The Gender Gap in Technology

Quote for blog

According to a recent report* by ICTC (the Information and Technology Information Council) Canadian women represent about 50% of the overall workforce but represent only 25% of the technology industry workforce.  Of the 100 major tech companies in Canada only 5 have female CEOs and 1 Co-CEO.   26% of the tech companies have no women in senior leadership at all.  There is a gender wage gap in the industry of $7,000-$20,00 per year.  When I read these statistics I wondered as educators, what can we do about the gender gap in technology?  This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a place to begin:

1.  Build her confidence in her abilities.

2. Cultivate a community of supportive peers.

3.  Provide a STEM/STEAM club for girls.

4. Ensure that access to technology and computer experiences is encouraged and inclusive.

5. Foster interest in computing careers.

6. Be a role model as a LEARNER.

May 11th is National Girls Learning Code Day.  If you are looking to encourage coders in your school, why not begin on May 11th?  Below you will find links to resources for beginning coding.  Many students code on their own at home and may appreciate the opportunity to mentor fellow students.  The resources attached will get you started.  There is no special equipment or robotics required.  Teachers do not have to be expert coders to encourage their students.  Teachers can be role models of resilience, risk taking and problem solving by learning alongside their students.  Teachers only need to open the door and expose their students to the opportunities.

Girls Who Code Canada

National Girls Learn Code Day

Canada Learning Code


Hour of Code


*Cutean, A., Ivus, M. (2017). The Digital Talent Dividend: Shifting Gears in a Changing Economy. Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC). Ottawa, Canada.

Elaborated and written by Alexandra Cutean (Director, Digital Innovation Research and Policy). and Maryna Ivus (Senior Analyst, Research and Policy) with generous support from the ICTC Research and Policy Team.

Wellness in the Classroom

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a number of people reach out to ask about an activity that I did last year with junior students in our Wellness Club. I’ve been answering questions and sharing ideas and I thought perhaps this might be of benefit to more people so for this post, I’m sharing some of the work that I did with my colleague, Cynthia Wan at Shaughnessy Public School.

Over the last number of years, I’ve personally realized the benefits of incorporating elements of wellness into my daily routine. When working with students, I always saw great value in helping them to develop their own “wellness toolkit”. Through activities and conversations, students were given the opportunity to understand and express how different situations or experiences made them feel. In being more self-aware, students were then able to determine strategies that worked best for them when they were experiencing times of stress. We all think it would be ideal to not have any stresses but in reality, stress will always be around and we sometimes need those challenges to help us grow. The difficulty becomes when we can’t manage the amount of stress that experience. While much of the activities and ideas below are things that I’ve incorporated in my classroom with all students, last year, Cynthia and I thought about trying to take it a little further with a small group of students who were willing to dig in with us and really spend some time thinking about their own wellbeing and worked to create their own physical tool kits filled with strategies and tools. Below, I’m outlining some of the tools that I’ve used in the hopes that it might help if you’re thinking of starting your own wellness club or thinking of trying some of these activities in your class with students.

Meditation Apps

Stop, Breathe & Think is an app that I’ve used with students centred around meditation. In the past, there was only one version but in the past couple of years, they also have an app specifically geared towards children. Students particularly enjoyed meditations connected to their breathing as well as the Body Scan. It offered them a chance to just pause and reset if needed. We also took the mindful walking meditation outdoors with speakers and students considered ways in which they might utilize mindful walking as they travelled from one pace to the next. There is a link to some of the resources that they have but I haven’t used any of them with students.

Sitting Still Like a Frog is another meditation tool that has a book with activities. Visualization was another tool that I used with students and the A Safe Place meditation was one that students quite enjoyed.


Zones of Regulation was also a resource that I used in my classroom. I found it super helpful for getting students to identify what they are feeling and consider their own triggers and strategies for what they might do to move back to the green zone. The language is great in not valuing one zone over the other but thinking about how we can get back to being optimal if and when we identify that what we are feeling is impacting what we are doing and our interactions with others.

The Mindup Curriculum is also a great resource that I have used in the past with my whole class. I like that it starts off with talking about the science behind what we might be feeling and our responses to stressful situations.

I found this great book list with some mindfulness books that I’ve used to talk about mindful eating and some of the other activities that I have done with students. Your Fantastic Elastic Brain is also a great resource.

Just Breathe is a great video for opening up the conversation about naming what we are feeling as being a powerful part of being able to determine steps to change the feeling if things are not where we would like them to be.

