First Podcast: Success, Failure and Climbing Mountains!

Recently Derek Rhodenizer invited me onto his podcast to discuss PBL. We never got that far, we couldn’t get off the topic of failure! Derek asked me point blank what failure was and after a bit of thinking I responded that it was an opportunity to learn. From there the podcast simply unfolded and a great discussion ensued. It seems that Derek and I can talk forever! The conversation spilled over to our mutual Twitter PLN and Derek wisely started the hashtag #whatisfailure to archive the great conversation.

And then it happened….with the conversation still fresh on my mind and with many ideas still spinning in my head, my students and I googled: “Inspiring poems on courage for kids”. What transpired was simply one of those crazy “AH HA”  moments we all love to experience as teachers. I wanted to blog about it to get my ideas down as soon as possible. The problem was, I couldn’t. I simply didn’t have enough time. So took a deep breathe and attempted my first podcast. It’s raw, unedited and certainly not perfect. But I make no apologies. The purpose of the podcast was to allow me to get my  thoughts down, reflect and learn. I’m happy to share them with you and as always, appreciate your input.

 

 

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Want to improve student achievement?

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-9-17-36-pm

Together we can do it!

GET KIDS TO SCHOOL CONSISTENTLY…EVERY DAY.

Do *REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Authentic, Lasting) work.

Create opportunities for students to make a difference.

Allow students to explore passions and interests.

Connect with your students’ parents.

Read with your students every day.

Less lectures, more field trips.

Create more, consume less.

More feedback, less grades.

Learn with your students.

More choice and voice.

Encourage questions.

Move more, sit less.

Celebrate failure.

Laugh more.

Empower.

Laugh more.

Celebrate failure.

Move more, sit less.

Encourage questions.

More choice and voice.

Learn with your children.

Talk/share more, text less.

Create more, consume less.

Less lectures, more field trips.

Read with your children everyday.

Connect with your children’s teachers.

Encourage your children to explore passions/interests.

Create opportunities for your children to make a difference.

Model life long learning that’s REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Authentic, Lasting ).

GET KIDS TO SCHOOL CONSISTENTLY…EVERY DAY.

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Teaching math? Get REAL!

A total shift in my math teaching mindset occurred a few years ago after straying from the math textbook, as I traditionally did once a year at Christmas during our annual fundraising efforts for our local Shelter House. As tradition has it, my students raise money via a yard sale and then go shopping to a local grocery store where they purchase food for the less fortunate and finally hand deliver the food (a truck full) to the Shelter. Math, during this time, becomes relevant and “real” to my students.  They work with the money we raise and figure out totals, percentages, budgets, unit pricing and manage and analyze the data. For me, teaching math this way proved incredibly rewarding and easy. My students really seemed to”get” the concepts we were discussing.

However, upon returning to school in January, after Christmas Break, I would reluctantly return to the math textbook and math once again, felt mundane and teaching it often felt like pulling teeth. One day, in the middle of January, after returning from recess I asked my students to take out their math texts and turn to their new unit on Geometry. As my kids extracted their texts from their desks, I once again felt more like a dentist than a teacher, I was back to pulling teeth! It was at that pivotal moment that Erin let out I sigh and implored, “Mr. C, when are we going to do some real math again?” Her question stopped me in my tracks. I felt the same way and so did the rest of my class. However, I also felt conflicted. I knew the text like the back of my hand. The questions, assignments, black line masters  and unit tests were all laid out for me. The path was familiar and easy to follow and navigate.  But at the same time my students wanted more. The text didn’t provide the same opportunities for learning math that they desired. They wanted to do real math.

So I took a deep breathe, told my students to put their math textbooks away and put their outdoor clothing back on. Once outside I instructed them get into teams of two and construct a rectangular prism out of snow. The math talk and problem solving immediately began. I brought out the camera and took pictures and video of their learning. We brought all the prisms back inside and I challenged them to find the perimeter and area of the base of their snow cubes. From there we worked on the volume and I figured, while we’re at it, I could introduce surface area. The kids decided they could draw nets to IMG_2590help them find the surface area. The students were completely engrossed in their math and really seemed to be getting it. Their computations were based on something that was relevant, tangible and real to them. We decided that the following day we would compare our prisms, work out the mean and medium and graph and analyze the  data collected. As their rectangular snow prisms began to melt and my students prepared to leave for the day, Erin approached me with a huge smile on her face and thanked me for returning to real math. I thanked her for the challenge and for having the courage to speak up. As the kids walked out the door, I reflected on the number of expectations I had covered in one single lesson because we weren’t  confined and limited to the content of the text. We had the freedom to explore many different math concepts, traveling down some familiar paths, as well as new and unexpected ones.

