Preparing for THE TEST!

I’ve been working hard to prepare my students for THE TEST all year. Here’s a check list that I created for myself in August while planning and looking forward to the new school year and the TEST I’m responsible for preparing them for.


___ Teach kids the value of school. Get them excited about coming to school EVERY day.

___ Get kids curious about learning. Teach them how to ask questions that will challenge their thinking and mine.

___ Teach kids how to fail forward, to make mistakes, learn from them and to become even  better people.

___ Get the kids outside to enjoy and appreciate their natural surroundings.

___ Get kids active. Show them the value of daily physical activity.

___ Teach kids how to think, not necessarily what to think.

___ Teach kids how to problem solve, not just in math, but in life.

___ Challenge kids to think outside the box/book/text/test.

___ Model to kids the positive power of social media.

___ Have kids understand how they can leverage tech to have a positive impact on their lives.

___ Show students the value and wonder of the arts. 

___ Create opportunities for students to learn mindfulness techniques.

___ Provide opportunities for self reflection and goal setting.

___ Provide rich opportunities for kids to gain a deep understanding of the many global issues our world is faced with. 

___ Empower my students to be agents of change.

___ Encourage rich dialogue which spark debate and differences of opinion.

___ Read! Provide time for self selected independent reading everyday. Show kids that books can take them anywhere.

___ Create a sense of adventure and risk taking in the classroom.

___ Break down the walls of my classroom and “take” students on trips that span the globe.

___ Connect with parents. Continue our learning beyond the classroom. Have the students bring their learning  home.

___ Have kids understand that math is all around them. 

___ Connect with people and invite them to speak with kids about their jobs.

___ Give students a voice that permeates beyond our classroom walls.

___ Have kids understand who their most important connections are.

___ Teach kids how to make informed choices when selecting the tool(s) they will leverage to demonstrate their learning.

___ Teach kids how to be difference makers! Give students many opportunities to make positive differences for themselves, their peers, family members, their environment, their community and the world!

___ Teach kids that they can do anything they put their mind to. 

I think my “kids” are prepared. I’m confident that I’ve done my job to the best of my ability and I feel good knowing that I’ve done my part in helping to effectively prepare my students for THE TEST!

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#MADPD What’s Next?

WOW! #MADPD far exceeded our wildest hopes and expectations! Thanks to the 60
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and hundreds of participants from around the globe our vision to make a difference for teachers and students across the globe became a reality! Together we learned, shared, challenged and supported one another. On May 7th we watched the #MADPD hashtag trend to as high as number two in Canada and by the end of the day there had been well over 2000 collective views of the videos.


  1. We will be working to make the MADPD website more user friendly, compiling the videos according to themes. You can still navigate to all the incredible videos on the landing page.
  2. We hope that people will continue to dig into all of the incredibly valuable videos that have been created. There are over 60 recordings of educators sharing their best ideas that make a difference for both themselves and their students. I have only watched 3 to date, I plan on viewing 2 to 3 each week and then blog about and/or share them via Twitter using the #MADPD hashtag. It would be great if others did the same.
  3.  When you have one of those “AH HA” moments, make a break through, find an incredible resource or learn a powerful tool, please SHARE! You can do this simply by tweeting or creating a YouTube Live video to share! Better yet, invite a few educators to share your MAD idea with by having them join your YouTube Live event!
  4. We anticipate a #MADPDchat on a monthly (or semi monthly) basis.
  5. Of course, we will host our second annual #MADPD Event in 2018. If this is just the beginning we can’t wait to see what next year brings!

We would love to continue to collect your feedback and ideas. Please take a moment to fill in the short presenter’s survey and/or the participants survey.

Also, enjoy reading the blogs about the #MADPD event: Victoria Woelders,  Noa Daniel and Catherine Tang.

Again, thanks for all that YOU do to make a difference!

Pete and Derek

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“Bang for the Buck” Math

How much math learning can come from one bucket of money? How many  rich, complex and relevant questions can be asked? How many expectations and strands can be covered? How many different solutions can be shared?

On Friday, April 21st my students along with Mrs. Shaughnessy’s class held a M.A.D (Make A Difference) Yard Sale  to help support then many local, national and global issues we have been studying in Social Studies. All the proceeds will be divided equally between our 45 difference makers and they, in turn, will donate the proceeds to a NGO or charity of their choice to help make a difference.