Wellness Toolkits

 Screenshot 2019-04-29 at 4.49.31 PMWhen building out toolkits, students used ideas from our discussions and activities from our sessions together to help build their own physical kits. We started off with ziploc bags and students decorated them with duct tape. This really was an idea from one of the students who had used it in the past to create her own pencil cases and she thought it would be a great – and inexpensive – way to personalize our own toolkits. Once the toolkits were designed, it was time to think about the items that they wanted to include.  

Some of the items included:

Mindfulness colouring – We picked up a few from Dollarama. Some students also worked to create their own doodle books when given a blank scrapbook.

Inspirational quote books – We also found a few at Dollarama but some students were given their own scrapbooks as well to gather their own book of quotes that served to uplift them when needed an extra bit of encouragement.

Mindfulness Jars – A quick and easy visual for helping students to be able to understand that sometimes we have a lot swirling around in our minds and that by taking some time to be mindful of this fact, we can work towards calming some of those thoughts. Some students even like using them as a way to regain focus as they watch the sparkles settle. We used this recipe but there are so many more. I like the explanation on this one but didn’t like the idea of using glue.

Stress Balls & Slime – One student lead 2 sessions for our Wellness Club around using stress balls or slime as something tactile that sometimes help to manage stress. We did have conversations around making sure that it was something that was needed vs. something that we just enjoyed playing with in the classroom.

Screenshot 2019-04-29 at 4.49.45 PMWellness Journal – Students had their own journals – simple notebooks that they decorate the front of after we covered them with construction paper. We used these as a check-ins for themselves or prompts that they could use to write about how they were feeling.

Some of the prompts included:

  • Today I feel… because…
  • I’m grateful for…because…
  • One thing that I can do today to make it fantastic is…
  • Draw yourself as a superhero. What powers do you have? What powers might you like to work on further developing?
  • 3 ways in which I can help make someone’s day great are…
  • Write down three I am statements that define who you are. Take a few minutes to think about each one. Which quality feels the best? Why?
  • When you’re feeling confident, what emotions do you experience?
  • Who can you compliment today? Why? Find the time to make sure that the person hears what you have to say today.
  • Write three things that make you happy. How can you spend more time on these things each day?
  • The best day ever would be…
  • One thing that I learned about myself this week is…

Other Mindfulness Activities

Nature walks – Quiet walks in a small group in the neighbourhood to just take some time to notice. Some students captured items along the ground that they wanted to include in their journals. Some focused on sounds that they heard when they took the time to stop and truly just be in the moment.

Music – Sometimes having the opportunity to select the type of music or having ambient noise was helpful for some students as they worked and also to change their mood.

Yoga/Mindful movements – Cynthia was great in leading us in Yoga or mindful movements. A few years back, a colleague had the Yoga 4 Classrooms resource which we sometimes used to get us moving and stretching when we needed it. I also had students lead the Circle of Joy, which is also a mindful movement activity that is easy to learn and just helps to refocus.

These are just some of the tools I found useful when helping students to create their own toolkits of wellness strategies. As I mentioned before, stress is all around us. I think that helping our students determine which strategies work best to help them manage the stresses is an important part of helping them to be successful.

Effective Assessment and Feedback: The Single Point Rubric


I’ve never really been focused on grades in my classroom. Some educators and parents might find it shocking to read a teacher put that in print.  However, what I mean is that I seldom talk to my students about levels and letter grades.  I focus discussion around feedback, improvement, exemplars and success criteria.  When rubrics were all the rage I used them rather unsuccessfully. I found that traditional 4 level rubrics were about evaluating after the fact rather than providing feedback that can be acted upon during the learning. Rubrics are sometimes handed to the students as a “big reveal” when the project has been evaluated without any chance for acting on feedback.  I don’t believe that success criteria should be a secret to be kept from students.  It isn’t fair that students are thinking, “Well, if you’d only told me that was an expectation I’d have been happy to include it.  I can’t read the teacher’s mind!”  Clear is kind.  Be clear about the learning goals and success criteria for an assignment and give the students a rich task that they will have to dig into and get feedback to act upon during the learning.

Apart from the evaluative vs. the assessment function of a traditional rubric there are two other things that I dislike about the traditional 4 level rubric.  The first thing is that traditional rubrics inform students about what the bare minimum is that they have to do to complete something.  Some students will look at level 2 and do only just what it takes to fulfill that level.  Secondly, level 4 is meant to go above and beyond the expectations.  In a traditional rubric, students seeking level 4 don’t need to think outside the box at all.  All of the criteria for a level 4 is clearly stated-no thinking necessary.