Over the course of the following years I slowly strayed further and further from the math text to the point where I am today; the math text collects dust on shelves in the back of my room. Finding content is easy! Math is all around us and we have tools at our finger tips to bring real math to our students!  My favourite tools are a camera, SMART Notebook, iMovie, QuickTime GarageBand, Photo Booth and Explain Everything. I’ve also found that students are much more excited and confident to share their math thinking when they have ownership of the content. My students have also become creators of math content for one another and they are excited to know that I’ll share their problems with my future students. As well, by using Twitter and our class blog to share my students’ math thinking and challenges  my students (and their parents!) have become active, involved and engaged learners in our math journeys.

Where are you in your math teaching journey? What works? What doesn’t? Have you become a slave to the text? Or does the text work for you? Have you found a balance between your own math problems and textbook problems? What are you still struggling with? One thing I know for sure: Teaching math doesn’t have to feel like pulling teeth! Would love to hear your thoughts!

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What teaching has taught me.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-10-56-40-pm

Kids always come first.

Students learn best from asking questions.

Kids can’t sit all day.

Math is best taught with “real world” questions.

It’s never going to be perfect.

Admit your mistakes.

Greet each child with a smile regardless of when they show up for  class.

Relationships matter.

Laughter creates a positive work environment.

We’re supposed to makes mistakes, that’s how we learn.

The best lessons never come from a textbook.

In life, there’s just some hoops we have to jump through.

Volunteering with a class will forever change it.

Practice makes progress.

Time heals.

When kids respect you they don’t want to disappoint you.

Change is good.

You don’t always get what you want… thank God!

A simple compliment can change a life.

Make time for reflection everyday.

The most important test I need to prepare my students for is LIFE.

Rest if you must but never quit.

If you’re nervous it means you care.

The more you give the more you get.

Wait time is the key involvement.

Parents are the most important stakeholders in students’ education. Involve them.

Kids want to change the world.

Sometimes you gotta wing it.

Ask kids what they want to learn.

Praise is a natural remedy.

All kids want to learn, they just learn differently.

I want to teach kids how to think, not what to think.

When you believe in kids they believe in themselves.

 

 

 

 

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An All Day Math Inquiry. Is it Possible?

Four days ago my grade 5/6 class and I  began a Snowflake Inquiry. Today we let some (more) snowflake  math drive our learning…

It snowed today! So I began the morning with the following tweet as “food for thought”:

As the kids read the provocation on the SMART Board, they naturally began to discuss, do some rough calculations in the math notebooks and ask questions. The bait was set and the kids took it, hook, line and sinker. What followed was a day long math inquiry.

I had the students start by making a reasonable prediction based on their schema about snowflakes and the world around them…

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-11-06-03-pm

I was impressed by their reasoning and ability to use their common sense to arrive at estimates ranging from a couple of minutes to 3-4 hours. They considered such variables as wind speed, the mass of the snowflake, the stages of a snowflake and the relative position of clouds from the ground.

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Next, I discussed with my students the information they would require to help solve the question more accurately.screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-11-19-33-pm

They worked in pairs to brainstorm the information they required and I challenged my students to arrive at only two questions that we could Google the answer for.We gathered on the carpet and the kids pitched their questions, while I recorded (many of the students had the same questions). Upon compiling a list of potential questions, I had my students each vote on the two questions they believed they needed the answers to the most.

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-12-58-49-pm

With “How fast does snow fall?”  being the most popular, we Googled the first question.

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-11-30-04-pm

The first search result proved helpful, but we continued to read a few more webpages to confirm the information presented to us. Many great incidental math learning opportunities evolved. We reviewed range, what 95% looked like, what mass meant and what surface area was. We also converted feet to meters and someone asked if a foot was one third of a meter, which led to a discussion on fractions

The students proceeded to record their new learning (information) on their sheet of paper. Most had a solid understand that a snowflake travels at an average rate of 1 meter per second to 2 seconds. 

At this point, I thought, to help move our learning forward, I’d pose a simpler question, and so on the back of their paper, the kids added this question: If it was possible, how long would it take for a snowflake to fall from the ceiling to he floor in our classroom? Prove it. The students were able to quickly estimate the height of our ceiling to be 9-10 feet or 3 meters and solved the question. This would create content as we moved toward solving the “bigger” question.

