The Purpose of Civics

Keynote: Civics Day 10

Ontario Secondary School Diploma graduates must earn a 0.5 credit in Civics. This course is often taught by teachers who see it as a chore and it becomes repetitive lessons in memorizing party leaders, riding statistics and municipal responsibilities.

Does any of this help us to produce more active, engaged global citizens? Probably not. Also,  Social media does not voters make. This study also argues the course has not increased the number of youth voters in Ontario.

The Toronto Sun addressed this in a recent article, concluding the youngest voters are Spectators. According to the author, “They don’t believe in status buying. Or consuming for the sake of consuming. They also don’t believe in many of the touchstones of Canadian society — like democracy. And Parliament.”

Thanks, Tom Conklin, for reminding me this course deserves more study.

Nuclear Shelter Simulation

Building Miniature Houses of Inequality

Here’s Hans Rosling, creator of Gapminder, using statistics to demonstrate some clear changes in regional wealth, health and life expectancy over the last 200 years.

Some great online resources for Civics:

Bite-size, Young Person Friendly ‘Types of Government’ from CBBC

TVO’s Singing and Dancing Approach to Ontario Government (You tube channel)

‘Teacher – ‘just add a classroom’ resources for studying citizenship, human rights, government workings etc

Political Cartoons in the classroom – why read when you can interpret?

Antz-English Version – Chart and worksheet to work with film, “Antz”

Think about what we need to do to encourage ‘Active Engagement.”


**reposted from December 2013

Classroom Management

Classroom management is essential to productive lessons. However, most classroom issues can be solved by ensuring you have created engaging lessons which “make the class time fly by.”

I cut my management teeth while working in some of the toughest neighbourhoods of Glasgow. Street brawls, crack dealers and knife fights were a continuous issue in and around these schools. Although the students were sweet, happy and thankful young people, they came from tough homes and tough streets. So, it wasn’t unusual to be told to F-off or  ‘flipped the bird.’ One day, I even had a student attempt to throw a desk in my direction (at me? I doubt it. He wasn’t that angry at his regular teacher). By the time I came back to Ottawa, ‘rough’ classes seemed like a cake-walk. Sure, these students were also challenged, the weren’t Glagswegians, growing up in a city with the highest poverty levels in the country.

A few simple tips:

1)Mean what you say. Empty threats are easily ignored.

2) Stay positive. The student is not the problem, it’s the behaviour.

3) The “lesson” should fit the “crime.” A student throwing garbage around the room? She/he can spend some time cleaning up the classroom. Can’t sit appropriately in a chair? They could stand.

4) ALWAYS STAY CALM. Raising your voice will never help. I love the ‘broken record”… ‘I just need you to sit down. I just need you to sit down. I just need you to sit down. I just need you to sit down.”

5) Address behaviours as quietly as possible. Go directly to the student and lean in. Whisper your directive. If you give the student an opportunity for a show, many will take it.

Behaviour Cheatsheet 1    Behaviour Cheatsheet 2

Other ideas:

There are ways to improve your classroom strategies. Great resources exist all over the internet for new teachers.

Billed as an ‘online cafe’ to post questions and queries for beginning teachers, is a great place to access good sources or start a discussion about issues you’re facing.

This website, attempts to address the bigger issues at work in identifying 120 acting-out classroom behaviours.

The National Education Association also offers some pretty fantastic resources on many management issues.

Mr. Hughes also offers some sage advice:

Differentiated Instruction 2014

Keynote: October 27, 2014 Differentiation and HIstory Ideas

Differentiated instruction responds to learning preferences, interests and readiness of individual learners.

Differentiation isn’t a new idea. Educators have consistently varied the way we reach out to different learners. Differentiation can be addressed in how you structure lessons for learning, how students engage in ideas and how they demonstrate their own mastery of the topic.

Taking differentiation into your planning doesn’t mean a student never has to write paragraphs or will never have to do an oral presentation. It may mean in one assessment, a student shows he can “demonstrate an understanding of the development of Canadian identity in the 20th century” through a series of images which he talk about orally. Nothing in the expectation says, “must demonstrate through paragraph writing.” It can mean modifying the classroom environment, the activities and the output.

More reading:

Differentiation Guide – 2010EducatorsGuide (Ministry of Ed)

Reach Every Student through Differentiation (Ministry of Ed)

Busting Myths in Differentiated Instruction

Differentiation in Reading (ideas)

Ministry of Education

Rubric All the Things!

Every assignment or activity you assign your students should have a DIRECT AND CLEAR link to an expectation listed in the course curriculum. You may be assessing a student’s ability to meet an overall or specific expectation under each strand. This is the basic requirement for all planning we do.

curriculm 1

This will bring us the to next point in our assessment: assessment by expectation. Our mark-books should have clear connections between a student’s success in individual expectations. A parent should be able to see that a student has difficulty with the skills strand History A1 but can meet the criteria to master expectations associated to B1, B2, C2, D2, etc. Some teachers don’t mark like this. But you should. It’s Ministry Guidelines.

Ideally, according to the Ministry of Education, students do not receive a letter or numerical grade for their tasks. Their achievement is based on their ability to meet a series of normative steps representing the ‘typical’ student. Growing Success identifies the following criteria in each level of achievement. These are then tied (in practice) to percentage equivalents (I have added these).

Levels of Achievement
The achievement chart also identifies four levels of achievement, defined as follows:

Level 1 (50 – 59 %) represents achievement that falls much below the provincial standard. The student demonstrates the specified knowledge and skills with limited effectiveness. Students must work at significantly improving learning in specific areas, as necessary, if they are to be successful in the next grade/course

Level 2(60 – 69 %)represents achievement that approaches the provincial standard. The student demonstrates the specified knowledge and skills with some effectiveness. Students performing at this level need to work on identified learning gaps to ensure future success.