We had one large bucket full of money to count! First, we estimated the amount of money we had in bills.

While we worked on our reasonable estimates an opportunity to review fractions, decimals, percents and ratio presented itself

We also had to manage all the data, which led opportunities for selecting and creating appropriate graphs. A discussion about range, mean, median and mode ensued and interesting an opportunity to discuss multiples came up as well.

Making a reasonable prediction of the amount of change proved to be a bit more difficult so we decided to take three “test” piles.

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We totalled the exact amounts in each pile. We were amazed to find that the 3 “test” piles had following money amounts: $28.80, $29.80 and $30.80. This led to a discussion about mean and median. These numbers sure made our job easy! We decided it was fair to say that an average of $30.00 would be in each of my handfuls.

Mr. C was pleased to hear many students naturally starting to ponder how many of his handfuls would be needed to empty the buckets of money! This would lead them to make a reasonable estimate! This new data led to many more rich cross strand math  discussions.

It also lead to an authentic opportunity to read numbers with decimals. After much discussion and this “mistake” below, students were able to solidify their understanding of decimal amounts.

We tallied allow of our “coin estimates” and discussed “range”. We also figured out the amounts rounded to the nearest hundred.

We were finally ready to make very reasonable estimates of the TOTAL amount of money we raised.

Everyone was excited and ready to help to begin counting ALL the money. Mr.C sat back and observed the students take on a variety of roles; some counted, some stacked, others grouped, other tallied, a few calculated and others double checked.

While totalling all of the money amounts we worked on multiplying multi digit numbers with decimals. The students used a variety of strategies based on the numbers and their combinations. When all was said and done, we figured that we had raised $1891.92! It was great fun comparing our estimates to the actual totals.

Now it was time to figure out how much money each group would receive to donate to their specific charity. Between our class and Mrs. Shaughnessy’s  There were 24 groups. The kids were anxious to start figuring out approximately how much money they would receive so they could begin their emails to the charities they had selected as part of their M.A.D Project!

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Many students have already received thank you emails

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Our kids are now incredibly excited to share their M.A.D Projects at our M.A.D Fair on May 2 so our entire St. Elizabeth School Community can learn how each one of them helped to make a difference. Below is a video of our 2016 M.A.D Fair

If you class would like to start a M.A.D Project of their own, I have shared all my Make a Difference resources on my website.


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Test time…stress time?


It’s that time of year again. A time that many of us know all too well. Test time. Assessment time. Call it what you want.

Stress time.

Believe me, you are not alone in feeling the pressures of the provincial test.  As I read blog posts, chat with colleagues and connect with my PLN, I feel the tension of the EQAO test. You are struggling with how to cover all of the strands in a condensed amount of time. You are struggling with how to get your naturally collaborative working class to get used to working independently.  You are struggling with how you will not give feedback and support when that is what is naturally ingrained in what you do as a teacher. You are struggling to not leave anyone behind while being pushed ahead by the pressures of the test. You are struggling to focus on the child when so much emphasis and focus is placed on “the test”.

I have been teaching grade 5/6 since the inception of the EQAO assessment and I share your same struggles. Throughout the years, my students have scored all over the map on the provincial assessment; extremely high, low, and everywhere in between.  Experience has taught me a valuable lesson. I now refuse to “teach to the test” and allow my students and myself to become a slave to it. I teach to my kids and to their individual learning needs. I have stopped focusing on the test and the results. In fact, I believe “the test” has become an inhibitor to quality instruction, particularly in math. How much time are teachers spending using EQAO practice booklets, multiple choice questions and worksheets? Is this not robbing our students and teachers of the opportunity for developing and working or rich, complex and relevant questions?

I am committed to doing what is best for my kids; to make them want to get up and come to school everyday, excited to learn, share, explore, be challenged, ask questions and solve real problems to real world questions. I want them to learn and understand how to use the multitude of tools that they have available to them make a difference for themselves, others and their future. This kind of learning doesn’t result from being “test focused” it is the result of being “kid focused”. And do you know what? I am confident my students will be well prepared for any type of test that life has to throw at them!

