Lesson Plan To Mark Death of Bin Laden

In the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden, twitter was lighting up with teacher questions about how this historical event should be taught in classrooms.

Here are some suggestions that we’ve gathered from some of the more popular tweets.

Some Questions To Ask Students in Lesson Plan

In order to facilitate a student discussion here are some questions that you can ask:

  1. What is your reaction to the death of Bin Laden?
  2. Is it okay for us to celebrate Bin Laden’s death?
  3. Have the students view and compile newspaper headlines from different parts of the world. How would you describe the reactions of people around the world? Are the reactions different in some countries?
  4. Do you think that images of his death should be released to the public?
  5. Will his death put an end to some of the conspiracies floating around the Internet about 9/11?

The next part of your lesson plan can include some of the biographical details of Osama’s rise to power.

Timeline For Lesson Plan

You can use a timeline teaching tool and have students create an interactive presentation about his life by gathering video, text and images from across the Internet.

The NYT created a sample timeline of his life that can be used as a reference.

Students should focus their own timeline on different stages of his life and organize the timeline according to a theme.

For example, one timeline might have to do with his involvement in the resistance movement against the Soviets while another timeline might focus on post 9/11 events.

The timeline can be worked on and presented as group projects.

Will Venture Capitalists Disrupt Public Education?

Peter Thiel, one of the founding investors in Facebook caused a stir when he proclaimed that higher education was a bubble.

Thiel’s point was that the costs of higher education have grown at a pace far faster than inflation.

“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

Other technologists feel that the cost per course should be only $20. As the education industry open source software and collaborative technology, the costs of education should fall dramatically as students would no longer need to occupy prime real estate.

Could this trend have a trickle down effect to public high schools?

Afterall, the economic picture of most states and provinces is bleak and cutbacks are needed. If a school like MIT starts a trend with smaller, more collaborative classrooms, it would only make sense that the public education sector would follow suit.

In addition, the application of more technology would also increase teacher unemployment that is already at record levels.

Thiel’s argument is largely based around the fact that student loans have reached epic proportions.

“Student loan debt outpaced credit card debt for the first time last year and is likely to top a trillion dollars this year as more students go to college and a growing share borrow money to do so.”

However, on a public school level, the same situation is unfolding. Namely, governments are taking on more and more debt in order to educate the populace.

Is the education industry about to be disrupted like travel agents in the 90’s?

New Teacher Unemployment Statistics Are ‘Staggering’

A recent article in the Globe and Mail highlighted the bleak job prospects for new graduates from Teachers College.

The unemployment rate among recent teaching grads is staggering:

“It’s the continuation of a frightening trend in the province where involuntary unemployment among first-year teachers has grown to 24 per cent from only 3 per cent in 2006. For those who did some teaching in their first year, the underemployment rate rose to 43 per cent in 2010 from 27 per cent in 2006. So two-thirds of teaching grads could not find a full-time job in 2010.”

The crux of the problem is bad demographics. The median age in Canada is about 40. As you can see from the population pyramid below there is a huge bulge of people between 40-65. The baby boom generation  is comprised of 8 million people and most Canadian schools were built to accommodate the swelling number of youngsters in the 60’s and 70’s. However, nowadays the picture is wildly different. Parents are having far fewer children and subsequently that means far fewer students enrolled at Canadian public schools.  Of course, this means less demand for teachers.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Pyramideca2010.jpgThe second problem is that older teachers are not retiring at 60 as was expected. People are in much better health and the retirement dream has lost it’s luster especially as the financial markets have been volatile over the last decade.

The obvious fix to the problem would be to lower the teacher/student ratio. One would assume that students would be better served by classes of 15 students rather than 30 students. However, the academic research has produced mixed results on whether small is better.

In addition, it would be costly to reduce class sizes. Provinces are under enormous financial strain.  For example, Ontario has a greater deficit per capita than California which many economists view as bankrupt.

. Ontario

Secondly, because of the aging population, a greater percentage of government spending will have to be re-directed towards health-care rather than education.

The factors above mean that enrollment at Teachers Colleges should be curtailed to allow the supply of new Canadian teachers to be absorbed by the teaching job marketplace.

Lesson Plan For Nuclear Energy

After the tragedy in Japan, many teachers and students are trying to understand the risks and benefits of nuclear energy. Several reactors in Japan are in danger of “melting down” as emergency workers work round the clock.