The answer to this assessment question?  For me it was the Single Point Rubric.  Using the single point rubric changed the learning for my students and shifted my assessment practices. It focuses on what the student is doing well, what the student can do to improve in the work and exactly what the learning goal and the success criteria is for the learning.  However, it also allows for the above and beyond to be driven by the student.  It lets the student pleasantly surprise the teacher with creative thinking.  It is a clear and kind way to deliver feedback to students to encourage them to be successful in their learning.

I have included an example for a grade four  Single Point Rubric Literary Response.  Feel free to copy and change it to suit your needs.

If you would like to learn more about Single Point Rubrics:

Cult of Pedagogy

Edutopia-6 Reasons to Try the Single Point Rubric



Inference Building

Inference: A conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning. An important skill to have and to be able to utilize in a variety of situations. How do we help students develop this skill? Recently, a friend reached out and wondered if there was a unique or interesting way to help students both develop and effectively utilize this skill. While I know that there are a variety of different ways in which to develop this skill in students, I was really excited to share about something that I’ve done for a couple of years that actually got students excited about stretching their inference skills!.

Once a week, I would post the New York Times’ What’s Going On in This Picture? And sometimes if I didn’t there would be questions about why I had forgotten. Without fail, students would be excited to see if they could determine exactly what what going on based on the clues provided within the picture. After taking some time to examine the picture, I would ask students to independently answer the following questions:

  1. What’s going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see or notice that makes you say that?
  3. What more can you find?
  4. What connections can you make to your own experiences?

The reason for their independent answers first was that I wanted them to take some time on their own to process what might be happening in the picture and to draw their own conclusions. Usually this took about 15 minutes and students were ready to share and consider the perspectives of others. Once finished digging-in on their own, I asked them to form a group of 3 and to share the answers to their questions. While answering the questions, the other 2 students in the group would be critical friends and really push the speaker to tell them more about how they made the inferences. We used the following questions to push that thinking:

  1. How do you know that?
  2. Why do you think that?
  3. Tell me more about what you know about…
  4. What might have caused this?
  5. What might have happened before or after?
  6. Why might this matter and to whom?
  7. What message or story is this image telling? Why might it be important?

Thursday afternoons became a popular time for finding out the answer and determining the accuracy of the conclusions made. Students were eager to see how close they were to the actual description of what was happening and to understand what additional information may have been missing in order for them to get a more complete picture.

When writing this post, I stumbled upon the New York Times’ What’s Going On in This Graph? and got so excited about the implications of using something like this in Math. I noticed that on the site, they have their own questions to guide the discussion for students:

  1. What do you notice?
  2. What do you wonder? What are you curious about that comes from what you notice in the graph?
  3. What might be going on in this graph? Write a catchy headline that captures the graph’s main idea. If your headline makes a claim, tell us what you noticed that supports your claim.

I shared these sites with my friend and thought they might be of benefit to share with you. What are some of the ways in which you are working towards developing inference skills in students? Would love to hear about the innovative ways in which you might be engaging students on building real skills that are transferable and essential.

What do you think is going on in this picture?


Create Success in Intermediate Math through Play….

“What are you doing in Math today?” the VP inquires of my grade 5,6,7 and 8 students.

“We’re playing games.”

“You’re playing games?”

“Yes, we always play in math.”

The assessments gathered from these classes provide me insight of where everyone is in their learning. My experience with assessments are that individual conversations to understand the thinking process provides the most valuable information. The range of each of my classes is from a low elementary level to a low secondary level.  This is quite a span. As a school we have been, “Landscaping” these students using; Fosnots– Landscape of Learning. This provides an great snapshot of where your learners are on a continuum. Our board has developed some very specific assessment questions for all grade levels which include strategic numbers to help determine the strategies individuals use.

How do I managed this?

It took me a while with the continuous disruptions to the daily routine. The way, I have adopted my assessment sessions this year is similar to how a reading group would be managed.  Provide the lesson, give the class expectations, then work with a small group on a rotating basis. The entire class already understands the rules and class expectations which have been familiar routines followed to date.

Now what?

I find creating a growth mindset is most important. This is developed through creating a comfort zone for all, including the teacher. Each year I am challenged to ensure my learners grow and develop forward on the continuum. I use a variety of resources such as Sherry Parrish’s-Number Talks This is a great beginning to each class.

