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


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.


Ideas and information about assessment:

A quick assessment for use in the first week of school

“Formative assessment is all about ongoing feedback on student ability and mastery. If done well, it shows us how the students are learning so we can adjust our teaching, and it shows students what to work on to achieve mastery or get close to it. In formative assessment homework is used to show students where they are at that moment and what they need to work on to move towards mastery while it shows us where to focus our teaching. However, if we give marks for homework and include those in their final mark, we punish the ones who worked hardest to get towards mastery – the ones who struggled to start with and then slowly got there through hard work, while the ones for whom things come easy can float through with little effort and get rewarded with excellent marks. A recipe for mediocrity?

We need to remember that some students do not need homework, since they get it anyway, some cannot do homework due to life circumstances, and in other cases we cannot be sure if our homework mark was given to the student or the parent “helping”.
Our final goal is student mastery of curriculum which then is reflected as a mark in their report cards. If we assign marks for homework completion and quality and include them in their report cards then we measure something we are not supposed to measure. ”

Fred Schaub

From the BC Math Listserve, Aug 28/09

I found this poem on the wall of a classroom at RL Clemitson Elem. Just thought I’d pass it along – I like how it explains the reasoning behind each of the rubric points. ~ Ann-Marie Hunter

Year of Professional Support

What help do you need?

If one asks an early career teacher ‘What help do you need?’
The first response is ‘everything!’.
However maybe this response can be broken down into knowing:

1. What should I consider concentrate on?
Our workshops are designed to take some of the worry away and provide you with ‘just in time’ support for:

A. Starting the year. (in Part 1:‘Start UP Your Class Successfully Workshop’)

B. Building up your program gradually. (in Part 2:‘Start UP Your Program (French, science, etc) Successfully Workshops’)

2. How can I efficiently get prepared?

The workshops are the key way to do this, however beyond that, I think the best idea is to ‘share the workload’.
For any teacher to prepare excellently for everything is impossible.

That’s the reason for the Wiki. – share your material and gain from the work of others in the same situation, as well as experienced teachers.

Our goal is to have you, the early career teachers guide us in developing supports for you. There is funding available to support us in this work. Will you consider participating? The benefits? A network of colleagues, and knowledge of resources, and influence in the type of supports you need.
For information contact Ray Myrtle ray.myrtle@gmail.com.

The program was operated by PITA in two pilot sites for 08-09 Abbotsford and Kelowna, but available to early career teacher anywhere in BC. It was financially supported by the BC Ministry of Education and the Abbotsford and Central Okanagan Teacher Associations.

Teacher On Call

This page is for topics related to being a Teacher on Call

This is a general overview page. See the TOC Toolkit page for lesson suggestions.

About being a teacher

General links for new teachers – MmeCarr

A new site to help TTOCs deal with stress and maintain mental health from the BCTF https://www.starlingminds.com/

Study Skills Workshop: The TOC ToolKit

One of the ideas Ray is working on is creating some topics that TOCs can receive training on so that they can ‘add value’ to the day when they are in a classroom. For example, one I am working on is ‘Study Skills’. The idea is that we will work with a group later in the year, to create a workshop and resources so that TOCs can deliver the workshop when called into a class. If you are interested, let Ray know at ray.myrtle(at)gmail.com


This website is a discussion blog by an early career teacher connecting with other teachers of all experience levels. Click “follow” on the blog to be notified when a new discussion is posted.
You can also visit the facebook page and “like” Teacher Talk to support and give feedback on the blog.


TOC Files
20 Student Brain Breaks.docx
20 reasons for making mistakes.docx
Four in a Row Game.doc

A LINK TO CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT IDEAS- http://www.pinterest.com/3rdgradeinco/classroom-management/


Cooperative Learning Tips and Strategies

Top Tips for Cultivating a Caring & Collaborative Community
Written by Elaine Jaltema, Intermediate Teacher
Meet basic needs: Plan to meet people’s needs for belonging, power & recognition, freedom and fun (Restitution Theory by Diane Gossen). One example is to teach students different fun ways to show recognition of another’s achievements, e.g.:
• A “round of applause” – clap in a circle
• WOW – make a W with each hand and an O in the middle with your mouth
• The standing “O” – stand and make a large letter “O” with arms
• Crocodile clapping – stand and make large clapping arms like jaws
• Seal of approval – clap arms like flippers
• Drum roll – drum on desks
• Self-ovation – standing, bring elbow almost to opposite knee & yell “Yes!”
• Deaf clap
• Quiet clap: finger snapping
• Self high 5
• “I’m so bright I have to wear sunglasses!”

Use Cooperative group learning structures: Remember to include all 5 elements and to coach students often on what cooperation looks like (sitting at the same height in a circle, leaning in) and sounds like (encouraging comments and solicitous questions). The 5 elements are Positive Interdependence, Individual Accountability, Face-to-Face Interaction, Social Skills, and Group Processing. Assign social tasks concurrent with academic tasks. Whenever new groups are formed, it’s important to give them a short group-building task to help them become comfortable with one another. Low-risk activities work well such as: describe your favourite dinner or your dream vacation.

Use name cards to call on students: Print each student’s name on a small card. By using these cards to call on students to answer questions, you don’t fall into the trap of calling on only those who continually raise their hands. If a student doesn’t know the answer, they call say “help” and pass the question on to someone who raises their hand. Put the card back into the middle of the stack rather than on the bottom so that students don’t figure they can count on a free ride once they have been called on. You might choose to keep track of who calls for help rather than giving their own answer by putting a check mark on the back of the cards when they call for help.