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Now that the kids were ready for the answer to their second question: “How far is a snow cloud from the ground?” This answer wasn’t as easily found. Together we did a lot of Googling, researching and discussing. Our math investigation turned to an mini lesson on different types of clouds and latitudes. After understanding that snow clouds are typically “Nimbostratus” clouds. The following graphics proved helpful:

I had the students arrive at their own conclusions and record their new learning (information). Most came to the conclusion that most snow clouds are 1500-2000m above the earth’s surface. 

After almost two full blocks dedicated to solving our problem (with the exception of a French class, gym and short body break), it was time for lunch. I debated whether I’d continue with our math challenge into the last block. Part of me really wanted to as the class was on a roll, but I was worried about the kids hitting a “math wall”. I decided I’d play it by ear and get a sense of my students after lunch.

They came back in seemingly ready, willing and WANTING to solve their problem. The snow outside was falling, the time seemed right. I let the kids have at it…

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-12-11-00-am

I really thought they’d have no problem with the question. Boy was I wrong! As I circulated to listen to their math talk and overlook their calculations some kids were arriving at the conclusion that snow would take 30- 50 seconds to fall 2000 meter to the ground while others thought it might take 4-5 hours! Yikes! I let them struggle… but not a lot of progress. They were hitting a wall. Their math brains were shutting down.

It was time for a little brain break.. and perhaps time to move on. We did 10 minutes of “Calm” mindfulness and during that time I debated my next move. I had the kids gather at the front of the SMART Board and reviewed what we already knew; how fast snow travels very second (1-2 meters) and how high in the sky clouds were found (1000-2000m). We also reviewed that it would take 3-6 seconds for snow to travel from our 3 meter ceiling to the floor.  I asked how long it would take for snow to fall 100 m. The kids thought out loud “100 seconds”… “200 seconds” “That’s 1 minute 40 seconds”, someone said. Light bulbs! Wait time…. “Ya and… 200 seconds equals….” “Hold it Grace”, I said. “Give your classmates time.” Wait time…. more light bulbs. More hands went up. Then I said “If snow falls at a rate of 1 meter a second, it will take 100 seconds or 1 minute 40 seconds. If it falls at a rate of 1 meter per 2 seconds it will take 200 minutes or…..” “3 minutes 20 seconds”, (many) of the kids yelled. 

They were ready to go back to their calculations. “Ok, I think the clouds are 1800 meters in the air, snow travels at 1 meter a second, that’ll take 1800 seconds. I need to divide that by 60 to find out how many minutes that is”. BOOM!  I circulated…”Mr.C, we say it’s 45 minutes” ” We’re going with 55 minutes because 1100 m times 3 seconds equals 3300seconds divide 60 equals 55 minutes!”  SWEET! It was now 3:00, many light bulbs were shining and the kids were DONE!

Is was time to regroup and read them …… “The Snowflake”.

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The Snowflake

A simple snowflake will drive our learning journey through the next eight days until Christmas holidays. Doug Peterson’s blog post “Coding Snowflakes” gave me the inspiration! Feel free to follow along with us. I’ll update this document  with all of the Ontario Curriculum expectations we’ll cover as our journey unfolds. 

Today, as the students entered the classroom at 9:05, snowflakes were falling (on the SMARTBoard). It’s been too cold to snow outside! The conversation led to snowflakes and many questions came to light (many of which I did not have the answer to). I posed the question: “What is a snowflake” and the journey began! Some students conversed, some went immediately to the laptop cart, and some asked for paper to record their thinking. After five minutes the kids were fully immersed in their learning. At this point, our principal, Don Grant popped in for his morning visit and I had the kids share their learning. Conversations arose about the water cycle, global warming, ice crystals, the atmosphere, and a scientist. The kids were “digging deep”, inquiring, questioning, sharing and learning… and so were Don and I.

It was time to consolidate some of their learning. I encouraged the students to open up a new Google Slide deck and summarize their new learning into one paragraph titled “What is a Snowflake”. At 9:45, Madame Erdman arrived, it was time for French! After arriving back from French, my students helped to edit this blog post and read Mr. Peterson’s blog post as well. They can’t wait to code their own snowflakes! 

