Day 140 (of 187) sensory rooms

Day 140 (of 187) sensory rooms

I love sensory rooms. Especially the times I’ve been in schools with “little rooms”. My first exploration was with one small room as a sensory-focused room – with lighting with a dimming light, fidgets and grippies, and a texture wall (panels with a variety of carpet and fabric samples – love some of the rougher ones like AstroTurf) and even a choice of sounds/music. Started my thinking: sometimes you need a distraction in order to get focused.

My second (at the same time) exploration was a de-sensory room; dark walls and the ability to have little to no lighting. Almost a sensory deprivation chamber. But no water….yet…😜

And today another image was shared – because sometimes we have an ideal….(not everyone likes all light to go away – though I always like my office lights off, as I tease I’m part troll when someone inevitably says “didn’t know anyone was in there”… I prefer the natural light through my windows…) but sometimes the “ideal” isn’t the “what” that you need – you’ve got to know your students needs and not assume that certain colours and textures will work for “all” – there is no “one perfect setup” for sensory interventions…flexibility needs to be included when planning…

As sometimes it is a co-build mindset that can help with sensory awareness. Sometimes even those Pinterest classrooms can be a bit overwhelming…

And I liked building classrooms with my kids so that everyone knows where things are and why….but sometimes when classrooms are already established, it can be overwhelming to consider “removing stimulations”, but it is doable – tarps, construction paper can all help to de-stimulate walls et al:

But sometimes smaller spaces are needed. I’ve always been mindful of deconstructing my office so that it is self-regulatory in nature. Lights off (but I’ve been thinking about some LED colour strips I’ve used before, but thinking more about some of the smart bulbs to change colours and brightness) music options (first choice classical or nature sounds) and distractions (kinetic sand and Lego architecture) but often the principals office isn’t available when a change in senses is needed. And I am currently in a school that does not have (any) spaces for sensory room creation….


Or portable…..


It is amazing how a “safe space” can help students stay regulated – not even by using it but by knowing a/the space is available. I have one student nervous about transitioning to secondary school, but liked the idea of a tour of the school led by my kids: my daughter who can show where all the classrooms are and my son who can show him where the best “hiding spots” are – and the best people/places to connect with when panic strikes. It’s good when schools have safe spaces (and the hiding spots are known so we know where to find people when things get too much and their flight instinct kicks in).

I know there are worries around seclusion, but my mindset is always providing tools for students to use – and sometimes self-seclusion can help enable the brain to get reset and re-enter the main learning space. The whole idea of sensor rooms (or offices) is about helping students learn that they can control their emotions, but that this mastery may (will) take time and practice – and sometimes a change to senses can be an amazing tool to use!

I need to do some more work on this. Need to find a better setup in my school for sensory removal and sensory distractions so students can start practicing without needing to wait until there is a vacancy in an already-scheduled-for-use-space. Maybe a nook or tent setup…or a relook at how all our spaces are being used…. I like sensory rooms and am becoming more aware of how much I am missing those “spaces”. And tools – like the “press” that can add pressure experiences (can also be gained by pushing heavy laptop carts around a school😜)

eg from

There are great tools available. Some are costly- most are “worth it” but the two most expensive pieces remain: spaces for people to go for re-regulations and mindsets that enable and support people to self-advocate for a distraction…in order to get focused…!

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Day 139 (of 187) #BlockBreaker – a great book by Brian Aspinall aka @mraspinall

Day 139 (of 187) #BlockBreaker – a great book by Brian Aspinall aka @mraspinall


A great book looking at some differentiated approaches to rethink our classrooms and schools in a way to be responsive to our learners and also raise value of subject such as math and coding.



I will freely admit that I love that @mathgarden Sunil Singh opens the book expressing a love of maths and how disconnected and boring the maths too often can be. Changing mindsets so that students can play with primes the same way we encourage learners to play with letters and vowels! We have great success with reading and writing because we allow play and experimentation – we want learners to be creative! but in math too? We should be! And this is the foundation of Block Breaker




After all, if we are ever afraid to share ideas and think untraditionally, we just need to remember that someone once said in a  meeting “lets make a film with a tornado full of sharks!”



Classroom rule structures have evolved in Brians classroom – from lists of “thou shalt nots” to “Lets….” <– the mindset shift of rules of what not to do to descriptors showing “In gym we…. In the hallway we….” definitely shifts the learners to focus on the hear or now – we should not just be preparing students for “what’s next” – because so often when we think we are preparing students for the next grade, the next school, the high school, the university….we end up missing.




