Teachers Talk about PITA Workshops

Here are some stories about using the ideas from PITA Workshops:

Workshop Title: Show! Don’t Tell by Bryan Gidinski
I just began his writing unit with my class. I used his story Green Bean Dragon Queen as an introduction to short story writing. The kids pointed out the usage of his words, and how he used different words to describe things. In turn, I asked my kids to go through their own short story to pick a sentence and add.change that sentence to make it more exciting. They saw the difference almost instantly. I look forward to using more of his lessons on writing.
-Vancouver teacher

I attended Mary Moody’s workshop “From Zip to Zippy” at the PITA
conference in Kelowna – spring 2008 I think- and I found this workshop–
her ideas– very useful. I like her idea of using a giant graphic
organizer to write the first draft of an essay, so that students’ work is
pre-organized from the moment they begin to write. I like her advice to
have students write the introduction and conclusion at the end, after
they’ve written three or four paragraphs of the body. (When they first
start writing, it’s hard for them to write an introduction because they
don’t yet know what they’re going to say!) Finally,I liked her idea of
having students keep the rough drafts of several projects, without
necessarily finishing them, so they master the skill of drafting and
organizing ideas without having to go through all the work of taking that
first essay to final publishable form. Students can go back to their
drafts later on to work on simple objectives like adding transition words,
adding examples, or using more specific vocabulary, which is much easier
than taking an essay from rough draft to polished form all at once. This
workshop changed how I teach writing. It made me more confident and I get
better results from my students, so I know my students have benefited as
-Teacher in Merritt.

I attended a workshop at the fall 2009 PITA conference called “Extending Literature Through Art” presented by Trudy Jenkins. I have already used two art lessons from the excellent compilation of resources from the workshop. In one of these lessons (demonstrated with workshop participants), pairs of students work cooperatively to illustrate a passage from the Japanese folktale, Mouse’s Marriage. In the other, students read the poem “I Am the Greatest” [at a variety of nonsense or whimsical activities, such as “potato jumping”) brainstorm similar activities (e.g., cloud swimming, volcano diving, wig dancing), then choose one of the activities and follow criteria to create an illustration with lettering.
The activities in Trudy’s collection are wonderful, and I plan to use others throughout the term.
-Thanks! SD 40 teacher.

I have used the hundreds’ chart to reinforce multiplication facts to grade 6’s as suggested by Katie Pallos-Haden in her “helping struggling students with Math” workshop at the Fall Pita Conference. Once students feel confident about their math facts, a lot of other math gets easier for them. thanks.
-Teacher in Surrey.

I attended Liliana Lanfanchi’s workshop at the Fall PITA conference in Abbotsford (??). I’ve used several of her handout lessons and ideas about increasing the use of oral language in FSL classes. The most useful activity involved having students rehearse dialogues and then video-tape them and show in class. I’ve done this several times with great success.
-Hope I win! :)- SD 27 teacher.

One strategy from a workshop that I’ve used was greeting each student at the door on the first day of school and then directing them to their assigned seat. It really helped me with setting up effective classroom management from the beginning. I learned this strategy from a workshop for TOCs that was presented by Ray Myrtle at a Burnaby Pro-D day last February. Thanks very much.

-Teacher in Doha, Qatar!!!!!

When in Kelowna a number of years a ago I attended a PE workshop

  • and I learned a number of minor games. One was called ‘Bloody Knuckles’
  • and the kids (grade 4/5) absolutely go crazy for it! More PE games for
  • non specialists really helps. Thanks J.S.

