Archive of ‘Ongoing Professional Learning’ category

Summer Reading

With Summer quickly approaching I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to read over the break.

Here is my list:

Unshakeable by Angela Watson


“Reinventing Writing:The 9 tools that are changing Writing, Teaching and Learning Forever” by Vicki Davis



Going to continue to read, “The Power of Habits” by Charles Duhigg



And I’m going to re-read “Passionate Learners” by Pernille Ripp



What are you reading this summer? Let me know in the comments below or let me know if you have a suggestion.

Learning about Student Voice

I was so blessed to be able to attend the Spring Leadership Conference on April 17th run by the OCDSB. This was my first leadership conference so I wasn’t sure what to expect.


Jennifer Adams, the boards Director of Education introduced the day. She reinforced that this conference and our board should be focusing on 4 key priority areas: Well being, Engagement, Leadership, Learning. This conference definitely exceeded at all 4 of these priorities. 

We were allowed to choose different sessions that we wanted to go learn about. I chose to attend the session about Student Voice.


This session was lead by students from Nepean High School. They have helped host two student conferences organized by the OCDSB to promote student voice in our students. To see some tweets from these conferences, follow #findyourvoice15

Some of my key learning points:

  • many different kinds of student voice
  • need to active listening, more student to student discussions
  • asking students what they want
  • technology gives those that are quiet a voice
  • Need critical thinking in schools
  • experiences not books
  • teachers shouldn’t be the end result for projects. Should have a real world demand
  • Give the kids the curriculum guidelines, build their own rubric


The teacher behind these students learning is Jon Tenthorey who teaches CORE at Nepean High School. He believes in risk free play time and time to fail and learn from it. He creates situations to push kids beyond what they think they can do, mentally and physically. He take students downtown and gives them ten dollars but limits the students saying that they cannot just give the money to someone. This way he gets his students to find out people’s stories and to learn and care for them. To learn more about his teachings, check out

Rethinking Letter Grades

The debate on grading is going strong in the education realm. Throwing out Grades or #TTOG is a very popular topic on twitter. Check it out here.

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I received ” Rethinking Letter Grades: A Five-Step Approach for Aligning Letter Grades to Learning Standards” by Caren Cameron and Kathleen Gregory in the mail and I was so excited to start reading.

I assumed that this book would be about why letter grades are outdated and further the debate to not have letter grading. It definitely does discuss these negative aspects but it addresses the point that letter grading is what we as teachers have to do. The book gives us theFive-Step Process which helps us choose these grade in a more structured and transparent way.

IMG_5882The Five-Step Process of grading that this book discusses really goes beyond and above. It gets you to choose 3-5 big-ideas, make a statement about what you need to see from students to receive a specific mark for that big idea and shows you how to link student conversations, student products and teacher observations to each big idea to show their learning.

My Key Learnings in this book:

  • Teachers need to trust their professional judgement more.
  • We need to be collecting multiple sources of information ie: different products, teacher observations, and conversations with the student
  • Make learning objectives clear to students and parents
  • Grading and planning should be done together with teachers that are teaching the same grade and subjects

Things NOT to do with grades:

  • Stop docking marks for being late
  • Only assess one product of work the student has completed. It doesn’t give you a sense of what they actually know.
  • Participation and effort are hard to measure and should never be placed in with marks.

I definitely recommend this book to read and discuss with your colleagues. I’m excited to implement this grading process into my classroom next year! Please let mw know what you think in the comments. If you would like to buy this book, click the link here.

*Discloser – I received this book for free from the publishers but as always my opinions are my own. 

Week 2: Cold Thaw Collaboration Challenge

I am participating in the Cold Thaw Collaboration Challenge being put on by the wonderful Maria Verwey. For week 2 we have been asked what we are reading, what our professional goals are for this year and our one word for 2015.


Right now I’m reading ‘Making Thinking Visible’ which is my book club book. 047091551x

This upcoming Wednesday we are reading and discussing Chapter 2. Last week we discussed Chapter 1 and I was blown away by the amazing discussion we had. You can still participate and sign up here.

I’m also reading ‘What Great Teachers do Differently’ by Todd Whitaker.


Right now I have a lot of professional goals. I became a Google Educator in the summer and I’m working on becoming a Google Trainer this year.

Since it is my first year being a contract and permanent teacher, I’ve been focused on learning about how a school really works. I joined the School Learning Plan Committee (SLP), the Lead Team, and am hoping to be on our Technology Team.