I resource Dr. Small’s-Big Ideas for different activities to compliment the concept of study.

Presently I am using, From Patterns to Algebra, by Dr. Beatty and Dr. Bruce

Play, yes these resources include play which I implement on a regular basis.  The students enjoy learning with and from each other while I guide them. During my classes, Play creates a class dynamic for success.

The Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning Resource

I’m super excited about this being my 10th year of teaching. Although this year, I’m not teaching in the traditional sense of having my own classroom, I feel really lucky to work with educators as they design exceptional learning experiences for students. Over the last month I’ve been taking some time to reflect on my 10-year journey and all of the opportunities that have lead me down my current path.

One such reflection was about my experiences with blogging and thinking about the reasons why it all began. In 2016, I was looking for an easy way to connect with parents around the work that we were doing in the classroom. I wanted to parents who weren’t always able t  o visit the school to know what was happening and to feel a part of the school experience and learning of their child. Even if only 1 parent took the time to read the blog, I found value in writing it. My weekly writings also offered me the chance to reflect and think about what we were doing in the classroom and the reasons why. I truly enjoyed blogging weekly and for the most part, kept it going for the last 3 years.

In September 2017, I started blogging for the Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning and it’s truly been an honour. Every month is an opportunity to reflect on my practice and write in the hopes of inspiring even 1 new teacher to perhaps try something new in their classroom or possibly consider an idea from a different perspective. When put that way, the task now seems a little daunting. For this post, I wanted to get back to the heart of what inspired me most about this online community and the resource that is its namesake.

Over the summer of 2017, I was sent the Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning resource. I have to say that the subtitle is a little misleading. It reads: Practical ideas and resource for beginning teachers. Perhaps it should read: Practical ideas and resources for ALL teachers. Even though this is my 10th year teaching and perhaps I’m not still a beginning teacher, there are so many amazing ideas inside. This past month, I pulled it off the shelf and dug back into it again and found a few ideas that I would love to share. I really hope that you take some time to dig in and find some amazing gems that you might be able to use in your classroom.


In chapter 2, there is a section on the importance of Mentorship. Throughout my career – not only as a beginning teacher – mentorship – whether formal or informal – has been an important part of my growth. In my first year, from Linda, I learned how to easily plan a Math unit that allowed for flexibility based on student learning and interest. In my second year, I learned from Toba how to truly engage students in the French language while making it relevant. In my third year, Alyson taught me the importance of connecting with students and genuinely caring for them not only academically but socially. I can honestly say that the list can continue and as the years progressed, there were often times more than one “mentor” from whom I was learning. I’ve always believed that there is something to learn from every experience and I think that I’ve been able to learn as much as I have because of the people around me. Pages 17 and 18 of the resource share models of mentorship. Take a look and see if you can find one that works for you. You never know where it might take you!

Classroom Set-up

Screenshot 2016-10-23 at 08.23.27Chapter 2 ends with classroom set-up. As many of you know, I was a passionate advocate of flexible seating in the classroom. Years ago, my students worked on a Math project where they re-designed our classroom while taking into consideration their learning needs. They measured the classroom and petitioned our Principal for some money for items they thought would better meet their learning needs. Some wanted standing tables while other wanted opportunities to sit on the floor. We created a learning environment that worked best for us and the autonomy and increased levels of ownership in the classroom were an indication that students felt as thought the classroom was their space. Now I know that we were lucky in that we were given some money to redesign but since leaving that school, I learned 2 important lessons: where possible, let students design the space so they feel that sense of ownership in the space and be intentional about what you chose to include in your classroom space. This picture of our space looks quite full and I would have to say that every item spoke to who we were as a group. On pages 25 to 30, I love that each of the classroom learning spaces are different and yet the amazing educators can speak to the differences that they have included in their classrooms with intentionality. I just started feeling a little nostalgic about designing learning spaces!


Screenshot 2019-01-29 at 1.50.16 PMIdeas

This resource has a variety of ideas meant to allow teachers and students get to know each other in the first hours/days/weeks of school. One idea that tempts me to ask around to borrow a classroom is found on page 52. I love the prompts and think they’re great for getting students – and frankly even teachers – to get to know each other on a deeper level. Beyond the first weeks of school, I think activities like these really help to promote a sense of belonging and inclusion in classroom spaces.


