Monthly Archives: November 2016

Lesson planning differences: Practicum vs. My Teachables Course

by Susan
Master of Teaching


Earlier this month, I started my first practicum in the MT program. A month and a half has gone into preparing me on theory and practise teaching. In this post, I will talk about my take on lesson planning in the OISE classroom and during practicum.

Resources for Learning Materials

All of my instructors shared useful resources from ministry documents to specific lesson activities available online for teachers. However during practicum, I am overwhelmed by these additional resources and when and how to incorporate it into my lessons. For my first teaching practicum, my AT was kind enough to share with me her worksheets and the textbook used in the class. In future practicums I definitely plan on using the additional online resources by having a list of activities prepared ahead of time so it doesn’t feel overwhelming when the practicum begins.

Lesson plan structure

A great thing I noticed in my classes at OISE was that many of my instructors had gone over what to include in a lesson plan and how to incorporate aspects of the course they were teaching into it.

In my general science teachable class, there were 3 lesson planning activities. They ranged from learning to incorporate questioning as a method for effective student learning to carrying out a micro lesson in 7 – 10 minutes to planning a hypothetical unit in science.

In my Fundamentals of Teaching class, my cohort had weekly observations in grade 7-12 classrooms at UTS in the month leading up to November practicum. Each week, the focus for these observations change according to a concept taught in class.

I was able to observe:

  • a senior chemistry class for overall lesson structure
  • an intermediate drama class for lesson environment and space
  • a senior biology class for transition of activity to activity, and
  • an intermediate math class classroom management of different lesson tasks and activities

What I did in the preparation for practicum at OISE was more challenging than lesson planning in an actual classroom. That is because being in an actual school where the lessons are a continuation of what I taught the previous class, I have the entire 75-minute period to carry out a full lesson and I have a realistic idea of what type of expectation I should have from my students and that influences my lesson plans. That being said, in a real teaching environment, I am faced with more time management and classroom management issues that a perfectly planned out lesson or monthly unit plan cannot foresee. Don’t fret, this is just another opportunity for me to observe how long students can hold their attention performing a particular task and communicating with students in a form other than delivering a lesson.

PA Days – What it means for teachers

by Susan
Master of Teaching


Normally I would be sleeping in on a PA day as an elementary or secondary student but on a beautiful Friday morning in November, I am attending my first PA Day as a student teacher at my practicum school. Here is what a PA Day looks like for a teacher:

9AM: Refreshments and minds-on

Just like how we try to engage our students with an introductory activity, the facilitators this morning used iPads to anonymously survey our idea of “What does 21st century learning look like?”

Learning goals this morning:

  1. C/STEM – how to engage students in “real-world” 21st century C/STEM problems
  2. Brainstorm how it looks like in the classroom
  3. Explore available resources

9:30 AM: Learning goal # 1 – Using newspaper headlines to generate questions and using a Q-chart to categorize questions.

Ex: “Rio’s waters are so filthy that 2016 Olympians risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete”

Generating questions allow students to gain Factual knowledge, Predict, Understand and apply, Analyze and Apply, and Synthesize and Evaluate. These categories all fall under Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher and Lower Order thinking.

10:30 AM: Learning goal # 2 activity – Engineering Design Problem Based Learning. Teacher groups sharing their water filters designs and materials used to build the filter.

It was funny to see the activities are being unravelled, teachers like students are eager to touch materials laid out on tables and are becoming growingly restless waiting for the instructions to be over and get started. To tackle this challenge, each group had to design a water filter based on a given country and GDP. This activity was exciting as the departments faced off against each other. As a science teacher, there was a combination of health, chemical and engineering expertise in my group. We touched on topics from science to politics and the United Nations. It was nice to see some friendly inter-departmental competition and banter.

The activity drew links from the real world such as finances and literacy rates between different countries. Groups that were assigned countries with low GDP were also given instructions that were less legible than countries with high GDP and high rates of literacy.

11 AM: Learning goal # 3 – 21st century competencies document

Interestingly from the minds-on activity, I knew this document would come up somewhere in the presentation! It is a document I am currently reading for my issues class as part of my service learning project (SLP). So stay tuned for that!

Well that concludes the morning session. The afternoon session will resume after lunch and it is more self-directed as teachers will be given a number of workshops to choose from.

12:30 PM: Mark verification for report cards and comments.

1:30 PM: Finding trends in student absences across courses

2:30 PM: Departmental meetings

This last portion of the day brought science teachers together to discuss administration and curriculum in the department. Science teachers seem to be the most organized of the teachers. Everyone was so excited to order new school supplies and organize the chemical storage room (because safety is a top priority!). We also discussed roles in the department such as unit leaders that can serve as mentors for new teachers on units they may not be familiar or just to keep other teachers who are doing the same unit on track with similar content, labs and assessments.