I love that in Block Breaker, similar to @willrich45 Why School? there is an affirmation that there is a lot of education that can be learned form minecraft (and this is just meant to be an example, not that everyone “has” to explore minecraft – as a spoiler, Brian confesses to have spent less than an hour playing minecraft…he just has a lot more time seeing how it has positively effected learning and how students can show what they know.



As a sidebar: I also love that ht delinks to blogs, lessons, interviews et al continue from Code Breaker. A variety of “starting points” because it is okay to be where you are, it is not okay to stay there.



There are some great shares including embedding minecraft into an IEP, using it to personalize learning journeys. But I really like the mindset reminder that playing games like tetris are great (good for brain plasticity) but building a tetris type game using scratch…may be better –> this connects with my own C rules with technology: consuming vs creating (and my new one… vs connecting).  Tools will change – its what you do with the tools that matters! Because event hough I’ve been told “the tool shouldn’t matter” (usually when someone else is justifying why a ‘single platform’ is “easier”…it never is – and it never ends up being more cost effective either)  But, in my opinion the right tool for the right user does matter. Minecraft may not last forever…but it just might… the iPad may be superseded but it is still the best tool for differentiation that has ever invaded education… but it is still good to explore and see what might be next…!




A historical connection

The ” father of computing”, Alan Turing, cracked codes and helped shorten WWII by an estimated three years, but mostly he excelled because he had an interesting and authentic problem to solve.  I love this strategy reflection. I have been inspired by people like Trevor Calkins in math and shared authentically tough challenges – and even left them unsolved….because literally nobody has solved them yet. But you never know what brain mindset will crack certain codes….it sometimes depends how you look at problems!

  • I don’t rescue during GarageBand challenges
  • coding rarely works the first time
  • how do we react when we encounter problems




As Brian points out, and I will echo my own experiences and celebrations with this: it is fabulous when the shift moves from “What grade did I get”  to ” what happens if I ____ next?” changing the traditional rules to the “game of school”.  Along with this the book shares some great examples to support my own ongoing belief that mobile tech is the greatest differentiation tool on the pathway to personalized learning that has ever impacted education. I like Mr Aspinalls mindset and the direction he is pushing our thinking!



Brian points out that immersion always helps break stereotypes (which may have helped my own hatred of learning different languages….) and this is still true with computational thinking. Many will think that for digital natives coding and tech use come naturally, but it is not an instinct. It is just a tech immersive environment they/we are growing up in. As it is such an integral part of life, of course our learners want to know it inside and out as well as how to manipulate and create within it! But what does computational involve? A great summary is on page 32 (limited spoilers here!!)




Brian ponders two main questions though:


  1. What problems are we trying to solve?
  2. What is the best way to solve these problems?

As I will push, techies like me are lazy – but we will work very hard to create the conditions for lazy:




So there are questions to explore around the timetables we use. Schedules of the day…of the block. Benefits of genius hour.   Support for play-based learning such as (some spoilers here!)

  • children must have some control over the direction of their learning
  • children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening and observing
  • Children have a relationship with other children and with material items int he world that must be allowed to be explored
  • Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express ourselves

(this is where my own exploring of “deep play” start connections:



I like that Brian talks about how often students will say “All we do is play in Mr A’s class” ~ differentiating play and work. And I’ll confess to also loving my class when the bell rings and surprises us all – or have some kids looking for their lunch mistaking the final bell for an earlier break…. or one of my favourite (mirroring Brians) “comments”: ‘are we supposed to be having this much fun in school?  And I liken it to the old Tom Sawyer story  (which due to the colloquial language should now be reserved to be read by more mature readers) where Tom convinces others that whitewashing a fence is a fun activity that he would really not like to share with others, but gosh darn it…he’ll give them a turn. Mindsets matter. And I like that Brian reinforces that “fun” is not always the same as “easy” – heck, when having fun we will often work much harder than is necessary (the joy of intrinsic rewards!)


I appreciate the connection to the ideation of “hard fun” and how nicely it synchs with Design Thinking  The best memorization is when it is meaningful. Brian wasn’t told to memorize syntax, but wanted to as it would be useful in his work. I had a girl who memorized the names of all 206 bones because she felt it would be useful as a doctor. My daughter memorized well over 60 decimals of pi….for fun…..