After indoor recess (it’s -30 in Thunder Bay) we headed down to the gym for some (snowless) floor hockey. Upon returning to the classroom, we watched this video on “The Science of Snowflakes”.  The students continued to take jot notes to help them understand how snow flakes are formed. They also started to recognize all of the math (symmetry, angles, shapes, patterns) that can be found in snowflakes. We discussed the term “randomness” versus order and patterns.

During second indoor recess the kids had their first attempts at creating their own paper snowflakes:

 and after recess they began to compile their jot notes and research into a short report title “What is a Snowflake”:

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Finally, to end the day the kids tried their hand at coding their own snowflakes:

After finding just the right background for their “favourite” snowflake creation, the students were able to select an appropriate setting and watch their snowflakes magically fall. They sent me their creations via Google Classroom and tomorrow they’ll surprise their parents with a holiday “flakey” email!

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Day 2

Today we started the day with the kids self selecting Snowflake poems. We talked about the importance if narrowing our Google searches and using text features to help us filter the number of poems we have available to us. The kids read a number of poems for enjoyment and took screen shots of the ones that most “resonated” with them. They did a pair-share and many great discussions came to light.  As we discussed their poems as large groups and within smaller groups, it was incredibly rewarding to hear how rich the conversations were and how deeply the students were digging for meaning.An incidental Christian Living lesson transpired as may of the students had picked this poem:screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-6-38-28-pm

The kids were now ready to respond to their reading. They returned to their assignment in Google Classroom and quickly got down to work.screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-6-45-22-pm

The kids are just finishing up their edits. Watch for updates coming soon!

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In math, we continued our investigations of snowflakes and their geometric properities:

Day 3

This morning before school I received this tweet

which would become a key resource for my procedural reading snowflake idea for the afternoon. We finished our final edits of our Snowflake poem responses 

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and the kids pair-shared their work. As they finished and handed their work into Google classroom, they tried their hand again at coding snow flakes. They have quickly become more skilled!

In math, we shared our geometric and mathematical findings when investigating our shared snowflake..

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Finally, to end Day 3 of our “Snowflake Inquiry”, I challenged my kids with the following assignment:

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-3-45-54-pm

I kept my mouth closed, circulated, observed and didn’t say a word. It was great to watch the kids select which tools they would use to help them create their snowflake. I watched problem solving, collaboration, team work, reading for understanding, trial and error, risk taking, innovation, use of multiple tools and multiple platforms. When kids struggled, others helped. A big “ahah” was when I heard many times “You need to read the instructions carefully”! Below are their final products!

Day 4

It snowed today! So I began the morning with the following tweet as “food for thought”:

As the kids read the provocation on the SMART Board, they naturally began to discuss, do some rough calculations in the math notebooks and ask questions. The bait was set and the kids took it, hook, line and sinker. What followed was a day long math inquiry.

I had the students start by making a reasonable prediction based on their schema about snowflakes and the world around them…

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-11-06-03-pm

I was impressed by their reasoning and ability to use their common sense to arrive at estimates ranging from a couple of minutes to 3-4 hours. They considered such variables as wind speed, the mass of the snowflake, the stages of a snowflake and the relative position of clouds from the ground.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next, I discussed with my students the information they would require to help solve the question more accurately.screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-11-19-33-pm

They worked in pairs to brainstorm the information they required and I challenged my students to arrive at only two questions that we could Google the answer for.We gathered on the carpet and the kids pitched their questions, while I recorded (many of the students had the same questions). Upon compiling a list of potential questions, I had my students each vote on the two questions they believed they needed the answers to the most.

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-12-58-49-pm

With “How fast does snow fall?”  being the most popular, we Googled the first question.

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-11-30-04-pm

The first search result proved helpful, but we continued to read a few more webpages to confirm the information presented to us. Many great incidental math learning opportunities evolved. We reviewed range, what 95% looked like, what mass meant and what surface area was. We also converted feet to meters and someone asked if a foot was one third of a meter, which led to a discussion on fractions

The students proceeded to record their new learning (information) on their sheet of paper. Most had a solid understand that a snowflake travels at an average rate of 1 meter per second to 2 seconds. 

