Face 2 Face Sessions

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I left our latest face to face on Saturday feeling really energized and excited, especially to the concept of renewing my commitment to sharing what I am doing and how that has been helping me within my classroom.

To that end I decided to share a resource I have been sharing with my teammates at SMLS for the past few weeks. It's made a big difference for me and I hope it is something that can help you! It's a software called Nearpod.

Basically, Nearpod is a way to put a variety of activities into your pre-existing presentations, and instead of having to share your screen while in a meet or project slides, the presentation is visible to the students on their own devices and it becomes much more interactive. One of the reasons I love it, is that it allows me to change the pace and feel of my lessons. Built check-ins in the form of open ended questions, polls or collaboration boards gives me a really good feel of where my students are and what they are thinking. It lets me know in greater detail how much they understand and if I need to back track or can pick up the pace of a concept.  Above, you can see an initial selection of different activities to put in to your slides. There are just so many from taking a poll to using VR to visit Machu Picchu. For me, during remote learning, I was losing a lot of opportunities to have my students collaborate or present more of their tangible thinking. This was especially true when I was beginning to teach forces and force diagrams during my structures unit. This is where this software shines.

What you are looking at, is the option for students to draw a diagram using Nearpod. In this instance I showed them a video of two people rock climbing together. I then asked my students to consider the forces acting the climbers at any point in time as well as the pushing or pulling that they were doing while climbing.

Normally the girls would have chart paper or big white boards and we would be doing more hands on things when introducing physics, but with Nearpod I was still able to have them put down their ideas and get messy, even if only digitally! My students had a lot of fun and it was something I loved having up my sleeve.

If you are interested in trying this out the biggest thing I want to let you know is, this is not a complex software, you do not have to re-invent the wheel. That's one thing I find often happens with tech PD is that sometimes there is such a big learning curve it seems impossible or demoralizing. Thankfully this is not the case.

Here's two ways you can try it, the first is to make your own nearpod account and upload any powerpoint presentations or google slides you may have and from there choose some of the great options of activities to use. This is an option with the free account and something I have used a lot.

Or if you try out their paid service you can download the add-on on google slides and edit directly. This is the way I'll show in more detail.

From there you can edit and add a lot of really fun options in to your slides.

One of my personal favourites is the PhET simulations that allow your students to dive right in and mess around a variety of STEM topics.

 

 

 

 

Or if you want to add a small assessment at the end of your lesson you are also given the option to put in small multiple choice quizzes in to your lesson. This includes a build in grade book that assesses the responses for you and allows you to break down your data.

 

And finally if this is all still overwhelming. Please feel free to just look through a ton of pre-made lessons. There are so many that I use and have a lot of fun with in my class.

I hope you try this out and mess around with this software and I hope it lets you get a little more hands-on and messy in your class than you could before.

Please let me know what you think and I hope you have a fantastic long weekend!

stay healthy helpful and calm

 

 

It's only been about 36 hours since the term ended and I wanted to take a minute to put some ideas down to help me go through everything that has happened this term and to help myself get in to a mind space that can help me re-centre and enjoy the holiday. As I was reading this morning I came across the concepts if detachment and how it can often look like calm, but it really isn't. Basically for a lot of people and teens, it's the removing of any individuality or responsibility from the current situation. It's looking at your phone and playing a game so you don't have to think. It's playing a video game for hours so you don't have to face reality. Though it might feel like it, this is not being calm and it's not restorative. This term felt like a marathon and I wondered why I was getting more and more tired. What this came down to was that I wasn't really allowing myself to calm down, I was only trying to escape the situations that were stressing me out. I was getting home and detaching myself from the world.

Now that the term is over and I am home, I realized I was beginning to calm down. I took a moment to reflect on this and realized I wasn't calming down because I was away from work, I was calming down because I was making time to do things that helped me be back in the mindful present. That was allowing me to feel more connected and safe. Things I wasn't making time for during the last month of term. For me this was things like baking, or talking more with friends, taking up knitting and working on other crafts. Doing these things don't allow me to dissociate, they forced me to be present in a positive way and that in itself restored my calmness.