Before today, I had always imagined a PA day as a day where teachers just sit together and get lectured by the principals for an entire day! I was very surprised at how interesting the day was and I hope this was interesting for you too.

Practicum Highlights: Week 1 and 2

by Susan
Master of Teaching


Week 1:

The first week of practicum was meant to be to low pressure. As a teacher candidate on my first practicum the week 1 was mostly observation and adjusting to the classroom and the school. This is also the time for me to get to know my associate teacher (AT), note her routines and start thinking about the lessons I will be teaching.

My AT is super on top of her lesson planning and I work well with her because I am a bit of a compulsive organizer. So rather than sitting and observing all through week 1 of my practicum, I was able to jump into several group activities the students were working on. They were finishing the biology unit with a heart and frog dissection – my favorite part about biology- and I got to help students with hands-on teaching and learning.

Although this block of practicum is 20 days, the school is non-semestered. By the time I begin teaching in week 2, I have 7 lessons and in that time, I will need to give 1 to 2 quizzes, maybe a lab, and a half chapter/unit test.  So half way through the week, I gave my students a diagnostic checklist in preparation for the chemistry unit which I will be teaching solo, to give me an idea of how to structure the first review lesson and the pace I should be going at with my class. At the end of week 1, the students finished their biology unit with a test and I got to run the bell ringer portion of the test using frogs dissected and labelled by yours truly.

Honestly, after the first week, I couldn’t wait to begin teaching solo because the comfort level was there.

Week 2:

I started the week off by having my lessons prepared and photocopying done. The exhilaration from the week before carried over to week 2. I looked forward to starting a new unit with my grade 10s and I was doing it solo. I had discussed with my AT that I was comfortable teaching an entire 75 minute lesson by myself from the get-go because of my previous experience as a teaching assistant while in university. Now teacher candidates have the option to slowly work towards teaching a full 75 minute class by starting out with co-teaching, co-planning lessons and slowly inserting themselves into the classroom so they would be comfortable leading the class.

One thing I learned after delivering my first lesson was how much longer the lesson turned out to be than I had anticipated. In my mind, I was going to introduce myself and hand out photocopies in the first 10 minutes, give a 20 minute PowerPoint review, followed by a 20 minute activity and a 20 minute lesson on the chalkboard with time left over to assign homework and prep for a quiz the next class, but I had about 10 more minutes of chalkboard notes to go when the bell rang. That meant I had to move the quiz to two classes and save the homework for the next class.

I taught the same lesson with my afternoon grade 10s and realized I got through the same amount as my morning class. This was a relief because it wasn’t due to the students slowing the class down or my delivery but the number of things I had jammed into one class. Going forward I have a much better sense of the amount of material and activities to put into one class. This will be put to the test soon enough because every week my practicum has a late start day and classes will be cut shorter than normal.

Stay tuned for my next post on lesson planning!

Interview With: International Student, Siwen Tang

by Anna
MEd student, Developmental Psychology and Education

Hi there! ^_^

For this week’s blog post, I’m going to do something different & interview a friend of mine, Siwen Tang, who is also an OISE student.

I met Siwen on Facebook when I commented on one of her posts in a Facebook group we both joined. We ended up talking, and finally met in August of this year before we both started studying at OISE.

Siwen is a first year MEd student in the Language & Literacies Education program in the Curriculum, Teaching, & Learning Department at OISE. Her expected graduation date is Winter 2017.


Without further ado, I now present her opinion about OISE & Toronto as an international student:

A: What drew you to OISE’s program?

S: “Before coming to OISE, I was a full-time English teacher in a large English training institute in Shanghai, China. I taught English to adults who wanted to have a better job. I learned that English is more than just a language of communication between nations and cultures, but it is also a means for people from all walks of life to achieve betterment. Teaching English is one way of giving people a tool to find better jobs, get promotions and pursue dreams abroad.

While I really loved my job, I noticed the deficiency of my teaching, my limited understanding of language and literacy, and my company’s money-oriented education policy. This couldn’t be fixed simply by gaining teaching experience or experimenting. Sometimes my supervisor and I had different views on English teaching and learning. I realized I wanted to learn more advanced theories about language literacy education. I also wanted to see the world.  

I feel this OISE is the best place for me to explore the answers to all my questions and achieve my career goals. The Language and Literacies Education (LLE) program offers me a big selection of courses related to my field. By attending these classes, I will gain a better understanding of teaching, learning and using English as a second language in diverse settings. I can also gain knowledge about language education, policies and planning and teacher education.