At this point, I thought, to help move our learning forward, I’d pose a simpler question, and so on the back of their paper, the kids added this question: If it was possible, how long would it take for a snowflake to fall from the ceiling to he floor in our classroom? Prove it. The students were able to quickly estimate the height of our ceiling to be 9-10 feet or 3 meters and solved the question. This would create content as we moved toward solving the “bigger” question.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now that the kids were ready for the answer to their second question: “How far is a snow cloud from the ground?” This answer wasn’t as easily found. Together we did a lot of Googling, researching and discussing. Our math investigation turned to an mini lesson on different types of clouds and latitudes. After understanding that snow clouds are typically “Nimbostratus” clouds. The following graphics proved helpful:

I had the students arrive at their own conclusions and record their new learning (information). Most came to the conclusion that most snow clouds are 1500-2000m above the earth’s surface. 

After almost two full blocks dedicated to solving our problem (with the exception of a French class, gym and short body break), it was time for lunch. I debated whether I’d continue with our math challenge into the last block. Part of me really wanted to as the class was on a roll, but I was worried about the kids hitting a “math wall”. I decided I’d play it by ear and get a sense of my students after lunch.

They came back in seemingly ready, willing and WANTING to solve their problem. The snow outside was falling, the time seemed right. I let the kids have at it…

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-12-11-00-am

I really thought they’d have no problem with the question. Boy was I wrong! As I circulated to listen to their math talk and overlook their calculations some kids were arriving at the conclusion that snow would take 30- 50 seconds to fall 2000 meter to the ground while others thought it might take 4-5 hours! Yikes! I let them struggle… but not a lot of progress. They were hitting a wall. Their math brains were shutting down.

It was time for a little brain break.. and perhaps time to move on. We did 10 minutes of “Calm” mindfulness and during that time I debated my next move. I had the kids gather at the front of the SMART Board and reviewed what we already knew; how fast snow travels very second (1-2 meters) and how high in the sky clouds were found (1000-2000m). We also reviewed that it would take 3-6 seconds for snow to travel from our 3 meter ceiling to the floor.  I asked how long it would take for snow to fall 100 m. The kids thought out loud “100 seconds”… “200 seconds” “That’s 1 minute 40 seconds”, someone said. Light bulbs! Wait time…. “Ya and… 200 seconds equals….” “Hold it Grace”, I said. “Give your classmates time.” Wait time…. more light bulbs. More hands went up. Then I said “If snow falls at a rate of 1 meter a second, it will take 100 seconds or 1 minute 40 seconds. If it falls at a rate of 1 meter per 2 seconds it will take 200 minutes or…..” “3 minutes 20 seconds”, (many) of the kids yelled. 

They were ready to go back to their calculations. “Ok, I think the clouds are 1800 meters in the air, snow travels at 1 meter a second, that’ll take 1800 seconds. I need to divide that by 60 to find out how many minutes that is”. BOOM!  I circulated…”Mr.C, we say it’s 45 minutes” ” We’re going with 55 minutes because 1100 m times 3 seconds equals 3300seconds divide 60 equals 55 minutes!”  SWEET! It was now 3:00, many light bulbs were shining and the kids were DONE!

Is was time to regroup and read them …… “The Snowflake”.

Days 5 and 6

After a great day of math (and reading, writing and Science) I figured I’d switch gears and challenge the kids to take the perspective of a falling snowflake and write about their journey as they travelled towards Bethlehem to witness Jesus’ birth. I told the kids that I wanted them to be creative, use their new understanding of snowflakes, their understanding of the nativity story, technology and the many other tools they had available to them. My “vision” was to have my students create a story that they could share with their family  this Christmas morning and perhaps for years to come!

The kids were excited, eager and enthusiastic! Some went immediately to the laptop cart to research and read about the nativity story, others opened a Google Doc and began their introduction, a few took a piece of large paper and began brainstorming, others started to sketch and some sat and discussed. Some elected to work in pairs and many wanted to tackle this project on their own.The kids were productive and engaged. The first block quickly flew by and as my students returned after first Nutrition Break, they all got back down to work and so I let them go….

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I circulated to listen, observe, give feedback and question to push my students thinking. What stuck me was that many students decided to start with their illustrations first, many electing to use pastels. Many students were using Google images to gain inspiration for their own illustrations while others were using YouTube to get step by step art tutorials. Kids were taking pictures of their illustrations in Photo Booth and then photo editing their work in “Photos”.  I was impressed to hear the kids talking about the importance of their introduction to “hook” the reader. I had to reel some of my students in as many were getting so caught up in their journey through the Solar system (yes they recognized that this would not be possible if they were a snowflake, but we decided that their stories could have some fictional elements). The kids were all over the map when it came to completing their task but whatever they were doing was working for them and I was there to support and guide them. 