And my own wonder: why does a ‘fail’ impact those “all important grades” if we want learners to take chances – in the game of school, students recognize that risk taking will lead to mistakes and mistakes will then have a negative impact on the %. We need to change the script and acknowledge that there is value in “playing with our learning”



Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. – Mr Rogers




In Block Breaker, Brian reinforces some good thinking around badgification/gamification as an à la carte selection of learning – which connects so well with SBL/G (Standards Based Learning/Grading) where there is a goal to reach, and when you reach it, you “win”! Much less subjective than distractions like neatness, behaviours, etc etc


And linking the long standing ntoion/understanding that grades are not as effective as constructive feedback (as Aspinall says it) or Formative Descriptive Feedback Loops (as I refer to them!).   And then another re-connection to memorization – as a wonder: why is it that in games, cheat codes et al are things ‘easier’ to memorize than spelling words and times tables? They are made up of similar things (letters and digits) yet relevance makes memorizing one more meaningful than the other….how do we provide meaning…?



When students think/know/learn a teacher is looking for “a” right answer, that is all they will look for and give. My own sons brain (as he reflects) provides multiple answers but his anxiety wound enable them to synthesize and select a single answer that the teacher most likely would want – and as risks and errors are punished (marks, xs, etc) in the game of school, sometimes nothing is better than something.  This is what Brian wants us to change!


The range of answers in my sons brain when a question is asked:

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 11.36.51 AM

Brian does a lot of sharing in Block Breaker. One of these is when a parent asked: ” Why do you focus on his (a son) weaknesses when he will pursue his strengths in life?”


Great food for thought.




The message of Block Breaker is simple in its complexity: with a fair chance, all students can experience success. And for the adults, a reminder: it is okay to be where you are, it is not okay to stay there.



Block Breaker is a great book that teases that Minecraft may be the right tool to engage learners- but really it remains the bait-and-switch that is more our mindsets and how we use the right tool for the right learner that helps everyone achieve success.  A great book and I am looking forward to his next book!


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Day 138 (of 187) toolkits

Day 138 (of 187) toolkits

Sigh. Yes – a sigh…because sometimes people see things like adaptions as chests instead of tools. But adaptions are tools to help people do their jobs….their work….helps them do better. Whether it is more time for an assignment or test, a preferred seating assignment, reduced number of questions…none of these are meant to devalue the learning, just personalize how it is done.

It’s the reason we refer to the skills students use as “tools for the toolbox” and I will reinforce that not everyone will use the same tools.

Much like I would expect the toolbox used by a mechanic to be filled differently than a toolbox used by a woodworker. Different tools are needed to best work with different materials.

More so, I would not expect carpenters to all fill their toolboxes the same way. Sure I would expect a saw and hammer (kinda the slow breathing in the mental wellness toolbox) but not even those would I expect to be universal – nor would I expect the same brand/size/etc of these general tools to be used. Some people swear by craftsman (my grandpa sure did) others by snap-on (my mechanic friend does at least). Some like mass produced tools, others rely on custom made tools – or even original adaptions/creations….

And it isn’t that one is better than others (though fanboys always have their favourites, much as I do with my tech – there is a reason I wanted the iLandy twitter handle….sigh

I know people (especially kids) get worried that their mental wellness will end up defining who they are. I worry about that as well….if a student for too long is “the anxious one” how do they break that typecasting? Are they forever doomed to be on the fringes of the classroom? Likewise you can’t also pretend it doesn’t exist because the worry dragon or depression dinosaur will catch up, overwhelm and stomp on you.

But of course, the brain likes to get paranoid and think “it’s only me”. Even tools like extra time can feel like a “big adaption” even though they are offered more than ‘ the brain’ may think. It’s often extra time is offered, but not used or actually needed. Sometimes the comfort of there not being a clock can be an asset for all learners…there are many reasons we use adaptions – kind of like why some of us wear glasses – is it cheating that my glasses give me super sight? Or do some of us just need a different tool….

We are very good at providing and encouraging and supporting adaptions for physical needs; usually good with sensory adaptions (if the kid gets squirrels wearing socks…take them off!); and less good with adaptions for the brain – which is not as easy to see….

Find the right tools for your toolbox and turn Learning into a personalized experience that lets you be a craftsperson – a specialist in using the tools that are a best fit for you!

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Day 137 (of 187) triggers – can’t always know what they will be (the joys of trauma)

Day 137 (of 187) triggers – can’t always know what they will be (the joys of trauma)

As Notre Dame burned I couldn’t help but wonder….was this terrorism? Sine the Twin Towers fell….anytime something happens to something symbolic, I can’t help but wonder…

When a shooting happened this weekend in a former home town I first wondered if there was a connection to school….