It’s report card time and I know that once again the crunch is on. Throughout my career there were many times that tips from others on best practices came in handy. This resource is FULL of great tips – and questions – that help to guide educators through some of the different aspects of our jobs. For report cards specifically, I really liked the Big Picture Questions on page 87. When reflecting on them, I think they would have been great questions for me to have asked myself during writing.

Screenshot 2019-01-29 at 2.04.13 PM

If you haven’t already, please take a look at this resource. It’s fantastic! Not only for the beginning teacher but I strongly believe that every teacher could gain something from taking a read. Once again, I’m grateful for the Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning for the chance to reflect and hopefully I’ve inspired you to take a look for yourself!

Everyday Mental Health Classroom Resource

As January and the new year approaches, I start to reflect on balance and keeping true to what I believe to be most important. When in the classroom, I always thought that it was a great time to press the reset button with students and gear up for the next half of the year. Over the break, I often take some time to check out resources that I think will help me along this goal so that I can add fresh ideas to lessons that I know have allowed students to reflect on themselves as they start to set goals. This year was no different even though I’m not in the classroom. While taking a look through some of the amazing ETFO resources available online, I found the Everyday Mental Health Classroom resource that I think is absolutely fantastic and essential for classrooms.

Co-developed over the past two years by School Mental Health ASSIST and ETFO, this resource is designed to provide K – 8 educators with evidence-based strategies to help develop the Social Emotional learning skills of students. The great part about this resource is that the activities contained have been tested by ETFO members and not only that, but a research project was done to determine the efficacy in classrooms. It’s definitely a resource that educators should consider using in their classrooms.

Here’s why! The resource:

  • offers the evidence and need for this work in classrooms;
  • honours the professional judgement of teachers;
  • focuses on core skills;
  • is online and easily accessible.

In this post, I’ll dig into why I think it’s a great resource for using in classrooms in the hopes that you’ll try it with students and if you already have, share what you’ve noticed with others.


When I think of a resource being evidence-based, I understand that it is informed objectively. In that there is a perceived need for the development of the resource and that there is time taken and reflection made to truly understand the impacts of what is being proposed as good pedagogy in the classroom.

The Everyday Mental Health Classroom resource offers a great deal of background on the rationale for the project and the findings. The resource honours and speaks to the fact that as educators, we are not expected to me experts in mental health and yet we have an important role in working with a diverse group of students. We do have the responsibility to create safe and caring classroom environments for all and for helping our students further develop the core skills that I’ll get into later. The idea is that the lessons and activities can be easily embedded into daily classroom practices with this goal in mind. Of educators who participated in the study, 84% found the resource extremely or very useful; while 95% would recommend the resource to other educators within and outside of their division and roles. The background page on the site offers a wealth of information on the benefits of Social Emotional Learning for students (1).  I encourage your to take a look.

Honours Professional Judgement

In Understanding Your Professional Judgement, Professional Judgement is defined as, “judgement that is informed by professional knowledge of curriculum expectations, context, evidence of learning, methods of instruction and assessment and the criteria and standards that indicate success in student learning. In professional practice, judgement involves a purposeful and systematic thinking process that evolves in terms of accuracy and insight with ongoing reflection and self-correction”.  ETFO has provided support for teacher and occasional teacher members in exercising their professional judgement.

One thing that makes this resource unique is that right on the landing page, there is mention of the importance of professional judgement. The site further encourages educators to consider their students and exercise professional judgement to maximize growth in students. It also states that, “Using professional judgement, educators can select from a variety of practices within the Everyday Mental Health Classroom Resource to enhance classroom conditions and build social emotional skills in ways that best meet the needs of their students”.

This is so empowering! While I may not be an expert in mental health, knowing that I can use my professional judgement to select and embed activities that will develop core skills that can potentially have a positive impact on students mental health and wellbeing is amazing.  Sometimes hearing this is just the thing that a teacher needs to gain that confidence in trying something new.

Focuses On Core Skills

This resource focuses on developing 6 core skills:

Stress Management and Coping Skills

Everyday, we face challenges. How we manage these challenges and stresses is key to our success. Different people use different strategies in stress management. This section contains activities that helps students to develop skills and build their own toolboxes with strategies that work best for them.

Emotion Identification Skills

I’ve heard that there is power in naming emotions. We all face a variety of different emotions throughout the day. This section contains activities that help students to identify and appropriately express their feelings, further developing their ability to effectively self-regulate.