The media is abuzz with stories about radiation contamination even on the West Coast of the United States.

In order to help students, teachers and parents separate fact from fiction we’ve compiled a lesson plan that helps understand nuclear energy.


A. Teacher:

  1. To ensure students understand how nuclear energy is generated.
  2. To help students learn how a nuclear power plant works.
  3. To inform students about the benefits and risks of nuclear power.

B. Students should be able to:

  1. Explain the process of nuclear fission.
  2. Explain how nuclear power plants provide energy.
  3. Differentiate between different types of nuclear power plants.


Nuclear power plants are similar to coal/fossil fuel powered plants in that both create heat that produces steam that turns a turbine.

Instead of coal, uranium rods are used as fuel. To generate heat,  neutrons collide into the nucleus of the uranium atoms. This process is called nuclear fission. Once they split in half, energy is released.

Steam is created and this turns a turbine generating power.

A reactor has four main parts: the uranium fuel assemblies, the control rods, the coolant/moderator, and the pressure vessel. The fuel assemblies, control rods, and coolant/moderator make up what is known as the reactor core. The core is surrounded by the pressure vessel.

Q and A

  1. What percentage of total power does nuclear energy make up in your city/state/country?
  2. What are the different types of nuclear plants?
  3. What is a cooling tower?
  4. What is uranium and where can it be found?
  5. What are the main components of a reactor?

Routines are Key To Classroom Management

I recently reviewed some classroom management by Candace Davies, the founder of A+ Resumes for Teachers. She authored a book called “101 Classroom Management Tips.”
Here is my understanding of her tips on using routines for classroom management.

Established routines can greatly enhance your classroom management.

Students respond to an outline of appropriate behavior. It is the teachers’ responsibility to outline this standard of behavior and to enforce this standard with consistency. The consistency element benefits both the student and the teacher.

Routines also serve as a time-saving device for teachers. Like any successful business, the automation of a routine creates an efficiency. For example, when you visit McDonalds the entire order and deliver process is a highly defined routine. The structure is basic enough for high school students all around the world to serve food in under 60 seconds. Similarly, students appreciate easy to follow classroom rules. After an established standard of excellence is defined routines make it possible for students to follow through on their promised behaviour.

Like the McDonalds example above, well established routines eliminate confusion at any point in a lesson. Students always know what is expected because there is consistency from day to day.   Without clear and concise instructions that establish fine-tuned routines, classrooms can easily turn into chaos.

What can lead to unmanageable situations? Vague instructions can create confusion in the students. They are unclear of what the teacher wants often because the teacher is unclear about what she wants. The best students will behave well no matter what, but some students will invariably take advantage of the vague instructions. These students will use the time to chat, or waste time. Of course what comes next is increased frustration on the part of the teacher and repeated instructions.

Why do many teachers avoid creating routines despite the classroom management benefits? The reason is often laziness. It takes time and effort to create and establish routines. It also takes great discipline to stick to the protocol on a daily basis.

By implementing clearly defined routines, you will have a much more efficient and manageable classroom that leaves no room for misbehaving. Once routines are implemented, when you say something like “put away your materials” at the end of a lesson, there will be no confusion and disorder. Students will inherently know what is expected of them in this situation because it is always the same. Also by implementing routines, students will know what to do without you even having to say anything. For instance, they will know that when they enter the classroom they need to come in quietly and sit at their desks. This is why routines are such an integral part of successful classroom management.

Students are definitely capable of following set routines. It is all about specifics, consistency and practice. Once routines have been clearly defined, and practiced, students will know what is expected of them and will start to complete the routines as second nature.

Want to learn many more invaluable classroom management tips? Candace Davies’ comprehensive eBook 101 Classroom Management Tips that can help you transform your classroom for the better.

Classroom Management Tips

I recently reviewed some classroom management by Candace Davies, the founder of A+ Resumes for Teachers. She authored a book called “101 Classroom Management Tips.”
Every teacher has been overwhelmed with unruly students and it’s always great to receive a helping hand from more experienced teachers.
Here are Candace’s Top Five Tips:

In order to get students to follow your instructions and stay on task, you need to instruct them in specific ways that will achieve the results you want. Students need very structured and clear boundaries and guidelines in order for them to undoubtedly know what is expected of them. As soon as instructions become laidback, chaos will soon follow.