On twitter, a member of my PLN shared two students connecting with each other…

Evacuations. Ugh. But already been some forest fires in my province, so the season is getting here….

I even remember doing some lessons involving family and “substances” but even my “omissions” ended up causing him to make connections that led to him leaving the classroom and hiding out in one of the admin offices…and I apologized as I didn’t see that coming!

And that’s one of the trauma problems. The anniversaries….the words…the songs. The known and unknown triggers to a traumatic event. It’s why I don’t like shrugs such as “they were too young to remember” or “it wasn’t that bad” or “they should be over it by now” etc etc

Triggers are what they are – a reconnection to re-remembering an event – and sure there is brain discussions that we are actually remembering the last time we remembered it, and this just reinforces that even though it can be very difficult, talking about traumas and events and feelings helps us lessen the weight of these thinkings.

Heck, I still have a memory on the coquihalla when I pass the area where my father passed….some memories seem to have a very long shelf life for freshness…. and we can’t judge when people are over it – especially just because time has passed.

And we have to be aware that as much as we focus on the negative triggers, there are positive triggers as well – fresh bread takes me back to the Preckles (so?) bakery in Lillooet and the smell I would get every Monday when walking to school – and that brings back the wish for meat pies and cream filled Long John’s that have never quite had the same taste….why is it that smells and aromas seem to illicit fond memories while sounds and sights so often bring out negatives….even sweet sorrows that music can can remind us of…. what might have been…?

And there are accidental triggers as one of my staff asked me point blank: what am I doing. A posting for a principalship came online for our fabulous district, and the house we are renting now has a for sale sign on the yard. He appeared to be relieved 😜 that I shared another principal announced his retirement and that while our landlord is looking to sell, we are looking for another house because this town and district are our home. The “greener pastures” are here!

And then the unknown triggers as my counsellor (thank goodness this was one of her days) and I had to have a conversation with a student to make sure her words weren’t matching her thinking….which it didn’t, but we were able to dig into what triggered a bit of an over-reaction. And make sure it was an over-reaction not an understatement… what is a small deal to one person can be a big deal to another and a “what?” to yet another….

So just be aware that it’s not just an event that can be traumatic, but an anniversary, a song, a smell, an image of notre dame burning….or something completely unexpected….and even a change – as one boy shared today, goosebumps used to be his favourite movie, now it’s the scariest thing in his memory….

the brain. Sheesh. Trauma…we are learning more and more….

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T3D #18 Three Annoying Questions

T3D #18 Three Annoying Questions



Three annoying questions that can be used to frustrate teachers. Wondering if shakespeare really wrote all his writing (Thanks to Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know) if da Vinci didn’t finish everything, why should I? (thanks Walter Isaacson) and why bother with calculus if some guy(s) just made it up?



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Day 136 (of 187) my prethink on humour in the classroom for Sunday April 14ths #bcedchat on this topic!

Day 136 (of 187) my prethink on humour in the classroom for Sunday April 14ths #bcedchat on this topic!



I’ve always found a need for humour in education. So much of education, teaching and learning can be so serious, it can be nice when something humorous can happen…



It is a good reason why many educators seek out things that are funny, but not funny haha to everyone – I remember my father inviting a teacher to interview for a position because the applicant included a far side comic with their cover letter. I just lent a couple copies of my collections to one of my staff members who needed a bit of an “escape” – and he agreed with what Gary Larsons first publisher said: the comics are sick!…. and I love them! A secret language shared because sometimes there are humorous connections people make that aren’t know to all = those who face each day ready to hit em with the hein know what I mean… those who don’t…. moving on!



There are always dangers about humour – many of us like sarcasm and satire – which is great, except that with some students it can be used as a form of abuse – which is why I say I like using sarcasm, but clarify that it is often self effacing as Colin Mochrie and I know only too well…


We are not born understanding sarcasm and satire – which is why twitter does not yet have a sarcasm font. Which is why direct language is important….most of the time…



Though I have also had parents share that they used to like coming to my class at the end fo the day because of some of the jokes I would share as we wound up the day…and when you get that one kid who laughs at something you know may or may not be understood day, sometimes that makes it all worth it!



