Oiler Jersey Math

It’s funny how great ideas can just come to you in a flash. Since the Oilers clinched their playoff spot last month, I had been trying to figure out a way to integrate the Oilers and the playoffs into my math lessons. I hadn’t come up with anything more interesting than word problems to practice our addition and subtraction skills until we had Oilers day last week. A group of teachers were in my room during recess and we were all wearing our Oiler jerseys and inspiration hit! We decided to pose the following questions to our Grade 2 and 6 students and then share our thinking with each other.

Oiler Math - Jersey NumbersOiler Math - Jersey Numbers (1)

I posed both of these questions to my class and asked them to come up with solutions that would work with the numbers already presented. Using the thinking behind number talks, I had students find solutions mentally and put a thumbs up in front of them when they had a solution.  After almost the whole class had a solution, I asked students to share their solution and the reasoning behind their thinking. I recorded their  solutions and thinking on the board as they spoke. These are the possible solutions to the questions.

Green: Solutions to the 1st question       Orange: Solutions to the 2nd question

While my students were sharing their thinking and reasoning, their knowledge about numbers and their relationships became apparent. Their responses gave me insight into who was using what they had learned earlier in the year about odd and even numbers and who had gaps in their mathematical understanding.

I had to ask my students if 99 and 97 would be a possible response for the second question as a start of a pattern. We haven’t talked a great deal about patterning yet this year and it would interesting to see if I repeated a similar question to this next month, once we have learned more about patterns, if my students would offer solutions that would make patterns.



Not Taking a Risk is Taking a Risk

This week in class we were reading the book “The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes“. We’ve talked in class about celebrating mistakes and how mistakes lead to growing your brain. The conversation we had around the book was so powerful, but one comment made by a student made me pause and reflect. She said:

“Not making mistakes is making a mistake.”

Jo Boaler talks about how making mistakes are opportunities for learning that cause synapses to fire in our brain, which in turn grow our brains. If you look at this idea through an Innovator’s Mindset, the same can be true if you equate mistakes to risks.

Not taking a risk is taking a risk.

In the Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros talks about how, as a teacher, taking risks are necessary to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all of our learners. Trying new things and challenging the status-quo are both risk-taking scenarios that come with all kinds of mistakes. Nothing is ever perfect the first time, mistakes are bound to happen, and there will be failures. Change is messy, but in order to make things new and better for your learners, you have to take risks.

Be the person in your school that embraces the challenge to move forward, share your experiences, and inspire others to take risks. In George’s words,



Me a Leader – What??

Before the IMMOOC experience many of my colleagues have told me that I am leader. Even my principal has given leadership roles at my school – Technology Coach, Division I Literacy Lead, and Mentor Teacher. My internal response to them was this:

I always think all the things I do are just part of my job as a teacher and who I am as a person. I am always willing to share, welcome others into my classroom, and talk about all the exciting things that I am doing with my learners.

During the Week 5 Live session, Shelly Burgess and Beth Houf brought up the idea that anyone, in any position, could be a leader. After this statement was made, I started to think that, maybe, I am leader in my school and district.

This newfound perspective of myself made me do a little informal research and reflection. The word leader is defined as a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country. Nope – I’m not this kind of leader. I associate this type of leader with someone in an administration role or Superintendent. So what kind of leader am I then?

The word leader comes from the word lead, which can be used as a noun or a verb. In total, there are twelve different meanings of the word lead. After reading the following definition, I have decided this could fit with how I view myself as a leader.

lead – to show (someone or something) the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them

In my leadership role, I don’t command a group, rather I show someone the way by modelling innovation. I take time to work alongside my colleagues and push them to try things that are new and better. George talks about how savvy leaders are constantly re-inventing. I know I am always reflecting on how to improve my practice and never teaching the same lesson twice, always re-working and innovating to make it better.

Through my informal research, I gathered that a leader is someone who inspires others to such a degree that others would go above and beyond, not because you have to, but because you want to. Leaders encourage, guide, coach, empower, and respect. They are role models who excel, risk takers, and innovators. I’m too humble to say that I have these qualities, but I will say that I strive to be a person who exemplifies them.

Great leaders work together and push one another to do new and better things for our learners. I love talking about the Innovator’s Mindset with my colleagues. We have our own impromptu #georgetalks throughout the day. My one colleague sent me a quote from the book that has become one of my favourites:

“We only get better when we find those who truly elevate us. Look for mentors who will push you to come up with better and brighter ideas and be that person for your followers. Leaders are meant to unleash talent by bringing their people’s strengths to life, not ignoring them.”

She ended the text with a simple: Thanks! 😊👍

After receiving the message, I finally saw myself as a leader.

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Focusing on Learner Strengths Through Voice and Choice

School can be full of many frustrating experiences for learners. They can develop a negative mindset, rather than a growth mindset, and come to hate their schooling experience. George Couros suggests that teachers shouldn’t focus on learner’s weaknesses, rather focus on their strengths.