I've seen a lot of great posts from other peers like @Mathy_Panda , @SciencewithmsLu and @SirMrMoore all about this and I know it's been brought up a lot, but I hope you all take some time to reflect this holiday and make sure you aren't just dissociating or detaching yourself from the world around you and are instead taking time to do things you enjoy. Thank you all for continuing to post this term, the connection this season has been so key for me and thank you!

Wherever you are I hope you are resting and happy holidays and a joyous New Year!

happy Christmas

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After looking through my list of resources I wanted to review and share and considering some questions I got from peers, I thought the next thing I would write about is different coding and video game design software that I love to use in my classroom.

I know a lot of Math/Science teachers are feeling anxious about teaching coding, especially if it's something that is completely new to you or you have not done before. To that end I wanted to share two of my favourites over the next two posts and explain the different ways you can use them in your class.

Before I get in to that I want to explain why I love teaching coding and video game design and why I think it is so great to have in the classroom.

  • It teaches resiliency.
    • When you code, NOTHING works on the first try. Often students will have to try things multiple times before things work. They will get frustrated and learn how to push through it. They will learn that mistakes are a part of the process and how to move forward. If anyone ever wants to tell a bad coding joke in their class here is my favourite "99 problems with code on the wall, 99 problems with code! Take one down, pass it around, 126 problems with code on the wall!"
  • The feedback is instant.
    • If something doesn't work you will know right away. There is not waiting or worry. You are not waiting for feedback from a teacher or peer. You will also know right away if something does work!
  • It teaches students how to break tasks down.
    • Computers are not mind readers, they will not infer. You need to be completely clear on your code and break down every step of the process. This is a very useful life skill to have!

That being said, here is my favourite way to teach basic coding to students. It's a fantastic software called Code Combat.

Code Combat is a site where you can teach students Python, Java or C++.

In it, students can pick their own avatar and fight through dungeons using code. The levels get increasingly more complex and are surprisingly fun. I have had lots of students develop quite an addiction to solving the problems!

The other thing that makes Code Combat great? It has built in assessments! Here is a sample grade book they have that allows you to keep track of student work.

 

It also creates fun certificates with the student's avatar to show when they have completed a list of tasks that you can print out and give to your students.

The levels themselves can get wonderfully complex for your kids that need enrichment but also are user friendly enough for any beginner.

So, if you are panicking about how to broach coding in your Math or Science class this is one resource I highly recommend trying out. It's free and is very user friendly for teachers.

For my next post I will be showing a more complex software that allows students to design their own video games.

Please let me know if you have any questions and I hope that you can have fun and get messy in your class with this!

 

 

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Happy New Year to everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful break full of rest and reflections. As the 3rd F2F is coming up I wanted to post about what I have been doing and the anxiety and enjoyment I have been feeling from my process so far.

My current question is 'How might we shift teaching in math class to encourage risk-taking and student buy-in?' Initially my question had also included differentiation in it but the more I've been working on it the more I've been feeling like it's a redundant addition. In order to encourage that student risk-taking and buy-in, differentiation is absolutely necessary. It doesn't work without it so I felt like putting any focus on it distracts from the overall goal and focus.

To that end I wanted to look more into the risk-taking aspect in math, so before the break I was able to go visit one of our math experts in our school and watch her teach a grade 12 math class. I wanted to see how her students handled difficult problems and what the overall atmosphere of her classroom was and I have to say I was blown away. This teacher has done some very cool research on risk-taking and one of her philosophies is to get the kids moving. She has many boards and windows in the classroom and she has the girls working on problems and moving around. While the girls worked on problems I circled around and asked them about how they feel about taking risks in math, what they do when they get stuck and how comfortable they feel when they're unsure in math but moving forward.

