What to do with small class sizes?

I’m sure this is going to bizzare, but I have a problem with small class sizes.

Not small like 20 students. I mean small like 8 students.

I teach at a VERY small school. There are about 115 students in 6 grades (7-12). Core classes are at a good size (generally 20-30) but options classes are quite small. A CTS class has about 6 students, my band class has 7 students and an extra History class has 2 students.

Now perhaps it’s great to have 2 students in a class, but for my band class it is a huge disadvantage. I can barely play any legitimate high school band music. I feel like my students are at a huge loss because they won’t have the experience of playing in a large ensemble. Also if even one of them is sick or away we lose a major part of anything we are rehearsing.

Now on the other side of this discussion is that many, MANY other schools in my board are suffering from the opposite issue. They have upwards of of 40-50 students in their core classes and up to 70 in their elective classes. Couldn’t they just lend me some students?

What’s a teacher to do?


International Youth Leadership Summit 2013

So I have had the extreme privilege of being a staff facilitator these last few days at IYLS2013. This has been a crazy experience for me as I only had a few weeks to get ready and make sure all the paperwork was in an I actually knew what I was doing. But it was all totally worth it!

Day 1: Thursday Evening

  • Registration and a quick dinner of pizza (favorite of the students)
  • Opening ceremony (Naheed Nenshi and Gareth Lewis spoke, and they were both excellent! Especially when Mayor Nenshi was stopped by our delightful school board’s firewall… )
  • Breakout into technology sessions – I attended the talk given by Dr. Alex Couros. He spoke about our digital footprints and what comes up when we google ourselves. The most I got out of that talk was to make sure that whatever you found was something positive (a blog, news article, paper you wrote, etc.). It was very inspiring as a teacher. I also have a really neat new text-to-vote poll website. Thanks Dr. Couros!
  • Small Groups Meet – As I was a staff facilitator, I was to organize the groups getting together and get them going on their project for the few days. Their project was to use social /digital media to talk about a local or global issue. My two groups chose to work on homelessness in Calgary and the Calgary Humane Society (which is where I got my cat!). I felt quite happy with their choices as they were not controversial or too difficult to find information on.

Day 2: Friday 

  • Small Group Sessions – Groups met and worked on their projects (both groups started work on a video)
  • Keynote: Amanda Lindhout – Wow. She is an amazing speaker and I really think she got her message across to many of the students in attendance  If you don’t know too much about her, I recommend you look her up. Short version, she was kidnapped in Somalia and was held for over 400 days. She was released upon a ransom being paid. Now she runs Global Enrichment FoundationI was very touched by her talk and I am lucky to have had the opportunity to hear her speak.
  • At this point in the schedule there was a break/snack, and they we were to move to breakout sections, but sadly a little flu caught up with me and I went home to sleep it off.

Day 3: Saturday

  • Kids Go Global – A great talk given by David Chantler about linking global causes with theater and student work! I hope that I can get my school involved with something like that one day. 
  • Group Activity – This was probably the most fun the students had over all the conference. A dance group came in and taught the students how to do a BOLLYWOOD routine. Such a cool experience! I have some video and pictures and they are just so cool to see.
  • Small Group Work
  • Lunch (delicious subs)
  • Final Small Group Work
  • Final Words/Presentations – What a great finale to a superb 3 days. I was thanked for the work that I did (which was marking, having good conversation, learning about some really cool things and having fun), and then we got to watch the presentations that the students had been working on. They were really well done. I was so impressed with the work they accomplished and made me feel like we have a really good group of people growing up to take care of our world.

Thanks to all the folks involved in IYLS2013. I hope I can be a part of it again next year!

Active Video Games are not Enough

Recently there has been a rising in “active” video games. While I think this is great and is a way to get some kids off the couch/chair and moving around, it is beginning to be thought this really isn’t enough for our children. This article (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kelly-murumets/active-video-games-exercise_b_2338119.html ) highlights another way to get your kids out and moving over the break. I will say that while these ‘exergames’ are good to get them up and about it does not help them reach their Daily Physical Activity goal(which is around 60 minutes of moderate/vigerous activity daily).

ParticipACTION is a website that gives a few ides of what you can do over the break (or even all the way up to when the weather is better) to keep active and have fun!

Canadian Parents Doing the Right Thing (financially that is)

Just as a little positive encouragement (in the form of furthering education). Take a look at this article!

Essentially it lays out that parents are opening and contributing to RESPs. This is amazing because, as I well know, mine actually paid for the majority of my degrees. I was lucky that I didn’t have to have a job and go to school and whatever else I needed to do to get enough money to make it through 5 years of school. Now more and more parents are doing what my fabulous parents did, having the foresight to save money so that if anyone wants to, they can further their education too!

Apps for Autism

A few of you may have some students who are on the autism spectrum. I’m always curious as to how these students operate in a classroom as I’ve never had the opportunity to work with these students). I thought that this little website gave me a bit of a better handle on how to help these students if I ever come across it in my classroom.

Apps for Kids with Autism




The TapToTalk iPhone app gives your nonverbal child a voice, making it a great fit for many autistic children. Using the app, children can explicitly tell parents, siblings and teachers what they’re thinking about and need. TapToTalk is changing lives because it is portable and customizable if you purchase TapToTalk Designer.

Price: Free


Learning List

You know you’re really on to something when:

  1. the activity connects with the world of the learner; it is engaging because they can relate to it.
  2. the activity comes from the learner’s own input; it is engaging because they helped to design it
  3. the activity is based on the freedom to choose; it is engaging because they selected it
  4. the activity is meaningful; it is engaging because they feel that they are contributing something to their school, their community or the world
  5.  the activity is challenging; it is engaging because there is a real problem to be solved
  6. the activity draws the outside world in; it is engaging because it is rooted in the non-school world
  7. the activity is awe-inspiring; it is engaging because it encourages learners to look at their world in a different way
  8. the activity is interesting; it is engaging because it forces the learner to say “huh!”
  9. the activity is interdisciplinary; it is engaging because it involves ideas from a variety of traditionally separate curriculum areas
  10. the activity is expansive; it is engaging because it offers the opportunity for further investigation and learning.

Found on CEA. Written by Stephen Hurley