Perhaps it’s not that teachers need to change; in fact I’d argue that we are always innovating and evolving for the good of our students. Perhaps it’s EQAO that needs to be innovative in how they assess our kids . WHAT IF students could submit ePortfolios, podcasts, videos and screencasts to demonstrate their learning? Better yet, WHAT IF EQAO could send PEOPLE to our schools, to spend time, sitting and listening to our students? If that’s not possible, WHAT if each of our students had the opportunity to demonstrate their learning via a Skype call or a Google Hangout? If this were the case, how much different would the learning look in our classrooms? Would the results be different?

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Not another Twitter Chat!

I appreciate a good twitter chat. I also appreciate being part of the @ONedchat team. This week, I’ll be moderating the #ONedchat with guest moderator Lee Araoz, coordinator of Instructional Technology, staff developer and coach. Lee is an online course creator & student-directed learning evangelist. He resides in Long Island, New York

Lee and I will be running a fairly traditional Twitter chat  on Genius Hour and PBL on Wednesday, April 19 from 8:30 to 9:30 EST.hMLKeiVs

Here’s where it’ll get a little different. From 8:00-8:30 EST, right before our Twitter chat, Lee and I will be hosting a YOUTube Live event where we’ll be sharing our best Genius Hour/PBL idea/resource that make a difference in our teaching practice. We will follow with a quick Q and A and then continue the conversation with our Twitter chat. If you’d like to join us live, on-air to engage with us, please fill in the form. Otherwise follow this link to watch the live event.

We look forward to sharing and learning with you!

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Put Your City on the Map!

We have used descriptive writing, our research skills, visualizing, visual arts and a combination of tech tools to put our city on the map. Each student picked one of their favourite places unique to our city; Thunder Bay. Their task was to write a descriptive paragraph about their place, capture it using a variety of media forms and then literally put their place on an interactive map of Thunder Bay .

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 Below is our interactive map with each of our favourite places! Click on “enlarge icon” in the upper right corner then click each of the pins or subtitles to take you to a link to each student’s descriptive paragraphs and artwork. ***We’d LOVE to from you! Please take a moment to sign our digital guest book!

We are looking forward to sharing our map with our pen pals from the United Kingdom to help them get to know our city a little better.

Why stop there? Perhaps classes throughout the world would like to join us and put their city on the map as well!

So, let’s get started! You can access our ‘Put Your City on the Map’ Google slides and begin. *Please feel free to modify to suit the needs, wants and vision of your own class! Tweet us updates to @cherandpete and include the hashtag #ourcityourmap If you’d like editing rights to slide deck message us and we’d be happy to provide them to allow you to customize.

If you plan on joining us to put your city on the map please fill in this short form to let us know where in the world you are from!

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Visiting our Past

Our St. Elizabeth School students recently travelled back in time to 1816. We experienced our wonderful past at Fort William Historical Park! The many sights and sounds remind us of our rich history and the influence they had on shaping the Canada we love today. The video below captures our journey….

Can you identify the objects that you see? Do you know what they we used for? Who benefited from these objects? Where did each object originate? What object could you not do without? What objects were a necessity? What objects were used for leisure? How did these objects play a role in shaping Canada?



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“Deep” Learning?

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Thanks Jen Hegna for tagging me in your recent blog post “Reflections of Deeper Learning PD”. (We are looking forward to having her share at our #MADPD Day on May 7th). It was a very timely post for me as I’ve recently been reflecting on the term “deep learning”. Below are my comments left on Jen’s post. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Jen, I LOVE how you are leading to redesign and redefine PD. My two big “ahhas” were:

1. “Making the invisible – visible (student artifacts, teachers sharing)”. YES!!! We need to see many more examples of student work in professional development sessions. I would love to see more students actually sharing their work and voice at teacher PD sessions, but logistically that is difficult, though not impossible. From a classroom teacher’s point of view, when teachers are given opportunities to share, my learning goes deeper.

2. “If we believe deeper learning can benefit students – we should model deeper learning strategies in PD.” Exactly. Teachers model all the time. It’s how we get the desired results in our classrooms. If we model our vision of learning and create an environment where deeper learning can thrive, it will happen. Deeper learning comes from deeper questions.