I’m also focused on continuing to provide great PD opportunities. I am hoping to do that through a Summer Conference I’m hoping to help plan, my #bowkerbook club that is happening right now and maybe in the summer months, applying to present at a ETFO Summer Academy workshop and another Edcamp Ottawa next fall. I am also hoping to continue with Ontario’s Edchat (@Onedchat) and make it more popular.

In my classroom I also want to focus more on learning rather than marks and continuing to try to collaborate and do cool projects even though it seems to not be working out this year.

My One Word: 

My one word is Care. I wrote a post about it here.


Collaborating with the Museum of Nature

For a different Think Tank tonight we headed to the Museum of Nature to check out their Arctic Voices exhibit for a Special Preview for Teachers and Educators.

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Greeting from Gilles Proulx, Project Leader for nature School Programs

We had a greeting from Gilles who let us know about the current programs they have at the museum.


Roundtable Discussion Sessions: What are your needs?

Before I even got to the museum I was excited about this part. I love that the museum is asking teachers what we want. What a great idea for collaborating. Here are some questions they wanted answers to.


The Think Tank crew had tons of ideas to share. I think we all got excited about all the ideas and possibilities. If you have any ideas or answers to the questions above, please share them in the comments.

Visit to the Arctic Voices Exhibit

At the end of the night we got to visit the Arctic Voices Exhibit. Here are some pictures I took.


Real Penguin eggs was really neat to see.


I loved these posters at the beginning of the exhibit. They really make you think about the differences between us and Arctic people.



I double took these while I was at the exhibit but I loved that it says “Please Touch”!


I’m short next to a polar bear.


This was my favourite part of the exhibit by far. I loved being able to get so close to a polar bear. Absolutely amazing!


Super Cool side note: I found out that my husband’s Great Grandfather carved the letters on the front of the Museum of Nature. Pretty Cool!



Ottawa Educators: We are better together!

During my Christmas Holiday, I began reading “Uplifting Leadership: How Organizations, Teams, and Communities Raise Performances” by Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle and Alma Harris.


I started reading and could not put it down. It was one of those books for me where I kept on yelling out ‘YES!’

One of the chapters in this book is “Collaboration with Competition” focuses on coming together to share ideas to create better collaboration. This is exactly why Shauna Pollock and I started Think Tank. To form an alliance between all schools in Ottawa: whether you are in public, catholic, private, christian or others. By collaborating, we will be able to learn from each other, add social value to teaching and education, encourage shared passion, and promote continuous innovation. We are all in the same business of educating students, why not learn from and support each other?

If you interested in joining us for Think Tank, please sign up below.

New Goals for a New Year

I’ve been struggling this year. It’s my second year teaching grade 1 and I thought it would simpler. Now I have some Grade 2’s, I’m at a different school, and I have 25 very busy and chatty students. I find this year so different than last year and I’m having a really difficult time with it.

I was inspired by Pernille Ripp and Kathy Cassidy this past summer to start the year using devices, to have students blog, to show our learning, to skype, and for my students to lead the learning but it hasn’t happened.

It took forever to get working computers in my class, my class is so loud and my students still are not into routine.

I have felt defeated and like I’m lying about all these amazing ideas I have for the classroom but I cannot put them into effect yet.

I was reading Twitter last week and came across this tweet from George Couros.

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It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Learning is: social, making connections, asking questions, about creating, everyone is a teacher and learner.

Here is a great visual by Sylvia Ducksworth.


I’m going to start the new year off differently. I’m going to start units off by asking my students what questions they have about the topic. Then I will create the plan from there.

A new goal for a new year.

Structured Teaching for Autism

I attended a professional development workshop on Structured Teaching for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here are my notes.