Use name cards to divide students into groups: Once students are used to seeing you continually shuffle these cards to call on students and place them in random groups, they don’t notice that sometimes you have pre-loaded them so they fall into the groups or partnerships that you have secretly selected.

Hold class meetings: Have students take turns chairing weekly meetings that include thank-yous between students, opportunities to bring up problems, and planning something where students can make genuine decisions such as games for P.E., an event, topic or method for learning, or new system for organizing room.

Number desks: If students are routinely sitting in pods, you can easily refer to each desk position by number, regardless of where each student is sitting. For example: Your 6 pods are numbered 1-6. Each desk position within the pod is numbered 1-5. In this way, directions are very quick, e.g.
• In the gym, even pods are on this side and odd pods are on the other
• Person 3 picks up the hand-outs
• Start your discussion by listening to person 4 first
• Persons 2 & 4 move one pod over and share your group’s ideas

Make it safe for kids to tell: Every couple of weeks, give students a writing topic for a 10 minute silent write. Give them the choice of writing instead an anonymous note about what you should know, e.g. who is being picked on, how people are feeling, a change they’d like to make in the class, etc. At the end of the writing time, everyone turns in their papers with no one knowing who wrote on the assigned topic and who has given you other information. If you do this early in the day, you can read the comments and address them in an appropriate way in a class meeting.

Establish leadership teams: Divide your class into 5 mixed-ability teams who are responsible for the leadership one day a week, e.g. setting up gym equipment, cleaning up the room, handing out supplies, making decisions about activities, etc.

Keep Repeating the Tribes Trail to maintain a collaborative community:
1. Inclusion (a sense of belonging)
2. Influence (valuing differences)
3. Community (working together creatively)



Primary Home Page:
We offered our first primary workshop in August 2015, and hope to grow our resources for primary.
Help us build this page and link to your favourite resource pages.
Use this page as a ‘Table of Contents’Metro North and South Start UP! Series.
For now, go to the startupyourclass Primary Discussion group to see power points etc. We will transfer them here later.

Start UP! Series 2015: Primary – led by Fiona Morrison
Workshop leader Fiona Morrison strongly recommended www.strongnations.com , for some great literacy resources for K/1-
Day 1
With Tamara Sengotta

Day 2
Supporting Social and Emotional Learning within Classrooms (AM Session)
With Harpreet Esmail and Shannon Bain
Start up literacy presentation19SeptPM.pptx
Sept 19 K-3 AMPresentation.pptx

Day 3
Series15K-3Day3Learning_Through_Play_surrey 1.pptx
Series15K-3Day3AMPlay Log.doc
Series15K-3Day3Math Games and Invitations.pptx
Series15K-3Math Log.doc


First Week of School

The 33pg. First Week of School booklet is revised to match the video. It is free with Ray’s compliments.
The First Week of School-9-17.pdf (Sept 2017)
‘The First Week of School‘ booklet by Ray Myrtle is the basis for the ‘Start UP! Your Class Successfully’ workshop & video.  At one time this Booklet was available through BCTF locals.

There is also an intro activity on YouTube – google raymyrtle YouTube.

Now you can watch the Start UP! Your Class workshop online for 3 months for $1. Here is a sample: Tuesday: Making a Good First Impression

Find out about workshops, videos and other info at www.startupyourclass.ca

Here are the backline masters you need to use the activities with your own class:
Lets Get Acquainted Blackline #1.docGraph The Class-Prediction Blackline#2.docclass list template.docGraph The Class Blackline#3.docDraw and Predit Draft Revison.docSeating Plan Blackline#13.docAbstract Design Blackline#11.docClass list Number #8.docStart UP! Your Class Overview 2014.doc

Here is the French version of some blackline masters-contributed by Vincent. (immersion teachers- take one share one!):
Lets Get Acquainted Blackline #1-fr.docxGraph The Class-Prediction Blackline#2 – fr.docx
Graph The Class Blackline#3 – fr.docxDraw and Predit Draft Revison – fr.docx

Revised math assessments from the Vancouver Island Net (a group of math consultants and teachers from Vancouver Island).
Note: This has not been updated for the new revised curriculum:
If you can’t attend the Start UP! Series:
You can use the number skills page in the assessments below. It’s a quick assessment of those skills expected at the grade listed: eg. beginning of Grade 4. There is a key at the end, and you can have a student mark them. Keep them on file so you be able to see evidence of progress during the year.
End of Grade 3 – Beginning of Grade 4 WNCP.pdfEnd of Grade 4 – Beginning of Grade 5 WNCP.pdfEnd of Grade 5 – Beginning of Grade 6 WNCP.pdfEnd of Grade 6 – Beginning of Grade 7 WNCP.pdf

Ann-Marie and I suggest you use the Math Basics. The Math Basics program is available from Trevor Calkins at www.poweroften.ca you can get a CD with each grade. It is a complete program that builds math confidence while reviewing concepts. I used it for about 15-20 min at the start of each math class right after lunch.

Link to the Math Home page for a lot more info on the Math Basics program (from Ann-Marie Hunter).
Link to Planning the Year Page (Yearly Planning etc).

PE Game- Eco Tag:
PE Lesson– Eco Tag.doc