I believe that the University of Toronto/OISE’s Language and Literacies Education MEd will provide me with the opportunity to learn in a diverse setting, one which would not be possible in China or even across Asia. Canada also provides an ideal environment for ESL research and experimentation because of its unique status as a mosaic nation of bilingual immigrants.”

A: What did you love about the program and/or your professors and peers?

S: “There are three things I love about the LLE program at OISE.

First is the big course selection. I can choose ten courses from all the courses offered at OISE. While I can focus on courses in language and literacy education, I can also choose classes on leadership, curriculum studies and adult education. This allows us to explore our potential interests. For example, before taking the course Language Art in Elementary School by Professor Clare Kosnik, I was never interested in children’s literacy education. I didn’t know anything about this field. Now, I am so engaged in her class and have learned so much about this topic. Her class has totally changed my view on children literacy education. It is such an eye-opener.

The second thing I love about the LLE program is the flexibility. As I mentioned above, as a full-time student, I am required to take ten courses in order to graduate. The program is one and a half years. I can take classes during Summer session too. This means I will not be extremely burdened by studying. Three courses a semester allows students to have more time to themselves (to work, socialize, or travel). Currently, I just need to go to school three days a week. I have a lot of free time to do what I want to do outside the classroom. Right now I am making Mandarin tutorial videos on Youtube. I am also taking a part-time course at a college nearby. I also have time to explore the city and socialize. The flexibility of the program means graduate students can have a good balance between studying and leisure.


The last thing I love about the LLE program is the warm, welcoming learning environment in every class I am taking now.  It is very different from my personal class experience in China, where teachers are talking while students are expected to be quiet and attentive. Here at OISE, there are always a lot of group discussion and presentations in class.  Students are always engaged in class and encouraged to voice their opinions. Professors act more as facilitators who create this welcoming and open learning environment, where everyone feels included and willing to express his/her own ideas. Everyone’s opinion and contribution is valued. As an international student, I felt nervous and was afraid of making mistakes in the beginning. I did not talk much in class. I remember my hands were all sweaty when I did my first presentation at OISE. However, professors and other colleagues are so patient and kind with me. I feel much more confident and comfortable in giving presentations and participating in other classroom activities now.

Lastly, I love the people here – both the professors and my peers. The professors I’ve met are very intellectual and extremely kind. They are very friendly and patient. They always give me feedback, and are willing to answer or discuss the questions I have. My peers in the LLE program are experienced language educators in Canada or from different cultural backgrounds. I have met teachers from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Britain, China and Korea. This multiculturalism has brought an interesting dynamic and chemistry into the classroom discussions. I have learned a lot by interacting with them. I feel very blessed and lucky to work with them.”

A: What did you learn about yourself at OISE?

S: “At OISE, there are a lot of group projects in each course. By cooperating with colleagues, I learned that I am good at thinking of new ideas, but not so good at pushing myself to get things done. I am kind of a procrastinator. To solve a problem, the first thing to do is to recognize there is one. I will try my best not to be a procrastinator in the future.”

A: What would you say to a future OISE student?

S: “Don’t be shy or feel embarrassed to voice your opinion. Professor and students are here together to share our ideas, solve problems and create something new. At OISE, you can gain more than you expected, both academically and socially.”

siwen-interview-picture-3 siwen-interview-picture-4

Final thoughts:
I think that Siwen is a really interesting & enthusiastic person. ^_^ I also wish her the best of luck in completing her degree at OISE!

I hope that my readers enjoyed this post about the perspective of an international graduate student! OISE offers a unique experience due to the diversity of its students’ backgrounds & personal experiences. This post is just a small peek of that. For more information about OISE programs and student life/services, visit:

Shake it off: Practicum Jitters

by Susan
Master of Teaching


If you had the chance to go back to high school, would you do it again? For intermediate/senior teacher candidates (TCs), it’s most likely “yes!”.

With Fall practicum occurring in the month of November, TCs will do just that – return to high school! My experience back in school has been quite an eye opener. It seems as though students are given much more autonomy in schools and teachers are sometimes “competing” for the attention of their students over personal devices such as cellphones and laptops. Or maybe because I am now looking at high school through the lens of a teacher and not as a student.

I will be teaching the chemistry unit in a grade 10 enriched science class, so my expectation of the students will be high and I’m sure the students expect a high quality delivery from me as well. Right about now, some nervousness is starting to creep up. I’m asking myself “Am I creative enough?” and “How will I keep these kids engaged?”. Luckily, I have an experienced associate teacher (AT) who will be mentoring me as I get to know the school, her department and her students.