Here are five steps that are sure to help you keep your students focused and minimize disruptions:

  1. The first step is to state what you want them to do calmly and clearly. If they are misbehaving, clearly state what they are doing wrong and what they can do to fix it. Leave no room for misunderstanding and also explain to them why they should do what you are asking. Instead of focusing on the negative, tell them what they need to be doing and explain why they should be. For instance how finishing work in class will eliminate the need to complete it at home.
  2. If they don’t listen to you after step one, it’s time to move onto step two which is to explain the consequences of what will happen to them if they continue to misbehave. Remember to remain calm when speaking; tell them matter-of-factly that if they continue this behavior they will lose some of their break time or they’ll need to clean up their mess, etc. Make the consequence specific to their behavior so the student can easily make the connection between the behavior and the consequence.
  3. Once you’ve communicated the consequences, give them a time limit to fix their behavior and then move off to give them time to make the right choice. Since you’ve explained to them exactly what they are doing wrong, exactly what they must change to fix it, and exactly what will happen if they don’t, you are being completely fair and have also given them a clear cut choice to do the right thing. And, by walking away, you’ve taken the pressure off of them in front of their friends, making it easier for them to do the right thing.
  4. If and when they do the right thing, remember to acknowledge it. This will reinforce that they have made the right decision, gives them some positive attention, and will encourage them to do it in the future. If, however, they choose to carry on, this is the time to follow through on your promised consequence. Communicate to the student what’s happened, and that their continued defiance is the sole reason for the consequence. Continue to be calm, showing that you remain in control which will show any other rambunctious students that you follow through on your promises and that you are fair.
  5. If the student continues misbehaving after the consequence, repeat the procedure with tougher consequences. It is important to start off with small consequences so that you can increase them when necessary. By starting off small and moving to larger and larger consequences, the students will also see this as fair, as they’ve done more to warrant a larger consequence the second time around.

Now that you know the five steps toward minimizing disruptions in your classroom, you can put them into effect. The best part about this plan is that it adapts quite easily into your current classroom management, and once you start using it, you will be amazed at how quickly students react to this plan with improved behavior.

Want to learn many more invaluable classroom management tips? Candace Davies’ comprehensive eBook 101 Classroom Management Tips that can help you transform your classroom for the better.

Does Rate My Teacher Have Any Value?

Does the controversial website “Rate My Teacher” have any value?

Basically, the site allows students to post reviews of teachers based on easiness, helpfulness, clarity, and popularity.

In addition, students can post comments about teachers that are within the site guidelines. For example, comments related to personal or family life, appearance, looks or personal hygiene are banned. In addition, comments centered around race or sex are also moderated.

As we all know, ratings and reviews for sites like Amazon.com and Rotten Tomatoes are most helpful. However, do ratings serve any purpose in the educational setting?

First of all, ratings sites do affect which courses students choose. If a teacher has a reputation as an easy marker students will flock to their courses. Of course, students have long shared information about “easy markers” and Rate My Teachers has simply made this information more public and easier to access.

I’ve never met a teacher who has actually changed their teaching style based on comments on the website. The reason is that most of the comments are actually directed towards personality traits rather than constructive criticism.

For example, this would be a typical comment on the website:

“she’s fair, but the way she treats people makes her seem like a rude person.”

As you can see the comment is mostly centered around this teachers’ personality.In addition, most comments are only one or two lines. By contrast, an Amazon book review could be several paragraphs. In addition, Amazon users have an ability to check the other reviews made by the same person to ensure that their objectivity has not been clouded.

Unfortunately, most teachers do not have a web presence meaning that Google searches for their name often lead to the Rate My Teacher rating. For example, let’s say you’re at a cocktail party and meet someone. They run a Google search for your name and see some nasty remarks written by students as the first or second search results. One would hope that people would dismiss such comments but that is often not the case. The ratings can and do affect your overall reputation in the community.

Despite the fact that the site has limited usefulness, teachers have tried to ban the site.  In 2003, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) sought a court injunction to shut down the site, though the request was denied on free speech grounds.

Please visit the Canadian Teacher Forum and chime in on the issue. What has been your personal experience with teacher rating websites?