So I have, and will continue to bend the rules of copyright and make use of memes and sharing other humorous images. I am working on this and working on creating original shares as well, but…gotta try to keep up with the new generation…



Humour is always a work in progress… I remember having a chat with a student who was trying to reinvent himself as a comedian – but it was coming across as cruel to his classmates – we decided to do some planning and have him try out his material before launching it on the class – this actually helped.   Sometimes its all about gradual guided release of responsibility, so I will continue to make references to the Ministry of Silly Walks, and that now, time for something completely different….



Setting up some jokes to be appreciated later on….much as we introduce writing, reading and mathing for later use…why not humour as well….?


How do you use humour in your classroom and school? Check out the #bcedchat sunday april 14th at 7pm pst!




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Day 135 (of 187) Creativity #IILG imaginative leader…

Day 135 (of 187) Creativity #IILG imaginative leader…

The April question from CIRCE and #ILLG on creativity is: What do you need to be a more imaginative leader.

And while we could look at some “out of the box thinking” – that is often generational or situational. Once upon a time my dad was either radical or imaginative when he brought computers into our school in rural BC – to the extreme that when we read an article about a “new lab” in a big texas school, we realized we had the same or better! But he put a computer lab right next to a “perfectly good typewriter lab” – because he wasn’t looking at where we “were” but where we needed to be going.

So instead, I’m thinking about focusing on the “process” that often gets followed when thinking creatively:

Creative Process – (from 1967 – Evaluation – A Major Phase of the Creative Process)

Indicating the key parts of the creative process:

1. preparation

2. incubation

3. intuition

4. active creation

5. evaluation

and specifically… “…the evaluation process should be one which inspires creators to write again and again in an enthusiastic, alert manner. Evaluation should be one of valuation not one of devaluation or deflation.”

aka reflection – or descriptive feedback – not a number or letter grade – those are too vague and filled with inaccuracies -so little field testing and knowing what the margin of error is on the tasks combined with variables like “weighing” and valuing some things more than others regardless of where a students strength or anxiety may exist.

“Again, it should be emphasized – evolution must build competence with confidence.” Which is why we need to acknowledge that creative thinking is a tad different than some other skills and sequences…even though “we” (but more so governments education departments) prefer “by grade/age 7, students will ….” statements, we know learners learn at different rates and depths – not based on the calendar year they were born….and why the provincial committee I was able to be on for creativity focused more on profiles

And mindfully chose a circle (I wanted an interactive wheel to have descriptors of one profile merge with some at another, because a lot of creativity comes from schema and experiences beyond the walls of the school….but that doesn’t work so well with PDFs….for now….)

And instead of “by age/grade” we wanted to use descriptors – because not everyone is willing to push their leadership by/with imagination as others…

When asked to describe characteristics of education leaders, I believe it is important to include creativity and imagination – but I have also been told by people with a higher pay grade that not many others feel the same….and I’m still not sure how to take that…..

Because (serendipitously) the author of Culturize, @casas_jimmy had a share that I interpret as needing to be a creative and imaginative leader in education:

Sometimes we gotta think different because if what we are doing isn’t working, we may have to imagineer a different way of doing = meeting our learners needs; being less worried if kids are ready for school and thinking are our schools ready for the kids….

Because I will continue to champion different and differentiation. I did a think piece on a 365 day school for one community….I ran a 100′ Ethernet cable down the hall to get internet for my students – but I also saw my principal dad bring in computers when typewriter classes were “the lab” people talked about. And create booklets for students so they could focus on a more personalized learning journey (at least that is what we would call it today) and hypercards so that students could go through presentations “at the right speed for them”.

And in education, I believe imagination is important – we can’t just repeat things that may have worked (or seemed to have worked) for learners in the past. We have to be misfits in order to end the mis-fit that sometimes happens in education

After all, the creative process inspired imagination, and sometimes crazy ideas become the norm….

1. preparation – what’s the lead up – it doesn’t work to say “its time to imagine and be creative” – I try to give a few days for a question to be thought about (and around)

2. incubation – time; often with the brain doing one thing (ie shower/walk) so it can process the think and wonder

3. intuition – what does the brain already know and want to make connections with to help synthesize the thinking

4. active creation – what is “done” – and not always a physical representation!

5. evaluation – does the thought/solution work with what the query needed? What is the reflection?

Because, to paraphrase and twist what Einstein said…

It isn’t what you know – it’s what you do with what you know! So to me, I need my imagination to be an education leader because I am not just thinking about the complexities my learning community is working on now, but also trying to imagine what they need to learn and work on “next”.

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