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One of my goals for this year was focused around student involvement, engagement, and participation in all types of learning environments.

At the beginning of the year, the focus was more on the virtual learners in our hybrid model and ensuring their voices were being heard in a lesson. One strategy I used was an exit ticket where I had students answer 3 quick questions:
1. What did you learn today?
2. What questions do you have?
3. Do you need extra help?

These were quite useful as I was able to more quickly connect with students that needed support in learning the lesson. I was also able to clarify any questions in the following lesson if there were misunderstandings with the content.

As we then switched to fully remote learning, my focus switched slightly to balancing silence with student input. Now that everyone was remote, I sometimes found myself asking questions and getting no responses. The silence was intimidating at the beginning. How long should I wait for any response? How long do I wait before asking the question in a different way? Do I ask a completely different question?

So my work for the later part of the year has been on getting student input during the lesson and being mindful of the questions I ask. Having had the chance to work with a teaching intern, I was able to observe her try a few different strategies and have the chance to debrief what worked, what could change, etc.

We tried using the chat feature in Google Meets to get students to give answers. This is challenging in a math classroom as the chat works best for word answers and not math equations.

We tried a randomized wheel to randomly select students to answer a question. We made sure that the questions we asked were mostly based around past knowledge and not new content so that whoever was selected would be successful in answering. The surprising outcome to this was that when the wheel was not used, more students volunteered answers in that lesson.

I've tried a quick "show me thumbs up, thumbs sideways, thumbs down" to gauge understanding of the material. This is a good way to quickly get input and then follow up, if needed with students who may need further support.

These were just a few of the quick things we tried and could adapt to any class. I am still working on finding other ways to collect input from students in a virtual learning environment. As with many other moments in teaching, there is always something else to try...

@elee @hjepson @mmoore @acampbellrogers @tfaucher
@jfroggett @mrand @vsanto @beaton @dlumsden


One positive aspect of this new learning environment has been giving myself the opportunity to try new things. In past years, I'll admit I could easily get caught up in making sure I taught every single criteria in the curriculum. I wanted to make sure that I set my students up for success in the next course they took. I would often attend professional development conferences and come back to school with great ideas but they would quickly get brushed aside in lieu of the importance of curriculum.

This school year started with being asked to do a curriculum deep dive - identify what was most important in your course and what did you want to linger once your course was completed. In working through this process, the idea of slowing down in the classroom came about. I know it sounds obvious but focusing on deepening understanding of the concepts rather than covering as much as possible was a shift in my practice.

Now along with this shift in the pace of learning, I was also mindful of making sure each student's voice was heard regardless of where they were learning. In particular, I wanted each student to feel confident or given a platform to ask questions whether they were in person or learning remotely that day.

So with that in mind, a few things I've tried thus far have been in terms of exit tickets.

In a Google Form, I started by asking three quick questions:
- what did you learn today?
- what question do you have about today's lesson?
- do you further support in learning this content?

In doing this, not only did I get to see where the students are in their learning but I was also able to guide my next steps. It was quick for students to fill out and they appreciated when I acknowledged their questions in the following class. The bigger take away was this then moved to students asking during the lesson instead of waiting to fill out the form.


As I write this post and try to put my thoughts into words, I'm still trying to determine the focus of my Action Plan this year. Just like last year, I have a few things that just aren't quite right in my teaching practice but I can't just yet put a finger on what they are. The highlight of being part of the Cohort 21 community is having the opportunity (and dedicated time) to have conversations with other colleagues in a variety of disciplines to flush out exactly what it is that needs to be addressed.

In the mean time, I have continued to grapple with some of the work I did last year. My inspiration for last year's action plan was getting students away from the focus of unit assessment marks and more on their learning throughout the unit and showcasing what they know.

Having said that, if that is what I value as a teacher, what opportunities am I providing for students to showcase what they know? How am I being intentional in valuing that process in my daily lessons? With that in mind, here are two small steps I've taken this year so far in aiding students in valuing the learning process.

