Archive | January 2012

Semester 2 A New Start

This week we have been on exams with a fresh start coming up next week. Once I started inputting the marks and printed them out, having 2 students failing, 1 of them it was the second time he failed. It is a horrible feeling when you know they will have to do it all over again a second (or third time). Where did they go wrong? They knew this was happening and from what all the teachers do before hand to help them but what can be done to fix it? You can call home, offer extra help, give assignments a second, third, fourth time, refer to the VP, refer to Guidance, make classes fun, and still the problem exists. The main issue is the attendance, being late and falling behind or missing class after class is detrimental to the success in a course. What home situations are these students going through or outside influences that cause them to miss class? Or could it be something in the school that is forcing them out? Did they meet the expectations of the curriculum? Or learn enough science to prepare them for life? All these questions come up and when you have 30 students per class they can all be answered very differently as they have all had a different starting point and different pathways to follow. I always feel personally responsible when a student fails. With semester 2 starting, we all need to look at what we are doing and how we can engage all students. We can implement early all the supports, instil trust and a solid organized plan as school schedule may be the only consistent thing in the students’ lives. I look forward to the new group of students and especially the grade 9 science class where my goal is to make science as fun, exciting and useful for them as possible and get them to really start exploring the world around them!


Not another boring brochure! Using Wiki’s for STSE projects

2012 TDSB Secondary Science Teacher’s Conference 

Friday February 17th 2012
Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute

Not another boring brochure! Using Wiki’s for STSE projects

Brandon Zoras
Science Teacher, Cedarbrae CI

Target: Common / General Interest / All course relevance ROOM # ‐ 222 KTL Ref: AM‐S1.06

This workshop will showcase past projects from my grade 9, 10, 11U & 12U Chemistry classes. It will highlight curriculum from 9/10 science and possible projects based on STSE / inquiry. There will be a tutorial on how to use wikispaces software: creating an account and imbedding videos, pictures and text into the site. There will be time to create accounts and pair in groups based on grade/subject. We will conclude with sharing experiences and exchanging sites for future collaboration. 


The above is the description for the one session workshop I will be leading at the TDSB Science Teacher Conference.  I am excited to be leading my first session in a conference for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I really want to see the use of technology expand into all teachers’ classrooms.  Yes, making posters and colouring brochures can have it’s place but when you can have the students creating wikis it is engaging and fun!

Having true web 2.0 in the classroom is having students create content and not just be the consumer of information.  Having students bring in prior knowledge and experiences into the class acknowledges them as partners in learning and not just a one way flow of information from teacher to student.  We can collaborate on a fluid document that can be used for a variety things.

Examples of Wikis I used:

Eco Club at Cedarbrae:

Grade 11 Chemistry Self Study Chapters:

Grade 9 Power Project 


First Week Back

The first week back always brings a mixed amount of emotions for the students.  Some wish the holidays could have kept on going for weeks on end.  Most are happy to return and for a variety of reasons.  School can be a social outlet with friends, sports and academic support.  To some though it can be a break from home and a refuge.  I am happy to be back into the routine as both a classroom teacher and a graduate student myself.

Today I had 11 teachers come into my grade 9 applied science class and then over to my grade 11 chemistry class.  It was a great experience to showcase some of the work I have been doing and also to talk to educators for feedback.  We used the class set of netbooks to look at some great simulations (, YouTube videos and news articles.  The grade 9’s looked at solar systems and used online animations to explore the planets as well as test their skills at making a functioning orbiting system themselves.  The grade 11’s discussed greenhouse gas emissions and the tar sands (oil sands) are represented in the media.  We then did a virtual lab on gas laws and graphed the results in Excel.  The teachers that visited checked out my class site ( and really enjoyed the engagement of the students.

I love the blended learning environment I have established in my classroom with all the different aspects coming together.  This semester I felt I have moved into not just using technology and showing other peoples work but had the students actively participating and using technology to create information (wikis and YouTube).  True learning takes place when the students are using critical thinking, prior knowledge and creativity to share their own generated information.

PLC department Video

The theme for our PLC at school is Eco- Schools. As a department we needed a way to get a message to the school about the lack of recycling the school has and a way to mobilize the staff and students to get involved. We are using humour to look at how the current situation and attitudes in the school are. A waste diversion program called “These Come From Trees” is also featured in the video which i brought to Cedarbrae. We also decided on getting the home forms to write letters asking the TDSB to get involved in recycling programs board wide.

This movie was a way the staff was actually involved but this is a perfect media to get students involved to facilitate change as well. I have done similar projects in science and chemistry classes where they students must look at the environmental and societal impacts of chemicals or processes. The students came up with very good videos.

Education is one amazing career choice!!!

You know you love your career when the thought of returning to work after the holidays is a positive one!  Thinking of walking back into school Monday and being with the students is something I have missed over the holidays.   I know it sounds a bit corny but the students are the reason I am doing this job in the first place, so might as well get excited about them.  It isn’t always about titrations, atomic theory and how many electrons calcium has, but the experiences within the classroom themselves.  The content can be read from a book and a good teacher should not just be another source of content.  We should be the ones engaging students, sparking interest and turning over the control to them and be a guide.  Let them create content and acknowledge their previous knowledge. Image

This 2 week break has been a great time to spend with family and take time for myself, but it has also been a great time of self-discovery.  After being inspired by fellow teachers, graduate students and professors a like, I have taken time to really think about my teaching career and graduate level schooling.  I think the two are so highly infused within each other that I can’t look at them separate.   I have taken to making this blog and establishing an online identity (thanks @monicaannebatac) and also making connections with those in my field.  Having read Chris Emdin’s book Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation (@chrisemdin), I decided to message him to share that his work has helped with my own work.  I received an immediate response and felt very inspired that someone with such a wealth of experience and a leader in urban science education took the time to acknowledge my work.  Talk about technology bringing us closer!

YouTube Channel

I am really getting into YouTube and would like to share my channel.  Some videos are educational, school based and others are just for fun! Hope you enjoy