates to gbl, I may include the hashtag #gbl so that when someone searches for that hashtag, my comment comes up. Common ones in education are #edtech and #edchat, which are good places to start if you want to search for interesting things.

The tweet: A "tweet" is a post on twitter. You're limited to 140 characters. Some people try to circumvent this by writing multiple posts and tagging them 1/3, 2/3, and so on. I suggest avoiding this. Part of Twitter's appeal is its brevity.

The retweet: If you see something you find interesting, you'll see a square made of arrows below it. Click on that and you'll "retweet" the post -- ie, send it to everyone who follows you.

Getting Started on Twitter

When you sign up for Twitter, make sure you fill out your profile. There are a lot of spam accounts, and people will avoid "talking eggs" (the default twitter picture) because of them. Next up, Twitter will start asking you to pick people to follow. That's when panic may set in... MORE? I have to follow MORE PEOPLE?

Yup, you do. That's the whole point of Twitter. But never fear... this list will get you started.

And if you want, you can start by following me, @missrithenay

From there...

If you have any interest in games based learning or gamification, you should absolutely be following Games MOOC. Lots of great tweets on #gbl (games based learning!)

I love the folks over at Brainpop. Not only do they have great educational content, they do a lot in terms of blogging and providing links to outside resources, not just promoting themselves.

Jackie's a prolific tweeter who always has great educational information, articles, and insights to share.

Vicki not only tweets and blogs, she collates resources and sends out useful tidbits of all types.

A fierce proponent of connected educators and technology in education, George tweets out all kinds of useful information.

Excellent links and observations on technology, science, and education.

Lots more tech and ed links, as well as good insights.

Erin tweets, blogs, and otherwise shares her amazing ideas -- well worth the follow.

Nick tweets frequent and insightful updates, links, and articles related to tech and education

Google certified teacher with lots to share!

Question of the Day:
How do you use twitter to improve your teaching?

I try to hop on Twitter once a day to scan what people are saying, and I try to contribute to conversations when I have something to add. That way, I get lots of resources, and I build my learning network, too.

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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Happy Birthday, Robot! - A Review

Happy Birthday, Robot! is an introductory RPG for kids with some excellent opportunities to explore curricular objectives, including probability, grammar, clear writing, teamwork, and cooperation. It's pretty awesome for one game to hit all of these topics, and I'm always excited when I can use dice in a class. There MAY or may not be a set of dice in my purse.

At any rate, Happy Birthday, Robot! is not a new game -- it's a Kickstarter project that's enjoyed quite a bit of success online. But it's new to me, and I've only recently played it with my students. Here are my impressions. 

The Basics

Happy Birthday, Robot! is essentially a storytelling game. You can certainly play it as a class, but it works best in groups of 3-5. Students from grades 4-6 should have no problem playing it independently. Grades 2 or 3 will need guidance, and the game will likely be too simplistic for older students. 

All you need to play is a copy of the rules, a pencil and paper, a bunch of 6 sided dice, and some coins. The game calls for special "robot dice," but you can either use regular dice or print stickers from Daniel Solis, the author.

What Do You Do?

Students take turns rolling dice. The number of dice they get affects how many words they can write in each sentence of their story. Based on what they roll, students to either side of them may be able to add words to the student's sentence. The story builds this way in a collaborative fashion. 

A further teamwork element comes into play with the coins. Students earn coins by writing words, and their only purpose is to assist other players. Happy Birthday, Robot! has no winners and no losers. 

Is It Fun?

Yes! Kids loved playing Happy Birthday, Robot! They laughed at the silly stories and greatly enjoyed the game elements. 


I paid $9.99 for a digital download of this game, and it was more than worth it. The kids loved it. We all had fun. The materials were commonplace and easy to gather, and the game was easily adaptable for a variety of abilities and skill levels. If you're looking for a great back to school game, a fun way to introduce story writing, or a great way to end the school year, check out Happy Birthday, Robot!

Question of the Day:
What was the first RPG you ever played?

I cut my teeth on a superhero roleplaying game back in high school. We played pretty fast and loose with the rules, and it was mostly an exercise in character development and storytelling. A year later I moved onto the White Wolf games.

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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Five Quick, Fun Activities to End the School Year

image by Jaap Joris
It's that time of year again! Curriculum is winding down, and teachers are looking for valuable, educational activities to do to wrap up the year. Of course there's plenty of fun to be had -- most schools have sports days, field trips, and celebrations -- but there are also a lot of hours to fill with something other than classroom parties and movie days. Last year I listed some of my favorite year end activities. Now, here are a few more to keep your munchkins busy and learning right through the end of the year.

Five Simple, Fun End of School Educational Activities

1. Design and make a picture book

You may have done some of this during the year, but chances are it had to be rushed. This time, really give the kids time to work through the process of picture book design. Provide them with storyboards with twenty squares and have them sketch out their books. Then have them design a full size mock up. Finally, have them work on drawing the pictures in color. NO WORDS! Those will come last. 

Once the colored book is done, have students write out the words that go with each picture, edit them, and either neatly write them in or type them out and paste them in. Last, create a cover for each book. This is a fun, educational activity that takes quite a lot of time (you can make it more or less by altering the size of paper you use... I use 11 X 17). It hits objectives in art, language arts, and, if you do it in pairs, learning objectives about teamwork and cooperation.

2. Have students complete a retrospective.

Note: This is much more fun if you call it a Pensieve and model it after Professor Dumbledore's memory storage in Harry Potter!