The second block blurred into the third and the kids were eager to continue working. At this point I had to remind each all of the students of the main purpose of the task: to tell the story of Jesus’ birth. I had a few students share where they were “at” (some shared their written introductions, others talked out their story lines while a number of students shared their illustrations to help tell their story) and collectively, the class gave feedback. At some point we did some mindfulness (using Calm) and body breaks (using Go Noodle). The kids were excited for me to circulate with both my camera and phone to document and share their learning.

The kids continued to write and illustrate their stories the following day. I noticed  how seamlessly Reading, Writing, Art, Media Literacy, Science  and Christian Living were all being covered during this time. The process continued throughout most of day 6. I judged the kids energy, focus and engagement and gave them “breaks” by working in  physical education, their independent reading, mindfulness and body breaks and mPower (a math game that is self paced and self directed, based on the Ontario Curriculum math expectations). The day flew by and the kids progress was steady. I was confident they would finish this large project in time for Christmas so they could share their wonderful stories with their parents!

Day 7

Today was crunch time! It was time for the elves to get busy and finish up their virtual books by the end of the day so I could give them my final feedback and they could make their final edits on Friday (the day before holidays). I received this tweet when I arrived at school:

So we started the day with a great non fiction read aloud which led to more discussions about innovations, science and biographies. 

As the day progressed and the students started to finish their stories, the kids did some pair sharing and shared feedback. i provided feedback on sticky notes and directly within student’s Google slides. Some were getting very close to finishing, so we gathered around the SMART Board to have students share their stories with the intent of providing a few good models. The kids worked for the better part of the day (with some well needed “breaks” worked in) to complete their Snowflake Adventure stories. One individual completed his final edit after receiving feedback and asked if he might be able to colour print his story at home to gift his parents with a paper copy of the book as well. I was confident that my students would meet the Friday deadline as the day ended.

Day 8

My kids returned for the last day and one student handed me his paper copy, colour  printed book:

He was so proud to share it with his classmates. They were all now more motivated than ever to complete their own books so they could share them with their parents on Christmas morning! By the end of the day, all of my students had completed their stories in Google Slides. Many of the kids shared their stories with one another and they were excited to share the with their parents, family and friends! I love the fact that my students will be able to share their stories for years to come!

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Merry Christmas!

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12 Gifts 4 Teachers 2016

Last year I shared a favourite lesson, resource or idea every day for the twelve days leadingscreen-shot-2016-12-13-at-3-06-28-pmup to Christmas. The 12 Gifts 4 Teachers 2015 were well received and I enjoyed sharing! So to make it a “tradition”, I present to you the 12 Gifts 4 Teachers 2016!

As with last year, take whatever you find interesting or useful and change, modify and add to suit your class. If you know of others who might benefit, share with them as well!

I will also be tweeting my “12 Gifts” each day to #12gifts4ts Please feel free to share YOUR 12 gifts as well… or even one or two! I believe our ideas are only as good as the people we share them with and in the long run, it will be our students who will be on the receiving end our sharing!

Merry Christmas!

Day 1 Many educators are starting to rethink traditional “homework”. The term is no screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-9-27-48-amlonger used in my classroom. Learning certainly should not be confined to the walls of a classroom and the hours of a school day. The opportunities for learning are endless and kids (and parents) should not perceive learning as “work”. There needs to be a shift in mindset. Learning should be fun, rewarding, challenging and exciting. We should want to share our learning with others, and in doing so, more learning should occur. “HomeSHARE” has replaced “Homework” in my classroom. Read the original blog post: “WHAT IF Homework Looked Like This?” for a complete explanation, resources and more ideas.

Day 2 There has been a lot of talk lately about transforming learning spaces. I think the 

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-9-42-21-amkey here is to create a space that makes most sense to both your students and yourself. It has to be comfortable, while at the same time, both efficient and effective for all learners. I love my transformed learning space and so do my students. Read my blog post “My Transformed Classroom” and watch the 360 degree video to get a peek into my learning space.  I’d love to hear about yours!