1. At the end of unit conversations in grade 9, I ask students if there is anything else that they learned in the process that I didn't ask them about in the conversation. This is similar to a suggestion I had last year about including this at the end of a test.

2. When returning the first unit test in my grade 11 class, all students were provided with the following handout. This helped them relate the test question to the learning process by having them link it back to the lesson. It also allowed them to personalize their next steps by identifying where to find extra practice questions.

I would end this post by noting that I was intentional in providing the above handout to each student in the class. I followed up with a brief discussion about the importance of everyone filling out the chart regardless of their mark. All too often, students who are pleased with the overall result may simply file away the test and don't look at it in detail until the final exam. My hope is that given them a guideline for purposeful corrections will allow them to see value in the process.


In just a few days, we will be gathering for the final F2F session of this year's Cohort 21. I'm excited to share my journey.

The beginning:
I came into Cohort 21 with an idea of what I thought my classroom was missing. Having used VNPS regularly, I thought the missing link was getting students to better document the work they completed at the white boards so they could refer to it as the unit progressed. But after the first 2 F2F sessions and talking to some of my students, it became clear that there was a bigger piece missing.

The middle:
In a conversation at the end of the second F2F session, I was struggling to put my thoughts into clear words and after rambling on about what I was trying to say someone stopped me and said "it seems like you want to get your students to be better at identifying what they know". (One of the wonders of the Cohort 21 experience - having the chance to chat with educators from various backgrounds and a common goal of helping each other). And just like that, a light bulb went off. What was really missing was a way for my students to self-reflect on their learning throughout the unit and not just rely on the final unit assessment as a measurement of success.

What evolved over the course of the year started with having students generate "I can..." statements at the end of each lesson. This has helped them get a better view of the key skills of the lesson and not just focus on answering specific questions. This then led to having students create a master list of the unit's "I can..." statements on a separate sheet of paper during the unit review class and self-assess their knowledge. A star beside a statement indicated mastery, a - meant practice still required and a 'x' meant help was required to further clarify the concept. On the day of the test, students were asked to hand in their "I can..." list. My current iteration of this self-reflection piece involves a pre-test self-assessment around the success criteria of the unit as well as a post-test self-assessment. It's interesting to see how this has helped direct students to personalize their studying for the test.

The end: (or the beginning of the next step)
Though I have been intentional in incorporating self-reflection into my lessons, a next step would be to have individual conversations with my students around comparing their pre and post test self-assessments. In addition to this, I hope to use this process to personalize their exam review and possibly have the students create some questions based around their strengths.

I would also like to investigate ways to incorporate more peer feedback into the learning process in my classes. While coaching volleyball, it struck me how natural it is for a player to give feedback (both positive and negative) to teammates. As the team has the same goal, every team member is invested in the goal and held accountable. This got me thinking, I wonder how I can recreate this team mentality in the classroom and incorporate more peer feedback into the learning process?

So with all that said and done, I look forward to the last F2F on Friday. And though I think I know what the next steps will be, Cohort 21 has taught me that this is just the end of the beginning...


Having just completed another unit in Calculus, I thought it would be appropriate to update the current step in my action plan.

Continuing on the journey to have student self-reflect on their learning, I decided to do 3 new things in this unit.

First step:
Even though we continue to generate "I can... " statements as a class at the end of each unit, I decided in this unit, to collate the complete list before the assessment. Students were given a copy of the complete list as part of their review booklet. I smiled when one student exclaimed with excitement "Oh, she wrote them out for us in the unit!" - I'm taking this as a success in my books!

Bitmoji ImageSecond step:
At the end of the review period, I distributed the same list of success criteria but added a rating scale to each. Students were then asked to assess themselves on their current knowledge of the skills where 1 was "I have no idea what this is about." and 10 was "I'm ready to show my knowledge". They then handed in their reflection and had a plan to guide their studying. Here is an example of one student's reflection.