Level 3(70 – 79 %) represents the provincial standard for achievement [emphasis added]. The student demonstrates the specified knowledge and skills with considerable effectiveness. Parents of students achieving at level 3 can be confident that their children will be prepared for work in subsequent grades/courses.

Level 4(80 – 100 %) identifies achievement that surpasses the provincial standard. The student demonstrates  the specified knowledge and skills with a high degree of effectiveness. However, achievement at level 4 does not mean that the student has achieved expectations beyond those specified for the grade/course.

Specific “qualifiers” are used with the descriptors in the achievement chart to describe student performance at each of the four levels of achievement – the qualifier limited is used for level 1; some for level 2; considerable for level 3; and a high degree of or thorough for level 4. Hence, achievement at level 3 in the Thinking category for the criterion “use of planning skills” would be described in the achievement chart as “[The student] uses planning skills with considerable effectiveness”. (p 18)

These levels then form the basis of the ALMIGHTY RUBRIC.

According to Growing Success, students are to be assessed on their mastery of a subject through a series of CATEGORIES OF KNOWLEDGE (KITCA – Knowledge, Inquiry & Thinking, Communication, Application).

The categories, defined by clear criteria, represent four broad areas of knowledge and skills within which the expectations for any given subject/course can be organized.  (pg 17)

Your job, as the teacher, is to plan units, activities, and assessments (over the duration of the course) connecting the curricular expectations to these categories of knowledge.

Steps for a good Rubric:

1) Identify your curricular expectations (you would have used these in planning the activity/assessment

2) Decide on how extensive your rubric must be. I consider the time it will take students to do the assessment and make the rubric a relative size (short = small rubric, massive assignment = giant rubric, etc).

3) Understand what skills you will be assessing. Are you using A strand and one of the B-E strands? These must be reflected in your rubric.

You may want to actually embed the KITCA Category which suit the planned activity [Are your students demonstrating mastery of facts (K/U) or are they applying information to new contexts (Application)].

4) Create your table. Play around with its look to maximise student understanding of expectations and criteria. 

5) The language of your rubric should be student friendly – but contain enough ‘meat’ for you to make consistent decisions and give solid feedback.

GD Rubric C1

Rubric with Overall Expectation focus

Rubric by expectation

Rubric by expectation

Rubric with KITCA category focus (B1, A1 expectations as well as Historical perspective)

The rubric above assesses achievement in both Knowledge/Understanding and Application. The author elected to avoid using written descriptions of the levels of achievement and opted for numbers to simply for the visuals for a grade 10 Applied History student.

KITCA categories (A1) focus

The author of the rubric below used words to describe expectations.

Check out the examples in this document. Rubric Examples

Happy Building!

Lesson – Oct 7

Keynotes – Oct 7

Ass & Eval keynote

Literacy in History – keynote

More Quick Literacy Strategies are found here.

Strange and Wonderful Resources

For use with Observations and Inferences

The Question Matrix


The Question Matrix

Today I’m going to try to use a Question Matrix with my gr 10 applied History classes.

I am seeking a way to help them develop their inquiry process skills. Many students have never been pushed to ask questions beyond closed ended ones and certainly most have never been explicitly taught how to create thoughtful inquiry questions.

My own skills in this endeavour are limited – I know I can formulate valid research questions, but I haven’t thought enough about HOW I do this. This requires some meta-cognition my my part. Besides, the best way to learn something is to teach it to others!

I will start with a interactive lesson about questions using Pear Deck (a new tool I picked up this weekend at the GAFE Summit Ottawa). This will stimulate some discussion about what makes a good question. This will lead us to a conversation about the Matrix.

Using a series of paintings (on loan from the Canadian War Museum Supply Line) students will develop questions about what they are seeing. Students will be required to make up a question (and then find answers) for EACH of the matrix boxes.

(Possible extensions – using 2 x 6 sided dice, the matrix becomes a trip-tic of sorts. If the student rolls “1 &1”, they design a question for “What is…” or  a “3 & 4” they get “Which would…”. His/her peers then try to answer the question.)

This is a bit of an adventure. We’ll see how it goes.

I also found this lesson about reading the news and using a matrix.

How NOT to Ask Questions:

Vocabulary Sort

A vocabulary sort provides students with a variety of terms and concepts related to a unit or for a course. You can use them at the beginning of a unit or at the end of a unit. Sometimes I do both as a way to show students what information they’ve learned.

Gr 12s doing a sort. One is even doing additional research!

Gr 12s doing a sort. One is even doing additional research!

Here are some strategies.

Ask Students (usually in small groups) to

  1. Separate terms they know and the terms they don’t. Look up/research the ones with which they aren’t familiar. (then move to the following strategies)
  2. Identify & justify at least 3 categories (student or teacher choice) and sort the words in the appropriate categories. Discuss the similarities and differences of the categories selected by each group
  3. As the teacher, include ‘obvious’ headlines/category subjects, and students sort associated words/terms
  4. Have the students select their “favourite” words and ask them to do a short literacy activity using each of the words in the correct context.

While students work, emphasize there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. Their properly reasoned verbal justification can make any word fit any

I have also made the terms on large sheets of paper. The students then sort the giant words on the floor in a larger group. I then post the words in their selected categories on the wall for a Word Wall.

Here is my Vocabulary sort for The Great War.

Here’s a PDF: CausesofWW1wordsort