The jitters disappeared just as fast as they crept up because the weeks leading up to this first practicum was full of advice. My classes not only prepared me for my teaching subject like how to plan a lesson with ministry requirements in mind but also understanding the basics in adolescent psychology, fundamentals of teaching and issues related to secondary schools. Not to mention everyone in my cohort (including the instructors) is so supportive of each other. We gathered together after the first observation and found that many of us all shared the same concerns and nervousness. To top it all off, one of my classmates had the brilliant idea of having us write “warm fuzzy” letters to everyone in the class and placing them in envelopes with our names on it. We took our warm fuzzies home and read them the night before heading out to our practicum school once again. Reading all the nice comments from everyone reminded me of all the good qualities I have as a teacher and I am more confident than ever starting my practicum!


Admission Tips and Tricks

by Anna
MEd student, Developmental Psychology and Education

Hey there! 🙂

I know that students are likely feeling pretty antsy because graduate school applications are due! OISE’s deadline is November 15th for some programs, and more information about specific program deadlines is located HERE. Note that some Closing Dates are TBA, so remember to check that specific page for updated information later on.

The deadline to apply to my graduate program, the Masters of Education in Developmental Psychology & Education, is actually March 31st, 2017. This is to give working professionals such as teachers more time to decide if they want to apply to this program.

I think this is a good choice, but I’m still writing this post early to give people the relevant information.

Admission Requirements for a Masters of Education in Developmental Psychology & Education:

  • 4-year Bachelors Degree with an average of a mid-B or better in the final year
  • 1 year of relevant professional experience
  • Normally possess teaching certification
  • 2 letters of recommendation (preferably 1 academic & 1 professional)

All the relevant information was taken from HERE.

My Tips & Tricks to Get into the MEd in DPE (& Possibly Other OISE Programs)

  1. Apply to more than one OISE Program (which is why I’m writing this post early)
  • OISE’s Application fee is $220 for up to three program choices, which is pretty steep. You can use the same letters of recommendations & application information, including transcripts, for three applications so why not? Potential students might want to clearly indicate which parts of their Personal Statement are geared towards which program in their application. Full details can be found HERE.

2. Recognize that Admission Requirements reflect the profile of the most typical candidates and not every candidate.

  • I have a lot of teachers in my classes, but I’m not a teacher nor certified to be one. I’m still in this graduate program because I have relevant experience in the field of education & met all the other requirements.
  • I’ve also met students who aren’t Ontario Certified Teachers per say but are Early Childhood Educators who ended up getting a Bachelors degree before/after finishing their ECE diploma. Reputable TESOL or TEFL certification would also be relevant.

3. Include any research experience you have, including anything course-based.

  • This graduate program is a professional program, which means no thesis. It’s still good to show the Admissions Committee that you’re capable of doing research & thinking critically, especially for a graduate department as research-intensive as OISE.
  • Research experience doesn’t always have to be in a lab! I took an upper-year course about doing research in psychology where I designed a study, & I did an undergraduate thesis that was in progress during the time of my application. I included both courses as research experience on my CV/Resume.
  • Qualitative/observational research may also help, especially if you’re a teacher who participated in said activities in a relevant school or community setting.

4. Include & reflect on anything that makes you unique.

  • OISE really values the diversity of its applicants & students, so include anything that makes you stand out! If you’re the first person in your family to apply to graduate school, say that. If you speak any other languages, mention this in the context of what you hope to accomplish/learn at OISE.
  • International applicants may find it helpful to reflect on why they want to come to OISE/U of T, & their experience learning English (if they come from a non-English speaking country/part of the world). Incidentally, past OISE Student Ambassador Roxana wrote THIS POST about Admissions for International Students. This information is also available in Spanish HERE.

5. Recognize that the year of professional experience required doesn’t have to be done after you graduate with an undergraduate degree.

  • It can be acquired during your degree or during the summer. If you had a relevant job during your undergraduate degree, that counts. If you volunteered somewhere in the field of education or were part of a club, that’s also relevant.
  • Include anything on your CV/Resume that could help, including volunteer work & any relevant workshops or conferences you may have attended.

6. Try to apply to at least one program where admissions aren’t as difficult/competitive.

  • Certain graduate programs at OISE get a lot of applications & attention, such as the MEd in Counselling & Psychotherapy. If you’re also interested in some of these programs, it’s a good idea to apply to at least one graduate program at OISE that doesn’t receive as much attention. My application to the MEd in Counselling & Psychotherapy was, unfortunately, unsuccessful, but I likely wouldn’t have time to write this blog post if it was! 😛

I hope that what I wrote was helpful, and relieves some anxiety during this difficult time. I won’t tell anybody not to procrastinate, but do hope that everybody takes the time to reflect on why they want to come to OISE before they apply.

More information about Graduate Admissions at OISE is located HERE, and the School of Graduate Studies Application System portal is located HERE.

Happy Application Season! ^_^