I had asked students to rate themselves earlier in the course based on their ability to solve a particular question. This student would often rate themselves 1 or 2 on these previous ratings. It caught my attention that when the process was changed to rate on skills rather than specific questions, this student's rated themselves above 5 in most criteria. To me, that was note-worthy.

Third step:
This last step was generated after reading a comment on my last blog post from @mwilcox. So following the pre-assessment reflection, I then asked students to self-reflect once more on this unit content once they had finished writing the unit test. Along with rating themselves using the same success criteria as the "I can..." list, I added one last question asking students for input on any area/skill/concept that they felt they didn't have a chance to showcase on the test. A copy of the survey can be found here.

The results of the electronic survey were a great highlight of student knowledge in each skill. The responses to the criteria reflections varied and here are some examples:

The most valuable input were the answers to the last question.

My next steps:
Though the pre-assessment and post-assessment were done using different mediums (one on paper and one electronically), by intentionally not made the electronic survey anonymous, I have the opportunity to compare each student's ratings. I can envision having conferences with each student to talk about their progress in the unit and helping the student create next steps in their learning.


My focus this year has been around student self-reflection to direct their personalized learning in my classes. My goal is to have students move away from a focus solely on the final answer to assess what they know but more on the process of solving a mathematical question.

At the last F2F session, I was able to gain some clarity on my action plan and felt I was able to more clearly articulate what was the root of my concern in my classroom. Walking away from that day, my driving question remains "HMW have students reflect on their learning in a lesson to help personalized their next steps?".

My hope is to take students from confusion about what to do or what knowledge to choose:
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to confidence in their ability:
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This year, I have ended lessons with students generating a "I can ..." list to identify the skills covered in the lesson. Essentially, students were identifying the success criteria of the lesson. This was a good first step, in my mind, but my students just saw it more as a thing that we did and not as part of the learning cycle. My vision was that students would use these statements as self check-ins to assess what they knew in the unit and what they still needed to master.

To help with this shift, I have started asking students to write out all the "I can..." statements from the unit on a separate sheet of paper and hand it in on test day. Here is an example of one student's work:

What stood out to me were the * and check marks beside some of the statements. This student was already self-reflecting and identifying what they knew and what they still had to work on. Unfortunately, this was the only one like this. All the other submissions were just a list of statements. But I was not deterred, I believe I am on the right track.

We are now into the third unit of the course and though we continue to end lessons with "I can ..." statements, I did not ask students to write them out on a separate sheet to submit. However, an interesting thing happened in our review class. As students were working away, I overheard a conversation about a student sharing her "checklist" for the unit that she created with her friends. Her peers wanted a copy of this magical checklist and I had to chuckle. I did have to mention to that group that this wasn't a new concept and they had done this in previous units but I had called it an "I can..." list. It was great to see the students make the realization of the value of this list.
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Things that I am considering as next steps:
- creating the "I can..." list and having students self-assess their ability pre-test and then again post-test with some sort of reflection
- have students use their Unit 1 and Unit 2 "I can..." lists and their tests to reflect and set up next steps to further improve their knowledge before the final exam.
- connect these "I can..." statements to the work we continue to do at the white boards.

And so the journey continues...


Over the last few years, there has been a shift in my mathematics classroom from passive learning to active learning. In the past, students in my classes would have spent a lesson filling in a worksheet and then had time to practice the skill of the day. Students could sit back and wait for the teacher to give them the answers. The result on an assessment (usually a test) would reflect how much information they retained from the unit. As mentioned in my previous post, more recently, I have shifted my teaching practice to be more active. This has involved using VNPS and more student input throughout the lesson. This shift also created more opportunity for teacher feedback on the learning in the moment as it was happening.

