When Marking Exams Is Enjoyable.

These students prove that exams can be positive learning experiences.

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Am I supposed to enjoy marking exams quite so much?

These kids are awesome!

Preparation: Who Needs It?

There’s always at least one in every group who doesn’t follow instructions.

Last Friday, I gave my History class an essay question half a week in advance of their assessment task.

They were to prepare a plan and notes to use while writing the essay in class this week. I advised them that they could use their handwritten notes and their textbook while writing, but they were not allowed the use of any devices. All the information about the task was given to them in writing as well as my explaining everything in class.

I expected that today, when the students came to class, they would be ready to start. Happily for me, most were.

And then, because nothing ever goes smoothly, this happened:

Student A: “Can we type this?”

Me: No. No devices.

Student B: “My notes are at home. Can I use my iPad?”

Me: “No. No devices.”

Student C: “Can you write the question on the board please?”

Me: “I gave you the question on Friday.”

Student C: Yeah but I didn’t write it down.

Me: That makes me happy.
Bemused, I wrote the question on the board.

Student B: “What page is it in the textbook?”

Me: “Do you mean the pages you were supposed to read and study last week?”

Student B: “Yeah.”

Me: Speechless, I allow The Eyebrow to speak for me.

All the kids except two commenced writing. Students B and D, though? They’re still reading the textbook.

Out of the mouths of… teenagers.

My Year 10 English class studied John McCrae’s WWI poem “In Flanders Fields” yesterday. In our discussion, we contrasted it with some of the more brutal poetry about the war that we’ve been studying, such as Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est”.

When I asked them what we could learn from the contrasts in the poetry.
one student answered, “Canadians are awesome and generally more polite about things than the English!”

Sorry, English people. He’s getting an A+.

I tried.

From time to time, teachers are asked to cover lessons for colleagues who are absent for some reason. 

Today I had the privelege of covering a Y10 Health and Human Development class.
They could have been discussing exercise, nutrition or health… but, no.

That would have been waaayyy  too easy. They had to be learning about male and female body parts and their functions. 

While I was busy asking myself why these lessons always seem to be handed to me, I was interrupted by a student asking a question.

Student 1: “What’s the cervix again?”
Student 2: “It’s the trapdoor thing that stops the baby coming out.”

Wait. The what??

Very diplomatically, I suggested he might like to look things up in a dictionary, or at least the printed notes they had been given to read and highlight. I don’t think he did, though. 

A little later, Student 1 had another question: “Are the uterus and the urethra the same thing?”

Again, I pointed him to the printed notes and the dictionary.

“How is that going to help me?” he asked. 

“How indeed?”  I thought to myself. 


I’m sorry, Miss K.  I tried. 

New horizons. 

I’m about to embark on an international classroom collaboration with my Year 10 History class and some students who attend the school where my cousin teaches in Detroit, USA.  Our students will discuss world events, their interests, and their perspectives on issues and challenges that they face as young people in an increasingly globalised world.  

This has not been done at my school before, so I am very aware of breaking new ground for my students and of my responsibility to  mentor them and protect them while flinging them out of the proverbial comfort zone of our classroom “nest”. The online classroom environment where this collaboration will take place will be monitored and moderated by myself and the American students’ teacher, who I’m sure shares my anxieties and my excitement as we embark on this experimental educational journey together. 

I’m excited because while these kids’ lives are worlds apart, they live in the same world and witness the same events from their own unique perspectives.  I’m excited about collaborating with another teacher and having our personal professional horizons broadened, too. 

My hope is that they will broaden their horizons and see things from different points of view while becoming more aware of what is happening in the world around them. 

Hopefully we will all be inspired as well as informed. 

Going digital in the classroom.

I’m about to try some new and exciting things with my senior high school English students.

We have already been using a virtual classroom on edmodo.com  to communicate with each other, post assignments and reminders, participate in quizzes and polls, and to turn in assignments.  This has been a great success – a student can lose a piece of paper but they are never so keen to lose their connection to the internet.

This year, we are going to advance to some more creative uses of online spaces and tools.

Rather than making posters that they will throw away, we’re going to try some online collaborative space.
We will be using PC apps like Twiddla, Popplet and Wallwisher, or iPad apps such as Popplet, Mindmeister and Idea Sketch where students can collaborate and present their ideas visually.

Of course, this is not intended to replace writing – essays, creative pieces, opinions, and the like… but to help students crystallise and organise their ideas as part of the creative and analytical processes.

They will also be challenged to use blogs on WordPress, tumblr or Pinterest instead of hard copy scrapbooks.  They will be encouraged to present their writing folios online, enabling others to read their work and be inspired by each others as authors, not just students submitting an assignment.

This isn’t just “going digital for the sake of going digital”.  I’m hoping that it will engage and interest them, not only in what they are doing individually but also in what their classmates are doing, too.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could inspire, encourage and help one another through collaboration and presentation?

We are not throwing conventional literacy out the window. Each student will be writing with pen and paper every week, developing their skills of creative and analytical thinking and writing, and responding to the ideas and challenges delivered by a range of texts.   My aim is to complement the conventional literacy skills of my students with creative, considered and directed engagement in the digital world.

It’s an amazing world that we live in. I know some teachers have to be dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ into the world of online resources and publishing, but I’m keen. I believe that my students and I are going to love it.