The girls then reflected that it was much easier to try things when you could look around the classroom and see that everyone was trying. They said that when they were working on paper at their desk it was hard to tell if people were actually trying or just breezing through and it was only them that was struggling. I then asked the girls when they started feeling comfortable with the idea of taking risks and making mistakes and for the most part the girls agreed that it was a slow transition that came with time and more practice. This is something I think I want to dig deeper into, to see if there was a pivotal time or transition for them in their math journey. I find with my age group they can get paralyzed with math, thinking that either their parents will get mad at them or that they're dumb because they don't understand. I want to look more into how I can encourage those mistakes and make them feel less big. Things feeling big is a huge part of being 12-13.

 

 

 

Another thing I have been doing is introducing the concept of what a good math response looks like and drawing focus away on simply getting the right answer. With my classes we collaboratively made a single point rubric on what a strong math response looks like. The goal of this exercise was to emphasize that in terms of the big picture, the correct answer is only a small part of the math they are working on. This was actually something that happened naturally through conversation. We followed the steps highlighted in my last post and I had the girls define 'what makes a strong math answer' and this was their result

Knowledge and Understanding

  • Answer is checked to ensure it makes sense
  • Answer is underlined
  • Understands and uses formula
  • No errors in calculations

Application

  • Thoughts are organized using the GRASP method
  • Answer is broken down into appropriate GRASP parts to show thinking
  • Answer shows understanding of the concepts presented
  • Answer clearly shows student thinking

Thinking

  • A detailed sketch or diagram about the question is made
  • Student chose an appropriate strategy to solve

Communication

  • Math is written clearly and all work is shown for every step
  • Answer includes a proper conclusion sentence
  • Answer includes a detailed explanation of thinking
  • Writing is organized and steps are easy to follow

This was the list my students generated, and when we finished and organized it I turned to the girls and asked 'how much of this is about having the right answer?' This prompted some really great discussion. Through this activity we got to really bring home the idea that I am not focusing on the mistakes they make but more interested in the process. I want them to take risks and I want to see how they break down a problem and think critically about a solution. We are starting another thinking task this week in which we will come back to this rubric and I'm really excited to see how they approach the next 'stumper' and to see them document their process.

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After leaving our second F2F I left feeling completely motivated and excited about what I was going to research, it hit the mark for our school's focus and was something I think will absolutely help my students and is related to the feedback they gave me. But now I feel like I'm staring up at this big tall wall and I'm a bit nervous to start picking it up.

My question is "How might we shift teaching methods in math towards differentiation and risk-taking to encourage student buy-in and creativity?"

My question in itself is something that could be used to simply innovate my classroom, but I feel it's something I should push through our whole Middle School. After looking through the feedback from our Middle School students, and discussions with our High School teachers I know that risk-taking in math is something that's severely lacking. We have great content in our lessons, but not much opportunity for differentiation and making mistakes.

After looking through the resources and feedback from my peers I've been so excited to go through the suggestions and connect with the people that were recommended.

What I would like to do is not reinventing the wheel, and it's not groundbreaking, but it's new to me and new to our Middle School. I feel that this is the stage in my research where I will really have to force myself to write and blog, because as our coaches said at the F2F, your perspective and ideas could be exactly what someone else needs to hear. There are a lot of amazing math teachers out there that are already doing this and I'm excited to learn how to do what they are doing.

To that end here is my plan so far explained with stick figures

First I'll be looking through our next math unit and finding or designing an open-ended task, then with my students we will co-construct a rubric of what en excellent math response looks like. Through this I'm hoping to encourage students to realize that I am interested more in the process of problem solving and critical thinking and not the answer. I'm also hoping that since they are a part of the process of designing the rubric they will have more buy-in and be more aware of what they are being asked to do.

After they complete the task I will assess and write feedback on the rubric, we will then sit down and conference about how they did. During that conference we will decide together how the student did and what to work on moving forward.

From there I will then conference with the class and ask about how they felt this went. Did it help them feel more confident in taking risks to solve the problems? Did it help them build interest in the math itself? Were my strong kids as engaged as my students that consider themselves bad at math?