When I began my Cohort21 journey, my focus was on documenting the student work at the whiteboards. Following the second F2F session, my driving question was "HMW document student learning in a mathematics classroom?" I was looking for a way for students to have a record of the questions they solved in class on the boards to help in their learning. I have attempted to use a Google Form with DocAppender and have found some success. Students were asked to take a photo of the work and answer a few questions (what unit is this from? on a scale from 1 - 10, how confident are you in this skill? what do you need to do to further improve these skills?) By using DocAppender, students have a record of this information. The feedback from students has been positive but I still feel like something is missing.

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Over the last few weeks, my focus has shifted slightly. My MHF4U class is getting ready to write their final exam next week. Yes, exams are stressful. However, I'm starting to identify a disconnect between the student's knowledge of the concepts and mistakes they make (they have more of a focus on the final answer and not on the process of the question). This is making me think that I may not want students to document what they have done at the boards but how to get students to better track what they currently know and how do they get better - without focusing on the final answer.

So with this in mind, my new iteration of my HMW has become "HMW have students reflect on their learning in a lesson to help personalized their next steps?" I believe I will continue to use the Google Form to track their learning. I will also continue to end each lesson with having students identify "I can..." statements. However, my work now turns to how do I embed more meaningful personalized reflection for students on daily learning?

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Using VNPS (vertical non-permanent surfaces) in my classroom has greatly changed student learning. No longer is the teacher the only holder of knowledge, students have more opportunities to learn from each other and share their knowledge with their peers.

Students also enjoy the problem solving using VNPS. When I interviewed 6 students this week, they all agreed that it was a great opportunity and worked well with their learning style. Usually the work at the VNPS has been either re-inforcement of a skill or review for an upcoming assessment. Students like the large work space, the ability to erase, if needed, and the opportunity to see a variety of solutions to a problem.

However, in my teaching brain, I feel like there is something missing to this work. After chatting with students and colleagues this week, I realize that part of my problem is that I can't really vocalize what I think is missing. Some things that I feel need thought are

  • how do I keep a record of the work that is done on the boards? Some students take photos for their own learning but I don't have a running log of the work that is being done.
  • how do students track their progress in acquiring skills while working at the board? If a student gets stuck and asks a peer for help, they may get the correct answer on the board but if the same issue arises in their homework, how do they know what to do if the work has been erased from the board?
  • how do students (or do they need to) reflect on their work at the boards? I feel there should be some individual follow up on how student learning of a skill has changed as a result of the problem solving at the boards.
  • how does the teacher provide more formal feedback to students about their learning of the key skills? Currently, the teacher walks around the room and provides on the spot feedback but how could this feedback be provided in a format that is more permanent?

So that's where my journey of the year will begin. Hopefully the next F2F session will give me a bit more clarity as to how to "solve" or a plan to follow to address at least one of these wonderings.


Today was the first Face to Face meeting of this year's Cohort 21 and I'm so excited. The energy from the educators that surrounded me was amazing! I'm so looking forward to this journey this year and thrilled to be part of this group.

I'm not new to blogging. I created my first blog 2 years ago and used the opportunity to reflect on my teaching practice and things that I have tried in my classroom over the last few years.

I'm a bit more nervous about my Cohort 21 blog. I felt it was easy to blog before not knowing who was reading my post. Now that I've met the incredible educators that are part of this journey with me and know they will be reading my posts, I feel there is more at stake. But instead of worrying about writing the perfect blog post, I need to remember that this is an amazing opportunity to get support, input and opinions from this unique group of educators.

So thanks for a great first day @nblair, @ljensen, @mmoore, and @mbrims. Can't wait to see what is to come this year!


c21_logo_mediumWelcome to Cohort 21. This is the first post on your new blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share and collaborate as you move through the C21 learning cycle towards your action plan.

Cohort 21 is a unique professional development opportunity open to CIS Ontario teachers and school leaders who are seeking to explore  what it means to a teacher in the 21st century.