Day 3  This is by far the most popular resource that I share… and so back by popular demand… The Genius Hour Journal! When I first started Genius Hour in my classroom, I Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 9.09.14 AMfelt that I needed to provide my students with somewhat of a framework to guide them through the process. I came up with six guiding steps: QUESTION, PLAN, RESEARCH, CREATE, SHARE, REFLECT. Although these steps became somewhat fluid, I found that having a journal where my students could record their thinking led to success at my first attempt with Genius Hour. These steps have now become the basis for all inquiry learning in my classroom. Recently, I used the same steps and journal to complete Genius Hour with my five year old. The process and product can be viewed in his video: Kai’s Genius Hour: Dinosaurs. Find student exemplars and resources at Mr. C’s SharesEase:Genius Hour

Day 4 Are you familiar with TVO’s “Teach Ontario”? It’s an online community for screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-11-41-34-amOntario’s educators, by Ontario’s educators. Explore professional learning opportunities and curated resources. Share your knowledge with your colleagues. Create projects to support teaching and learning.There’s something here for everyone! My latest “score” came from being connected to the Teach Ontario Community. mPower is an great online math game for students, based on the Ontario Curriculum expectations. Check it out! 

Day 5 The world of “edublogs” is enormous. There’s so many great educators openlyscreen-shot-2016-12-22-at-11-38-57-amsharing their learning, ideas and resources. Sometimes it hard to know where tobegin.Why not check out Doug Peterson’s Friday morning blog: “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”. Doug does a great job highlighting and summarizing a few blogs by Ontario educators that he finds interesting and worthy of a read. Personally, it’s the second thing I read every Friday 😉 Thanks Doug!

Day 6 Sometimes I stumble across great resources and other times people point me inscreen-shot-2016-12-21-at-12-07-58-pm the right direction. It’s one of the many benefits of being a “ConnectED” teacher. I thank Joe Grabowski, the world’s best “Ed Travel Agent” for introducing me to the wonderful world of National Geographic Education. I encourage you to explore the site. The resources are truly incredible! 

Day 7 
img_5220This gift  is more of an idea and a mindset than a resource. It has probably been the biggest game changer in my teaching career. I used to be a slave to the text, following units, lessons plans and teacher’s guides to the T. I always felt confined by the structure of the text,but took comfort thinking that I was covering the curriculum, regardless of how stale the content seemed. As I evolved as an educator and became more comfortable with the curriculum, thinking outside of the text became my new norm. The resources and opportunities for learning are endless. By not being “handcuffed” to the text, I have the freedom to innovate within my classroom and cover the grade 5 and 6 Ontario Curriculum more efficiently and effectively. Kids love coming to school and so do I! Want to learn more? Start by checking out #Ditchbook and Matt Miller.

Day 8  This gift is for all of my Ontario teacher friends. The Ontario Curriculum Tracking Templates are a must have for all teachers. I use the templates to track completion ofscreen-shot-2016-12-18-at-9-23-21-am expectations throughout the year and assess individual student performance. I’ve also created a doc where I have all of the overall expectations compiled for quick reference.  The  tracking sheets are fillable and printable.  You can also make a copy for your own Google account and you will be able to record your curriculum progress using your smartphone APP on the go. Talk about simplifying your life! ENJOY!

Day 9 Does homework drive you crazy? Looking for ways to make it better? Check out DSC03661.jpgConnie Hamilton and Starr Sackstein’s book “Hacking Homework”! Their book offers ten strategies for #HackingHomework  which inspire learning outside of the classroom. I appreciate the the “Hack in Action” section at the end of each chapter, that explains how classroom teachers are reinventing homework in their own classrooms.

Day 10
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For some fun and interactive math, check out Spy Guys Math by Learn Alberta. I like this site for introducing a key concept or leaving it for an Occasional teacher in my absence as a review. It also provides a glossary mathematical terms and strategies for solving problems. The Problem Solving Bank is worth a look as well. 

Day 11

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-7-34-58-pmHave your students code their very own snowflakes! Thanks to Doug Peterson for sharing  ‘Coding Snowflakes’. What a great idea. This simple activity became a springboard for an incredible inquiry in our classroom. In fact, most of our learning for the next few day will be the direct result of Doug’s share and a simple snowflake. Check out our learning journey: ‘The Snowflake’ .

Day 12
I thought I’d start off with a website that has become my “go to” for establishing mindfulness in my classroom. Calm.com is free for teacher use and guides students
screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-7-24-32-pm through short 10 minute mindfulness activities. To get “Calm” free for your classroom, click on the link and fill in the form! I love the very front end of the site which provides 30 relaxing scenes with accompanying sounds (e.g. Mountain Lake, Summer Meadow, Falling Snow and Fireplace). If for nothing else, check out Calm.com to bring a little sun and warmth to your class during those cold winter months! Check out how I used “Calm” in my classroom today with some “falling snowflakes”!