I also think this will be almost another starting point for me and I know I should slow down but all I can think of is the snowball effect of my question and how it will spurn on more questions and more ideas. Is anyone else finding this?

I look forward to sharing more and hearing more from everyone in the Cedar group.

@edaigle @lmitchell @mbrims @jbairos

 

 

 

 

 

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So a few weeks ago a coworker of mine who teaches the same classes as me went to the assessment summit at HTS and came back guns blazing with some amazing tools and ideas, and the first thing she did was sit down with me and go over her favourite strategy.

She went over a really lovely way to collaboratively create a rubric with the class to use with assessment and after doing it a few times I thought I would share the steps as well and reflect on it with you.

First

Have your students get into pairs and pass out some post-its. Then ask the students to consider what makes an excellent BLANK. For me it was 'What makes an excellent lab report?' The students then reflected on it and discuss with their partner. Then they are asked to take two post-its and on each one put a sentence describing something specific about what an excellent BLANK has. After that they are asked to put these post-its up on a board with everyone else's.

Second

Have one member of each pairing come up and sort the post-its into groups. Students come up and discuss and work together to organize their ideas into groups.

Third

After the partner has gone back to their seat the other partner now has a chance to go up and look over the groups that were made. They also get to move any post-its they think do not work. When they are done they can go back to their seats.

Fourth

Now you go up and read over each group and as a class you name the category of each group that has been made. If you want to take it a step further you can also discuss with the class whether this category fits as Knowledge, Thinking, Application or Communication and see what they think.

Fifth

You take their groups and content and put it into a rubric, using their own words and categories and organize it into a single point rubric. When you are done show it to the class and discuss if there is anything they may want to change or wording they don't like.

 

Where I went from there....

After having my students design this rubric, I went through their reports and wrote feedback and comments on the rubric as well as in their report. I assessed it and had their mark written down separately. I then conferenced with them and had them also use the rubric and my feedback to assess themselves. The results were that the students were either totally on the ball or harder on themselves than I was. When they first started it was such an interesting discussion to have and to watch them really look at their work and assess it. I could see they understood where the mark came from and we could clearly discuss what to work on moving forward. They also focused much less on the grade itself.

Which leads me to this morning, I was just finishing up marking a second round of lab reports. Yesterday I had informed my students that this time we would be deciding their grade together instead of separately like last time. I had expected panic but instead I got calm smiles and excitement. This was no longer something scary looming over them or me. I was not thinking about the percentage mark and I don't think they were too. I was also thrilled at how fast the shift happened. A lot of this is in part to the fact that the whole grade 7 team has now been implementing this in each class so the students are much more familiar with it across the board. On top of that I have a math assessment coming up and I'm so excited to create a math rubric with my students and to see how they do. This is exactly the kind of thing I want to work on in Cohort 21 and the results and reflections I see from my students are so meaningful and exciting for me as an educator.

When my students make this new math rubric I'll be sure to share it! I'm really excited to see what they do next.

 

After coming through from our first face to face and discussing my goals with my mentors, I came out with a much clearer picture of what I wanted to work on this year. After sitting down with Tina @mstinajagdeo, Lisa @lmitchell and Marc @marcbrims and discussing my thoughts I realized that my biggest area that I wanted to work on was expanding my math abilities. In science I feel confident in my use of PBL and my 'toolbox' of different strategies and options that my students have. Through it I felt I was able to create a strong level of differentiation and personalization but this was something I felt I was lacking in math and wanted to expand on. it's also something our school has decided to put much more focus on this year. I was unsure about my lessons as a lot of them involved Power Points and notes and not as much hands on activities as my science lessons. That being said I needed to be sure this was what fit with what my students might need and how they learnt best. To find this out I designed a survey that I would send out to my students from last year, as they had already been through a year with me and had more material to go off of than my current students. I have to give credit to Tina here as this was her brilliant idea! So I went on to developing my survey.