Positive Motivation Skills

This section reminds me of the importance of Growth Mindset. This section contains activities that help students in the areas of expressing gratitude, practicing optimising and perseverance, as well as reframing.

Relationship Skills

Positive relationships are important to have and are essential for a safe and caring classroom environment. This section contains activities that focus on acts of kindness, being a good friend, respect, conflict resolution, empathy and listening.

Self Confidence and Identity Skills

We all have qualities that make us unique. Understanding our identities and who we are is an important part of building our own self-confidence. This section contains activities that will help students to learn about and appreciate their identities while empowering them to hold firm to their beliefs when faced with challenging decisions.

Executive Functioning Skills

When we think of executive functioning skills, I think of the skills needed to plan, organize and complete tasks. This section contains activities that help students develop and master these skills through repeated opportunities for practice.

Online and Easily Accessible

This free resource is available online with challenge cards that can be printed for easy access while the activity is in progress. Each activity provides the teacher with information on the purpose and the time required so that they can best determine which might be best to embed into their day. The filter allows for teachers to search by division and also has a great feature that allows for Occasional Teachers to be able to search for activities that they can also use during their time with students. I think this is fantastic!

I know that this post just gives you a taste of this resource and I hope that you take some time to take a deeper look into it and consider using it in your classrooms. By developing these skills in students, we can prepare them to succeed beyond the classroom. The evidence is there, what are you waiting for?


David Suzuki’s message to us all

Today the grade seven and eights at our school were invited to attend the Eco Summit at Mohawk College. It was an exciting opportunity where we got to listen to motivated students from around Hamilton speak about the change they were making in their school community and beyond. Local poets, musicians and activists spoke as well about the changes we could be making and how the earth desperately needs our help.

I knew I had to prepare my students for in their mind what could have been a boring day listening to speakers. I needed to create an interest in them before they sat down in Mohawk’s auditorium. I shared with them a BBC article I had recently read about the key things we can do to keep the earth’s temperature from rising beyond what it can handle. I shared with them how we need to cut down and eliminate certain things or places such as Portugal (as I felt this summer) will be uninhabitable very soon.

I soon saw that this trip was a bit mature for some of our younger grade sevens and even for some of our eights. They did not quite have in them the interest in climate change. Only a few of our eights were brave enough to ask the student guest speakers some questions such as: how did you get your teachers or people in general to pay attention to your causes? How can we make a change? What is the most important issue facing us at the moment? Etc.

I did however find a few key takeaways in the main keynote address of the day. We were VERY fortunate to hear from David Suzuki via video conference. I wrote some notes regarding his message to our group today. Here are the main points:

  • we need to radically reduce our use of fossil fuels
  • we should research and read more about the blue dot agenda and we can do so by going onto
    • once there, you can click take action
  • we can learn more by reading about the David Suzuki foundation
  • we can email the MP in our area and ask them to sign the MP pledge for environmental rights
  • anyone 18 or older needs to vote in the upcoming federal election for the most environmentally conscious leader
  • fight for the IPCC recommendation
  • it is important that we as educators offer solutions to our children without scaring them about the future
  • shift to what is called a biocentric view rather than what our world currently has, the human centric view
    • we need to see us a part of a web of living things
  • our students are the heroes of the future


That last point really stuck with me. Sure they may have been zoning off during David Suzuki’s talk or not listening to the inspirational music videos, but we cannot give up hope on our heroes of the future. Even if just a few of them take a stand, we can hope that they will be the change we need to see in this world. I encourage everyone to try to do some of the points as listed above. Also, a great read is this BBC article that challenges us to start making changes as well:
Also, here is an amazing message to get a conversation started with your class about doing their part to make the world a more liveable place

Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s NOT. -Dr Seuss

Tools and Resources for Math Talks

One of the reasons that I spent so many years teaching the primary grades is that teaching math to older students terrified me.  Growing up I struggled with math.  I changed schools in the middle of my grade three year and missed a great deal of multiplication and division instruction which haunted me for the rest of my math learning.  I remember crying at the kitchen table over my homework and my father being distraught over not being able to help me.  I totally understand how a student feels when they shutdown and “can’t” get it.  That understanding along with having excellent tools and resources helped me immensely when I taught grade 4 and 5 mathematics.