Bloody Knuckles (a handball game)
The game Bloody Knuckles is a handball game which apparently originated in barns on the prairies, at least that is how they apparently got the ‘bloody’ knuckles. The kids like that part too. You set benches up on the floor, on their sides so the tops are facing in. Use one wall as one side of thesides of the rectangle and then put the benches side by each usually 2 on each opposite side, and one longer one at the end across from the wall that is used as a side also. (5 or 6 benches in all) BE SURE TO COVER ALL OF THE MEDAL SIDES OF THE BENCHESwith MATS WHICH ARE NOW SOMEWHAT OF A SAFETY ISSUE so if the students fall backwards at all (which they can do) the mats will break the fall. The kids stand with their heels against the perimeter of the rectangle (inside of course) and one st. takes the ball and calls ‘Bloody Knuckles”. The ball is on the floor and is hit with the flat of the hand or the fist ( I encourage the hand). If the ball hits you (usually the feet or leg area) you are out. They have to move, jump or get out of the way of the ball. You can only hit it once and then someone else has to hit it. It should go fast and then as a player you are either moving and/or hitting the ball. When you are hit, you go outside the ‘court’ and spot the others with your hands being ready to catch anyone who may fall. They usually lay on the mats but I would recommend they sit on their knees with arms ready. Also you could get hit with the ball if it flies out. If a student scoops the ball out when they hit it, they are also out. That controls the scooping or over hitting aspect. If it hits someone before it goes flying out it doesn’t put the hitter out. Just restart.. Sometimes it gets down to 2 and it can go on and on because they both have to hit it only once so although they are getting lots of extra exercise, the others are not. I call it on my judgement and they never complain as they all get started again. Sometimes I have another activitiy at the end so they can do something while they wait because this only takes a small part of the gym. I have 30 students and it works fine up to that number. There is actually a lot of strategy involved, if they figure it out (9 yr. olds). Every age loves this game, teachers, too!!! Have fun.
D.Jill Spearn


Venturing Beyond Novel Studies! Using Literature to Reach ALL Children / Caroline Pennelli


Engaged/active listening
Look at cover, back, table of contents, etc. (infer)
Read aloud: modeling, ask key questions
IRP’s: address various text media, internalize, self-correct, thinking skills
Teacher model: explain, demonstrate, think about
3 Types: read aloud / shared / guided
Reading Strategies: checking it out / finding the facts / what’s the order / connecting / thinking ahead / using clues / giving an opinion / getting the point
Synthesis: ex. movie synopsis
Select information + share
Guided reading while others silent read, journal, etc.
Choice: chance to read a small section allows child to decide on their own, teacher suggestions and background information
Pick a quote: what does this make you think of? / what questions does it raise?
Independent work precedes group work
Front load

About Being a Teacher

Misc. Material to inspire or amuse.

Extracted from Reader’s Digest (Asian Edition), April 1991, pp. 47-48.
(From: Dr Leong Hon Wai, ISCS, NUS; To: All my students;) —-
Mr. Whitson taught sixth-grade science. On the first day of class, he gave us a lecture about a creature called the cattywampus, an ill-adapted nocturnal animal that was wiped out during the Ice Age. He passed around a skull as he talked. We all took notes and later had a quiz.
When he returned my paper, I was shocked. There was a big red X through each of my answers. I had failed. There had to be some mistake! I had written down exactly what Mr. Whitson said. Then I realized that everyone in the class had failed. What had happened?
Very simple, Mr. Whitson explained. He had made up all the stuff about the cattywampus. There had never been any such animal. The information in our notes was, therefore, incorrect. Did we expect credit for incorrect answers?
Needless to say, we were outraged. What kind of test was this? And what kind of teacher?
We should have figured it out, Mr. Whitson said. After all, at the every moment he was passing around the cattywampus skull (in truth, a cat’s), hadn’t he been telling us that no trace of the animal remained? He had described its amazing night vision, the color of its fur and any number of other facts he couldn’t have known. He had given the animal a ridiculous name, and we still hadn’t been suspicious. The zeroes on our papers would be recorded in his grade book, he said. And they were.
Mr. Whitson said he hoped we would learn something from this experience. Teachers and textbooks are not infallable. In fact, no one is. He told us not to let our minds go to sleep, and to speak up if we ever thought he or the textbook was wrong.
Every class was an adventure with Mr. Whitson. I can still remember some science periods almost from beginning to end. On day he told us that his Volkswagon was a living organism. It took us two full days to put together a refutation he would accept. He didn’t let us off the hook until we had proved not only that we knew what an organism was but also that we had the fortitude to stand up for the truth.
We carried our brand-new skepticism into all our classes. This caused problems for the other teachers, who weren’t used to being challenged. Our history teacher would be lecturing about something, and then there would be clearings of the throat and someone would say “cattywampus.”
If I’m ever asked to propose a solution to the problems in our schools, it will be Mr. Whitson. I haven’t made any great scientific discoveries, but Mr. Whitson’s class game me and my classmates something just as important: the courage to look people in the eye and tell them they are wrong. He also showed us that you can fun doing it.
Not everyone sees the value in this. I once told an elementary school teacher about Mr. Whitson. The teacher was appalled. “He shouldn’t have tricked you like that,” he said. I looked that teacher right in the eye and told him that he was wrong.

David Owen, Condensed from Life (October ’90). Time and Life Bldg.