Teaching Strategies, Lesson Plans, and Classroom Arrangements

Favorite Instructional Strategies


  • KWL
  • Entrance/Exit
  • Bell work
  • Anticipation Guide
  • Texting in answers
  • Interest inventory

–          Brainstorming


  • Plus, Minus, Interesting
  • Thumbs up/down/side
  • Fist of five
  • Yes/No cards
  • Making connections
  • Determining importance
  • Think-pair-share
  • Inside-Outside Circles
  • Peer-teaching
  • TAPS
  • Jigsaw
  • Carousel
  • Centers
  • Multiple intelligences – learned more from what?
  • Metacognition questions (why did I do this/what did I learn/how can I improve)
  • Examples of ideal
  • Work sheets
  • Drawing for comprehension
  • Graphic organizers
  • Venn diagrams
  • circles
  • Narrative
  • Role play
  • Talking circle
  • Lectures with objectives, sheets to follow along, activities after, summary at end

–          Inquiry assignment or student-interest assignment


  • Reflections
  • Self-assessments
  • Rubrics
  • Portfolios
  • Interviews

–          Essays


  • Marble jar
  • Proximity
  • Praise students who do it well
  • Give me five = be quiet
  • Continue when silent

–          Contracts (given before for clear expectations)


  • Popsicle sticks
  • Cold call

–          Blend of popsicle sticks with cold call

Favorite Classroom Arrangement

Image one: Horseshoe

Horseshoe plus groups

Image Two: Teacher/Student Work Space

Favorite Unit and Reflection Plans

See kgorhamblog: Unit Template and Professional Development Worksheets

 My Favorite Unit Plan

See kgorhamblog: Health 3/4 Unit Plan: Healthy Eating, Exercise, and the Immune System

Classroom Management

So far, classroom management has been the most challenging part about teaching for me. Firstly, because I am more of a caring person than an authoritative figure – both types are needed in schools and at times teachers must try both roles – and secondly, because the very nature of education revolves around intrinsic motivation. However, I believe that although teachers cannot make students have intrinsic motivation, being an extrinsic force and a reminder will never hurt.

With this in mind, I will be trying popsicle sticks question asking with my Grade 3/4 class so that anyone can be called upon at any time. I think it is also important to use my professional discretion, and call upon students at random, when needed. I will also be using a marble jar reward system, where I add marbles to the jar when students are being good. In the end, they get the reward of extra recess, as physical activity is vital for learning and the children also love it. The idea is that kids will support each other to make good choices and spend less time laughing at/or with those who are impulsive. Both of these ideas are from the Teaching Channel and have been discussed in my ECS 410 assessment class (see my Classroom Experiment blog post). Since most behavioral issues come from not understanding the work presented, I will be differentiating my work and stopping to check for understanding with exit questions and “thumbs up or down” breaks. These ideas are things I will be using in every grade I teach (3 to 12). Secondly, I believe behavioral issues come from an excess of energy so Brain Gym will be used in my 3/4 class and art drama cards for my grade 7/8 class. For my Grade 9/10 class, this article (and idea I read about in First Days of School by Harry Wong) is something I am considering. In summary, the strategy involves writing students’ names on the board every time they blurt out, etc. so that it acts as a visual reminder. These students often seem to want to avoid their work when it gets tough and it is hard to think of ways to keep them accountable for completing the work and not take away learning opportunities for those that are engaged. Things like sending them to the office or outside do not help because then they have achieved their goal and get to avoid the work. Hopefully this strategy works!

Classroom management will always be something that I need to focus on. It won’t ever be something I can ignore, as a well-managed class allows for learning and a class without management does not. What ideas do you have? How do you manage your classroom?

How Learning Contracts Motivate Students

This semester I decided that I want to use portfolios in my future English classroom. I think this practice aligns quite nicely with a lot of the current research, particularly what Davies has to say. I would have students create an online portfolio to foster technology in my classroom. I would also have the portfolio blog pages be separated by “I Can Statements.” Then students would post all their work to the appropriate spot and highlight a couple pieces from each outcome to be marked at the end of the year. Constant feedback would be given, deadlines would not be set in stone, and communication between parents could easily be maintained by simply looking at the blog. Students could also showcase their work and progress at parent-student-teacher interviews or open houses. With that in mind, I wondered how I would set this up and keep students accountable.

Greenwood and McCabe (2006) suggest using learning contracts. These are “written [agreements] between teacher and learner in which the learner undertakes to complete mutually agreed upon tasks in a specified amount of time on his or her own initiative” (15). I think these documents would be great to use because students get to direct their own learning and have choices. Teachers could make sure that students were not just picking their favorite medium of representation by making students pick tasks from various categories. Students know what is expected of them from the beginning and they are held responsible. I think teachers could also differentiate easier using online portfolios with contracts because students could use any indicator they want. Teachers could also aid some students more than others and let advanced learners work at a pace and level that meets their own needs. I would give 20-30 minutes of general instruction that everyone receives, and then students could break off and work on their contracted tasks. During that time, I could do remedial activities with those that need extra help. Some students may be accomplishing less advanced work or tasks but since everyone is doing a different thing, no one should be singled out. Grouping choices and making sure all students get one-on-one instruction with the teacher can maintain an inclusive classroom.

One thing I am still trying to figure out is how to report under the outcomes. It seems like many assignments could fit under many outcomes. Maybe students could place an assignment under more than one outcome? Would you make one rubric per outcome? Would that work if students are exploring an outcome through all the various indicators? How do you teach students who are working on different things and at various levels? I think some intense classroom management strategies would need to be in place so that students self-manage and direct their own learning. I think this will be a lot of work but I have thought about it a lot lately and I really want to try it out. I think individualized online portfolios with agreed upon contracts are the best way (and only way I can think of now) to accomplish the current assessment trends. I just need to take it one step at a time….

Article: http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/stable/pdfplus/10.2307/23044364.pdf

Taylor Mali Performs “Undivided Attention”


“Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned” – Taylor Mali

Teachable moments happen everyday. As teacher, the demands of the curriculum, the bell schedule, the fact that you have 25+ busy bodies to “micromanage” may get in the way of taking those moments and using them to learn.. but I have goal that this can be done. If only, we let go of perfection.