Structured Teaching Part 1-November 27, 2014

  • approach created in the 1960’s by TEACCH
  • considered student learnings environments, schedules, work systems, and visual structure.
  • important to focus on meaningfulness  of situation and activities than reinforcement
  • increase independence

Structure teaching addresses:

  • being engaged
  • initiating tasks
  • processing information verbally
  • understanding when something is done

All student benefit but those without below listed items really do:

  • theory of mind (trouble with the ability to recognize others perceptive/feelings)
  • weak central coherence (trouble with the ability to draw to info and make connections)
  • display poor executive function (trouble with the ability to link past life lessons to present and making good decisions)

Executive Functioning Strategies for teachers to use:

  • task sequence (winter dressing)
  • Activity bins (one per bin)
  • First, then
  • IMG_5191
  • visual schedule
  • highlight what needs to be cut
  • choice boards
  • expected/unexpected behaviours
  • social stories
  • visual timers

Components of Structured Teaching

  1. Physical Environment
  2. Daily Schedules
  3. Work Systems
  4. Visual Structures

Physical Environment:

  • space visually distracting
  • quiet areas
  • light options
  • safety options(can safely walk to the carpet)
  • proximity to adult/peer support
  • good to identify areas and have well defined areas (section off areas)

Structured Teaching Part 2 – December 4th, 2014

Goal of Structures Teaching = Independence

Need to set up Picture cues for morning schedule/end of day schedule

  • dressing pictures
  • Take pics of all parts (Boots, hang up clothes, Clothes pin, agenda, Check circle board, read, or calendar, reading.
  • agendas, cleaning, chairs, pencil box with students pics,
  • get undressed, eat, clean up your desk (over and under), Pack your lunch box, put it in your bag
  • put schedule at student level

Visual supports support:

  • transitions
  • organization
  • independence
  • self regulation
  • behaviour
  • communication needs
  • routine establishment
  • reduce anxiety
  • understanding transitions
  • increasing flexibility

Daily Schedule

  • need a class schedule and one that they can manipulate
  • turn the card around, move it around


Work System:

  • point is to develop independence
  • has to have activities that they have already mastered



Questions to ask while setting it up:

  1. What am I supposed to do?
  2. How much do I have to do?
  3. How do I know when I’m done
  4. What comes next?

Prompt (stand behind student) (we want to fade all prompts)

  1. material #1
  2. Gesture non verbal prompt
  3. Verbal prompt
  4. physical prompt

-Work system should be focused on IEP goals

Structured Teaching Part 3 – December 11th, 2014

Examples of visual structure in the classroom

  • first/then boards
  • task cards
  • anchor charts
  • graphic organizers
  • task sequencing(dress/undressing)
  • reinforcement

Great Websites/Resources:

Google and Read and Write

Learning about Accountable Talk

Accountable Talk PD – November 10th, 2014

Our School’s Mission Statement for our SLP:
If we engage students in accountable talk and model the strategies then students will have better understanding.

What do we know about accountable talk?

  • oral communication
  • describes
  • ownership/accountable for learning
  • students talking to each other in class
  • explains and can answer questions
  • focusing on big ideas
  • script-I agree with ____ because___
  • I disagree with ____ because____

What do we wonder about accountable talk?

  • would love a guide to know how to implement it in our classrooms
  • a concrete definition to what accountable talk is
  • what is the past term for accountable talk

Lucy West Video on Accountable Talk:

  • need to learn how to listen to the teacher and other students
  • need to encourage students sharing with other students
  • need to repeat over and over again
  • need to SLOW DOWN in our teaching and focus on what students heard
  • always ask further questions when students answer questions
  • What does Revoice mean? Means rewording what a student said
  • ”student talking to learn”

Accountable Talk is….:

  • less teacher talk, more students explaining and teaching each other
  • students being respectful with a rich discussion
  • visible thinking
  • teacher is a guide to allow students to come to their own conclusions
  • articulation of students thinking
  • need to create a safe classroom so students feel safe to fail/make mistakes

Lucy West video-Barriers to Accountable Talk:

  • about the task

Why is Accountable Talk important:

  • need to clearly, concisely make your self be understood
  • clarifying thinking
  • discovery learning
  • drawing conclusions
  • inquiry learning
  • we want to communicate with others, we need to teach them to talk with a purpose

How can we make Accountable Talk work in our Classroom?
Need to create a safe classroom for accountable talk to happen

  • explicitly teach it and model it
  • mixed ability groupings
  • use talking stick/object so students can only talk when they have the object
  • visual reminder

Teacher Prompts:

  • I’ll restate/revoice what you just said. Listen to make sure I got it right.
  • ”How do you know it’s true?”
  • ”How are these things similar/different?”
  • “Can you repeat what he just said in your own words?”
  • “Can you tell me more about that?”
  • “Ok. Let me see if I understand.”

Student Prompts:

  • “How are they similar/different?”
  • “What I heard is….”
  • “So what you’re saying is…”
  • “I do think this because…”

Language Stems:

Accountable Talk Toolkit:

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