“Deep learning” has quickly become a new catch phrase in education. How is it defined? How is it evaluated? How do we know it’s happening? Sometimes the results of deep learning happen long after the project is done. Sometimes the results of deep learning are not visible at all. Deep learning isn’t a “one off”… it’s simply becomes a way that we learn and think about things. I’m not sure anyone can look at a project from a distance and say “yes” that’s deep learning or no it isn’t. If you want to determine if deep learning (however that is defined) is happening, visit classrooms…not for an hour or even a a day… visit them often and talk to kids and listen to them talk and share. Listen to how they talk, how they think and how they question and you’ll then understand how they learn.

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The Minecraft Selfie and the power a Simple SHARE!

Last Monday, my teaching partner Melinda Shaughnessy offered to share her Minecraft selfie idea with me. Since I was just introducing transformational geometry to my students, I thought this would be a great way start. I left my supply teacher instructions to have my students self direct their learning; to research transformations, watch instructional videos and read webpages that they found relevant and met their learning needs. They took jot notes as they researched and then conquered the Minecraft selfie to demonstrate their understanding of what they had learned.

When I returned the following day, I took a video of a few exemplars and tweeted it which allowed me to share some good examplars with my students. I also share our learning with my students’ parents and included the tweet in our weekly blog.

The tweet received a lot of attention from the greater education community:

Many teachers asked for more information and said that they’d like to try the activity with their class. So, in the spirit of sharing, I’ve compiled a PDF that will help get teachers get started. My class would LOVE to see how your Minecraft selfies turn out. Please tag us in a tweet!

I’d also like to share an extension idea. A past student, Karli Bender, has recently stated teaching in the UK. She contacted me hoping to start a “pen pal friendship” between my class and hers. Of course, I’m all over it and my kids are beyond excited. Here’s my idea: I’m going to have my kids create another Minecraft selfie, this time with the goal of representing themselves as accurately as possible on a larger sized grid paper. They will then write with the body of their letter including three paragraphs; the first on their appearance, the second on their personality and the last on personal facts. We’ll send the letters with the Minecraft selfies included. Karli’s class will be tasked with reading the letters and trying to match the selfies to the writer. If time permits, I’ll have my kids voice record (podcast their letters as well).

Karli has recently written to ask if I know of another class who may be interested in becoming pen pals with her other class. I’m pretty sure I do…. I’ll be asking Mrs. Shaughnessey if her class would like to share in the fun!

Thanks Melinda for sharing your Minecraft selfie activity.

There truly is power in sharing!



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We are ALL Difference Makers

Jose would be arriving in my class in three weeks, I was told. His family was migrating from Venezuela to Thunder Bay. He’d be attending St. Elizabeth School. In my class. He screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-1-06-58-pmcouldn’t speak English. Not a word. Gulp. How could I help? What would I do? How could I make a difference for Jose?

We had access to iPads. I researched translator apps and found “Translator Pro“. My kids learned to speak Spanish. When Jose arrived on his first day at St.Elizabeth school he looked sad, nervous and scared. So did his mom and dad. I approached his family and said, “Welcome Jose, you are going to love your new school and classmates. We are happy to have you in our class!” Blank stares. From behind my back I produced the iPad. I had Jose push a magical button and the iPad translated my greeting into Spanish and spoke,Bienvenido Jose, vas a amar a tu nueva escuela y compañeros de clase. Estamos felices de tenerte en nuestra class!” A huge smile lit up Jose’s face. His dad shook my hand. His mom cried. Tears of joy. 

We walked to our class. My students greeted and conversed with our new friend in Spanish. Jose excelled. He learned a thousand English words by the end of the school year. He was conversing with his classmates in English and was teaching them more Spanish. He taught his peers incredible soccer moves and became our track star. Jose was happy.

Teachers have so many incredible tools at their finger tips to help make a difference for their students. In turn by modelling creative, thoughtful, innovative use of technology we are demonstrating to our children how they can make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others.

Innovating is looking beyond “what is” and asking “what could be?” In early April I’ll be presenting a Keynote titled “We are ALL Difference Makers” where I’ll be sharing many different examples of how I’ve innovated to make a difference for myself, as a teacher, my students, my community and even the world.  I’m hoping that many teachers will help contribute to my keynote by sharing one example of how they’ve  innovated to make a difference. **Please note, an innovative idea might have nothing to do with using technology. By sharing our innovative ideas we will collectively make a difference for our global community of learners. If you are willing to contribute please take a moment to fill in this Google form:  We are ALL Difference Makers.

Thank YOU for making a difference!

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