The hardest part of the next stage was making sure my ego was not coming into play. When asking my students I had to make sure my questions didn't go the direction I wanted it to go, but instead were neutral questions that promoted reflection on how they learnt. Looking back I can think of my favourite math unit and why I think my students might have thought the same way, but just because I enjoyed it and felt it went deeper doesn't mean all of my students might have. The whole point was to learn from my students and not just puff up my ego as a teacher and pat myself on the back.

To that end I made a list of students to send my survey to and made sure they were from a wide variety. On my list were my high flyers and math lovers as well as students that struggled and perceived themselves as bad at math when they first entered my classroom. I also included students who were new last year as well as students who had been at my school since pre-K. I wanted to make sure all of my bases were covered and I could get the most variety and opinion.

The overall goal was to determine what style of lessons my students preferred and what they felt they needed more of to succeed in class. I also wanted to know if there were other strategies they might need that I wasn't suppling. I work very hard on metacognition with my students as they are at an age where it really starts to be something they can do. So asking them to constantly reflect is a process I spend a lot of time on and I felt I could use for my research. I had them reflect on strategies they felt helped them learn as well as other ways they might like to be assessed.

The results were not what I expected (which I'm sure my mentors expected). The area I thought my students would gravitate to more was a unit my teaching partner and I developed last year about Pythagoras. In that unit the students discovered the formula on their own through a series of tasks they were given. Instead of simply being given the formula they found and made it themselves. I loved this unit, it was hands on and because the students discovered it themselves I found they remembered and understood it much more than they would have otherwise. What I found was that my lower ability and gifted students mentioned this unit as being their favourite in the year for those very reasons.

My high flyers however mentioned Algebra as being their favourite. The reasons they gave were answers like this

"I think my favourite lessons were the ones that had real world problems and ones that let us use our creativity."

 

This reflection shouldn't have surprised me, it's always fun and gratifying when you can use your skills creatively, especially to solve problems. It's something I really have pushed in science but clearly not enough in math. I'm not surprised my high flyers felt this way and I think I will absolutely need to create more opportunity for it.
The other aspect of my survey that surprised me was this response
I had expected that more students would have chosen options like solving puzzles or hands-on activities, but the majority of students picked discussing the concepts in class and watching the teacher go through questions.  Though I'm all for discussion watching me go through problems caught me a little off guard. This makes me wonder about their overall confidence in discovering things on their own and making mistakes. Watching me go through problems is very low risk for them and can have a tendency to not make much of an impact compared to actively solving things themselves. This in itself is something I want to reflect on more.
The last thing I noticed that I was happy to see was that the next biggest option was to work through homework in class. I always tell the students practice doesn't make perfect it makes permanent. I prefer to give them a space where they can practice skills correctly before going off alone and developing bad habits.
After that question I had asked students to explain their choices and this was a sample of the answers I got.
"These methods worked best for me because they made my busy schedule more flexible and homework became a lot less stressful!"
"I chose the choices because it was easier for me as an individual to work this way. Other people probably have a different because each student learns the best in their own ways."
"I think watching Miss Garand walk us through the steps really helped as I could correct my mistakes thoroughly and see where I made the mistakes. I think this is different from the other strategies because we are actually getting the right answer and strategies to solve it next time."
"Having the teacher explain any concepts that might seem difficult and going through questions that I get wrong so i understand where my mistake was"
"For me it helped a lot to go through the homework and be able to ask questions. I got to practise, which really helped, but I still learned what I hadn't yet figured out."

 

"I like having somebody explain it to me (a person, not a video) so that I can ask questions. I also found it beneficial to learn with the class so that if I don't understand the way the teacher is explaining, a classmate could jump in and explain it in a different way.""

"Trial and error - you can discuss with peers why something may or may not work! Working with people is fun"

"I liked using the triangle with three squares on the outside of it in the first pythag lesson to understand the theorem if that makes sense? Kinda like visual learning? also discussing concepts as a class made it seem more open of a discussion"

After looking at these answers I feel there is a lot for me to unpack and reflect on, but my biggest takeaway is how different all my students are, and I wonder if I am presenting enough different ways for them to learn outside of the safe 'watching the teacher' strategy. It seems that my class has a good culture in terms of discussion and presenting ideas but I would like to create more opportunity for them to take more risk and solve more real world problems.