Give students a way to create a visual memory bank of the year. You can make this as intricate or simple as you like. You can find my version on Teachers Pay Teachers, but it would be very simple to create yourself. Just have kids write in facts or draw pictures of things they've learned in each subject area. This activity encourages reflective learning and helps kids remember what they've learned. 

3. Play End of the Year Jeopardy

This is another fun activity for looking back on the year and reviewing knowledge. If you need a Jeopardy template, there are many online (mine, for Smart Notebook, is available for free here). Jeopardy is fun for the kids, and it's an excellent opportunity to review things you've learned. I divide the kids into groups and assign "random" numbers to the students (I actually try to pair kids of similar ability). Then all the ones go, then all the twos, and so on, earning points for their team (I also include a "call my team" option for when they get stuck).

4. Do some project based learning

If you've been wanting to try project based learning for a while but you've been nervous, this is a great opportunity. You've already completed your curriculum, so there's no risk if they don't absorb all the information you wanted. Have kids design a playground, or create a project that will change the world, or design a science website. Even if they don't hit all of your learning objectives, they'll definitely learn.

5. Let the kids be the teachers

Kids love the chance to switch roles. Put them in groups, pick a topic -- either something new or something you want to review -- and have them take charge. If you take this to the extreme (eg: actually sit in the class and participate, do their worksheets, etc.), they'll have the most fun. It's also a good opportunity to talk about teaching and presentations: you'll find that most of the kids will do a powerpoint presentation and then hand out worksheets. If you want to head this off, you may want to have a conversation about methods of assessment and get them to brainstorm all the ways teachers teach and assess them throughout the year first.

Question of the Day:
What was your favorite end of year school activity as a kid?

I always loved when things were winding down and we had more freedom in class. I remember reading a lot of books, watching some movies, and doing activities we hadn't had time to complete during the year.

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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

What Do Teachers Do Over Summer Vacation?

image by Shahnoor Habib Munmun

The topic of "holidays" is always an interesting one when it comes to teachers. This past week, Erin Klein wrote an interesting piece on why teachers should be careful about crowing about summer vacation, rightly pointing out that it can be frustrating for people who have to continue working.

I agree with this sentiment completely, but I think it can go even further: I think a lot of people wonder what exactly teachers DO all summer. 

With that in mind, here is my response. Keep in mind, of course, that each teacher is different. I know our American colleagues, for example, do almost all of their professional development over the summer, whereas in Canada a lot of PD occurs during the school year. It's a trade off: we don't have to give up days in the summer, but it costs us more financially because we have to pay for a substitute teacher. 

At any rate, here you go: how one teacher typically spends her summers. 

A summer for me is typically 8 weeks. 

Week one: I take this week off entirely. I do not talk or think about school. I spend a lot of time reading for pleasure and catching up on housework. I will check my work emails a few times a day and respond to messages from other teachers, students, or parents. 

Week two: I start thinking about my summer project this week. For example, last summer I was working on planning a new math curriculum. I still had a lot of time off this week, but I spent about two hours each day going through math and organizing my thoughts, making lists, deciding what I wanted things to look like. 

Week three: This week proceeds a lot like the last. I try to get outside, garden, walk my dogs with my friends. I also spend a couple hours a day putting my plan from last week into action. This summer, that meant building 17 math tests and making lists of which objectives each met. 

Week four: At this point a bit of panic usually sets in, along with some excitement for the next year. This week, I keep working on my summer project, but add in about five hours of planning. What will next year look like? What will that first week look like? What do I need to buy or do to get ready? Last summer, I was also taking two Coursera classes on education around this time. Wow, thinking back -- I was probably up to 5 or 6 hours of work a day at this point. 

Week five: This is when I start really working, mainly because I usually go visit my family in Saskatoon and don't have as many distractions. I try to move my summer project forwards and do some serious planning for next year. Last summer, I kept working on my courses, too. And of course, I hang out with my family. My nephew was born at this time last year three months prematurely, which was a stressful situation for sure. 

Week six: At this point last year, I was still in Saskatoon and working hard to get all of my mountain math style bulletin boards ready to go. The seventeen math tests were ready to go, and I was about halfway through the corresponding assignments. At this point it began to sink in that unless I really pushed, this project would NOT be done before school started. I knew a lot of other stuff would come up when school started and desperately wanted these done, so I upped the workload and really pushed to get them finished. 

Week seven: This week saw me back at school. My math project was finished, so I spent Monday printing, cutting, laminating, and then of course cutting again. Tuesday I organized everything from the day before and did all of my photocopying for the first week of school. Wednesday I went shopping for back to school stuff, then came to school to begin classroom setup: bulletin boards, furniture, books, etc. This continued into Thursday, and when I finished, my classroom was mostly organized. That allowed me to take a few days off during which I deliberately did nothing school related, because...

Week eight: This week, teachers resume work full time, although students won't return for another week. We spend a lot of time planning and meeting with colleagues, doing things like going through class lists and identifying students who may need extra help, organizing the year's extracurricular activities, and planning field trips. Teachers will have some time to do personal work like photocopy and set up the classroom, but most of us will come in for anywhere from 6 to 30 hours over the weekend, depending how ambitious our plans for the year are and how much we have accomplished over the last few weeks. 

This is what my summers look like. I enjoy them: a nice mix of productive work done on my own schedule and leisure time. I do think, though, that there's a lot more work involved in most teachers' summers than people realize!

Question of the Day:
How much work do you do on your summer vacation?

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