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Finding learning experiences that allow learners to have voice and choice is crucial. While working on my Masters program, my friend Karla Holt (@karlaholt) introduced me to the idea of Universal Design for Learning. We used these principles to make an eBook for Alberta’s Grade 2 social studies program. The book gives all learners access to the content and they are able to have voice and choice while working through the book. We even built in assessment tasks that offer voice and choice. After introducing the book to my students, the learning experiences in my classroom were transformed. Students were no longer completing prescribed tasks in the way I wanted them to, but unleashing their creativity to share their learning in new ways.

The year I “launched” my eBook, I had a student in my class that was a striving reader and writer. She would have had difficulty accessing the text if she was required to read from a print book and would have had equally as much difficulty writing out sentences if she was to complete traditional paper-pencil tasks. With voice and choice options, she was able to listen to the content and make videos to share her learning. Since she was able to use what she loved – technology and videos – her confidence was off the charts. The learner she left my class as, was a completely different one than who came to me, all due to her learning experiences being focused on her strengths.

Our job as a teacher is simple – to help each learner become the best they can and feel good about themselves. That’s the easy part, the actual doing of the job is the hard part. Teaching isn’t a cookie cutter job that is the same for everyone, it’s about building relationships with each learner, finding out what they love, giving them opportunities to develop their strengths and build confidence, and encouraging them to be their best. A HUGE job, but one that I love doing everyday.



Empowering Learners Through Self-Assessment

After a long week of finishing assessments and writing our Communicating Student Learning documents, or report cards, I was struggling to find something to write about for the last post in the three blog post challenge for IMMOOC. As I was finishing Chapter 7 in The Innovator’s Mindset I got to the section on 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom and had my AHA! moment when I reached # 7, Self Assessment. This year my district has taken on a big assessment project with Sandra Herbst guiding our thinking. Something as simple as self assessment seems like a no-brainer, but over the past nine years, I’ve attempted it so many times, with little to no success, until this year.

That change has happened with Sandra’s guidance. She stated that we need to help students understand quality and proficiency by co-constructing what is important or what matters in their learning. This gives your learners the language they need to guide their learning and self assessment.

My students and I have co-constructed writing criteria twice so far this year, once for personal narrative writing and once for non-fiction writing.

At the end of each term, I had my students find evidence in their writing of what they were doing well and what they were needing to work on. This year was the first year that I actually felt my students new their strengths and where they needed to grow. In fact, as I reviewed their stickies, they were spot on with their strengths and areas of growth – report card comments were done!


Classroom Teacher vs. School Teacher

George talked about the idea of the school teacher vs. classroom teacher during the Live session this week. After the session, I took time to reflect on how was I working towards being a school teacher. I find self-reflection difficult because I’m often too hard on myself, so in the beginning, I could hardly think of any great examples. I know if I asked my colleagues they would have given me a long list of items that would exemplify how I’m a school teacher. After a few days of reflection, here’s my list of how I’m being a school teacher:

  • sharing ideas with my colleagues, on my blog, and through Twitter
  • seeking out other colleagues to get ideas and tips on how to help the learners who are struggling in my classroom
  • sharing students with my grade group partners during our Guided Reading time so the students who need interventions can get it
  • initiating  a Grade 2 PLC across the district
  • sharing positives and celebrating successes with teachers about previous and current students
  • greeting the students at the school, not just the ones in my classroom

In the School vs. Learning comparison, George states that learning is social and should promote that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner, so why do some teachers carry out their teaching career as a school teacher? Why do some teachers view helping each learner become their best as a competition?


Building Relationships and Trust

My Superintendent believes that every child deserves to be greeted by name every day. I also think that building relationships and trust with my students is essential from day 1. Each morning I start the day greeting my students at the door (and those who pass by my classroom) and finish by saying good night to them in the hall. This year, I started Morning Meeting with my class. My students greet each other in various ways each morning. They all know how to do a proper handshake and make eye contact. After our greeting, each student has time to share their thinking and be heard in the classroom. Finally, we have some fun building relationships with a short activity or game. Earlier in the year when my class was asked to share what made them happy at school, about half my class responded, “Being greeted by my classmates.”.

Other relationship building activities:

  • Me Boxes at the beginning of the year, inspired by Christine Quong (@c_quong)
    • Each student has a special day to bring in their Me Box and share about themselves
  • Class Brain, also inspired by Christine Quong (@c_quong)
    • Students complete a multiple intelligence survey to find out their strengths and areas in which they need to grow. Students help their classmates grow by strengthening each other’s areas of need.

Relationships built from trust in my classroom have lead to my students having a new found confidence and being empowered to try new things and make mistakes because they know their classmates will be there to support them.