Allowing them to use their creativity more I think would create an even more fun and engaging classroom. To that end I'm excited to expand my toolbox and try and find more strategies that fit with my students needs. I'm also interested in hearing thoughts from the Cedar group and my mentor's on my student's thoughts and my reflections. Looking forward to asking the room!

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After going through our first day and all the incorporation of technology in this Cohort 21 journey I just want to take some time to express gratitude for the energy in the room and for the fact that I am surrounded by educators that are just as passionate as me. This is such a cool opportunity to geek out about pedagogy and walk up to total strangers and say 'Hey! Tell me your thoughts!'

So thank you Cedar group and thanks Cohort 21. I'm so stoked for this year and the connections being made!

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c21_logo_medium

Welcome to you Cohort 21 Blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share , collaborate  and converse as you move through the C21 Action Plan process. 

This is your first post and an opportunity to share a little bit about yourself as a learner and leader. Please respond the to the following prompts below:

1) Reflect on your own personal learning journey and K-12 education. Identify one learning experience that you can point to as having made a significant impact on some element of your own growth and development. It could be that teacher and subject that really sparked significant growth or a trip that opened your eyes to a whole new world or way of thinking or a non-catastrophic failure that you learned so much from.  Briefly describe the learning experience and identify the various supports, structures, mindsets and relational ingredients that were put in place by the teacher or facilitator that directly contributed to your growth and success. 

Hello Cohort 21! My name is Robin and I have been teaching in CAIS schools in both Montreal and Oakville for 6 years now. I have been very fortunate to have had incredible mentors over the course of my teaching career. From day one out of my Masters in Science and Technology Education I was brought into exemplary CAIS schools that lead the way in hands on teaching and 21st century skills. After reflecting I have to say the experience that made the biggest impact on me was my time at St. George's Elementary school in Montreal where my mentor pushed me to develop curriculum that promoted deep learning, sustainability and allowed for diverse learning opportunities. When I started at St. George's I was thrown into an incredible makers-space classroom a few days before term started and given a lot of space and opportunity to develop my own curriculum. My mentors were supportive and creative and helped me to flourish as an educator. Now that doesn't mean that I breezed through the years. For the first year I was frequently uncomfortable, nervous and felt like I was barely treading water trying to keep up with amazing coworkers. I felt that this challenge really made the educator I am today. I can accept discomfort and face the fact that I always need to grow. I'm excited to see what I will accomplish this year!

2) What is the one Learning skill (MOE) or Approach to Learning (IB ATL) that you feel is MOST important in this day and age? How do you intentionally build it into your curriculum and develop it in your students throughout the year?

For my I think that the most important learning skill in this day and age is Initiative. Though collaboration was right alongside there I feel that to collaborate well that initiative is essential. In this day and age there is so much information and so much potential for our students to learn both in and outside of the classroom that giving them initiative will allow them to succeed so much more outside of school. I intentionally build it in my classroom through a wide variety of inquiry and PBL opportunities. Students are pushed and challenged to solve problems that have many different answers and they are encouraged to take initiative and find many different answers. Students are rewarded and encouraged when they bring in questions or ideas to the classroom. To show that I also frequently show them or discuss different opportunities or ideas from the outside world. I also engage in 'Shout-outs' that highlight when a student took initiative and thought it wasn't observed. I personally believe that a student with initiative will go far and achieve much more. They will also bring forward an energy and create an atmosphere that creates exceptional work.

3) Insert an image below that best captures the essence of that Learning Skill or ATL.

This was taken last year at the FLL Championship where we won Core Values for teamwork. A large portion of our team was new to FLL but the girls consistently took initiative in their group work and that lead to a great atmosphere and strong team values and success!