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M.A.D 4 Christmas

Our school has a tradition of Christmas giving that has spanned over 20 years. Every single student is involved in the process; the kindergarten to grade 4 students attend a Christmas yard and bake sale hosted by our grade 5 and 6 students. The older students use the proceeds (usually in excess of $1000) they make to go shopping to a local grocery store and then hand deliver the food items to our local Shelter House.

This year, due to circumstances beyond our students’ control our school giving tradition has been put on hold. Being in grade 5/6, my students were obviously disappointed. They were saddened because, in their eyes, they wouldn’t be able to make a difference this Christmas. OR could they? I asked my students why they couldn’t make a difference during the Christmas season: “WHAT IF you saw this as an opportunity instead of a closed door?” “WHAT IF each of you started your own Christmas kindness snowball?”  And so the ‘M.A.D 4 Christmas Project’ was born.

I traditionally challenge my students to complete a M.A.D Project to begin the new year, but this year would be different. Their guiding inquiry question now became “How Can I Make A Difference This Christmas?”

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The kids were excited and empowered! They were ready to take Christmas giving into their own hands! Students started discussing with one another and brainstorming with their parents what they could do to “give 4 Christmas”. They followed our M.A.D Inquiry model and added notes to their M.A.D Journals. Most have an idea in place, but as they’ve heard me say many times before, an idea is nothing without action. A solid plan (answering the 5 Ws-Who, What, Where, When, Why and H-How) must be in place to insure an idea comes to fruition. 

I have reminded my students that sometimes the simplist acts for friends, family or our community can make the biggest difference. The important point here is to have an idea that is “doable” and achieveable! 

The kids are now on the planning stage of their M.A.D 4 Christmas Projects. I look forward to seeing how they work to put their M.A.D 4 Christmas ideas into action and the differences they will make!

To help model the process, my son Kai and I started a M.A.D 4 Christmas Project “Soccer Balls for Africa” of our own!

Below is a sneak peak at some of the students’ work. 

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ACTION!!!

The students have been tasked with putting their M.A.D 4 Christmas plans into action by Sunday, December 18th! This is when the making a difference begins! Once the action has taken place students and parents are encouraged to share the good they have done to inspire and encourage Christmas giving! Watch for updates below as my students share their M.A.D 4 Christmas moments!

Want to start or share a Christmas tradition of your own? Visit: The Give 4Christmas Challenge

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#ourlearningspace

Last week, in preparation for an #ONedchat I was leading on “Rethinking Classroom Design”, I posted a 360 degree video of my classroom and a blog post: “My Transformed Classroom”I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile and the Twitter chat proved to be the impetus for me to complete this task. The video and blog helped me to be reflective about the setup of my classroom and the various tools for learning within it. It gave me much pause for thought as I reflected on the past 20 years in my classroom (each of my classes and every single one the students I taught are posted on the bulletin board directly in front of my desk).  Pretty much everything about my classroom has changed, except that bulletin board of all students. It is a constant reminder of why I teach and who I serve and it is for them that I continually strive to be better and evolve.

This week I was humbled to read that Doug Peterson had shared ‘My Transformed Classroom’ video  in “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”Doug’s feedback and input was appreciated, but it was his idea that really stuck me…

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Today I created the hashtag #ourlearningspace , shared my classroom video and challenged 10 other educators to do the same. Within a few hours many had taken up the challenge (one from Germany)! I am awe stricken by the incredible learning environments educators are providing for their students and themselves.

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Follow the hashtag, share your learning space and encourage others to do the same! We all have so much to share and learn from one another. Thanks Doug for a great suggestion.

 

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Developing Global Citizens Through Social Studies Inquiries

I am very fortunate to be working on an initiative with my childhood friend and colleague, John Prezio. Our project: “Developing Global Citizens Through Social Studies Inquiries” aims to use puzzles and board games as “springboards” for inquiries.

Today I launched our project in my classroom by having my students complete a puzzle of the world (the pieces are shaped like the countries) and then do mini “inquiries” on three countries from three different countries. The students leveraged technology such as Google Geo Tools (Google Earth and Maps) as well as websites and YouTube to build their knowledge of their countries of study.They recorded their learning in their digital “Passports to the World”.

The launch of the project was a resounding success! It was amazing to watch the world unfold at my students’ fingertips as they created their puzzles and then deepen their knowledge through the mini inquiries of their choice!

Watch this blog post for updates as we continue with our project!

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