Math Growth Mindset

Jo Boaler is a professor of mathematics education at Stanford University and the co-founder and faculty director of youcubed.  This fabulous website provides unique, research based instructional approaches to teaching math.  There are videos for students of different age ranges and the “Week of Inspirational Math” was what helped me to create a positive math learning environment with a growth mindset in my Junior grade classroom.  It doesn’t have to be the first week either-you can do it at any point.  Jo Boaler has also co-written a series of mathematics instructional resources called “Mindset Mathematics” for each of the junior grades.

Math Talks

Number Talks: Whole Number Computation, Gr K-5: A Multimedia Professional Learning Resource became my go-to resource when I began daily number talks with primary students and it made the transition to teaching math in the junior grades much easier.  The format of math discussion remains essentially the same no matter what grade level.  It is an expensive resource but well worth it.  If you want to give math talks a try there are some more affordable online resources that you can use as well.

Math for Love is a website that provides a number of online math talks for K-5.  EduGains gives a brief synopsis of how to develop your math learning community in your classroom.  Another great online resource for daily math talks is Which One Doesn’t Belong?  This website provides all sorts of pictures for math discussion. Eventually my students began creating pictures for other classes to use for their math talks after using the examples on the website. Math Talk Resources is a comprehensive spot for math talk information and connects you to many different math talk resource websites.

When students have the opportunity to discuss math and hear fellow student’s different perspectives, they begin to see their own entry point into every math problem.  They also begin to see the value of challenging each other’s ideas respectfully and adding to one another’s ideas. “What do you see and what do you wonder?” is a much friendlier way to open up math discussion than, “Who can give me the answer?” I am convinced that because my students engaged in respectful math talks they were able to transfer these skills into other discussion topics in our classroom.  For me, the anxious math teacher, math talks became the highlight of our daily math lessons and sometimes, the highlight of my day.


My Yearly Notebook

Each summer I buy a brand new spiral bound notebook.  Not the skinny ones that you get in the 3 pack from Hilroy with the flimsy cover that rips within a few uses. I am particular about my stationary.  It may be a kind of a problem.  I get the 8 1/2 by 11 solid cardboard spiral bound notebook.  It is where I keep my lists.  Lists of things to buy for the classroom.  Lists of things I want to change in the physical space of my classroom.  Lists of books I’d like to read or add to my classroom library.  Lists of things to get done before September.  Lists of the curriculum topics I’ll be teaching and in what months I plan to teach them.  Lists of special events each month that I might highlight or celebrate with my students.  Lists…of lists.  I use that big notebook all school year long to add notes from meetings, professional development sessions and of course, more lists.  I have many already filled spiral notebooks of new ideas that I’d like to try over the school year on my shelf in my office.  This summer I realized something.  After the school year is over I have NEVER opened those notebooks again.  There are lots of great ideas in there that I didn’t implement and then I feel guilty about that!  Teacher guilt never seems to stop, unless of course, I choose to stop it.

This summer I quickly read the book, “Ditch That Textbook; Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom” by Matt Miller. It has fantastic teaching tips for technology integration in the classroom.  Although I do not have the desire nor the access to the 1:1 technology to go completely paperless, I found a lot of wisdom and great teaching tools in Matt’s book.  I have also provided a link to Matt’s blog.  Matt helped me to break a cycle.  I haven’t bought a spiral bound notebook this summer and I’m not planning on buying one.  Among many pieces of advice in the book, Matt suggests picking two new things that you are really excited about to add to your teaching practice, being clear about your intention for using those practices and following through.  I’ve been guilty of overdoing the professional learning to the point that I overwhelm my students by doing a whole bunch of new things all at once and then don’t end up sticking to any of them.  I also get overwhelmed by the many great ideas out there and wonder if I do something else, what I’ll have to give up doing.

I’ll admit that I’m already kind of cheating.  Instead of just choosing two teaching practices I’m also choosing two new technology platforms to learn about for next year.  One of the practices that I would like to get in the habit of doing is adding more descriptive feedback to assignments that students do online and have multiple opportunities for the students to respond to that feedback and re-submit assignments with changes.  The second thing that I would like to do is educate parents on how to leave constructive feedback for their students online rather than a thumbs up or “Good job!”  I plan on exploring the video and audio creation tools, WeVideo and Voki.  I may explore more than these but these are the ones that I am committed to doing.  Since I have written my commitment here on the blog, I also commit to sharing what I thought about those tools in a review format.  If you get a chance to read Ditch That Textbook, I highly recommend it. It is a quick read with great already-made lists and hey, it made me “Ditch That Notebook”.