Day 83 (of 186) where to get ideas?

Day 83 (of 186) where to get ideas?


I like to tease that I have a special book at home that was handed down to me and has a bunch of great ideas. But really I have a notes app that keeps a list of ideas “as I see them” and I’m trying to archive them on my design thinking section of this blog site.



A colleague recently asked where to find some ideas for her students for building-projects. They are currently building boats, but some aren’t engaged and she’s not sure what to do next….

So…first I talked about scaffolding – some students are ready quite quickly to take on pboject-based-learning. But not all.  I’m also working with two students who have been inconsistent on creating projects.

I used to call it “embracing chaos” when I left the staffroom… I call it “trusting the process”. I can almost predict how things will roll – and much like any implementation dip, the start can be ugly and anxiety-inducing. But the process is worth it….the class was a mess when we developed and created our cardboard arcade….we are now building board games for a couple of school-wide activities and the “chaos” is much more organized.

I like promoting independence, while still having a template or two in the back pocket to help those that need a hand up (not a hand out).

My Design Thinking collection-space:

Places to go to get some ideas  (there is a beer one in this list)


How to show what you know:

Resources for Design Thinking:

And of course, sometimes it’s just fun to have a MakerSpace and pose a challenge: ie Mr Landy needs a better way to keep his head warm!

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Day 83 (of 186) a musical MindShift? Am I hearing right?

Day 83 (of 186) a musical MindShift? Am I hearing right?

Today one of my boys who usually tries to find ways to not take part in music class asked/said something that I first thought I didn’t hear quite right…..

Him – “Do we have music today?”

Me – “No – Tuesdays and Thursday’s are music”

Him – “Darn. I really wanted to go to music”

Me – jaw hitting floor (but also knowing yesterday was a “4” day in music – the best one of the year)

It’s a challenging class (especially to people who aren’t me) – and transitions haven’t been easy (which is why we are trying out the Finnish bell schedule and theme-focused days which seems to be working….knock on wood!). And transitions into music class have been extra challenging. And the music teacher is really good. He has been trying so many things. We have been plotting so many things to inspire and engage and connect with the kiddos!

Now, I freely admit to being proud of my district and its music program (and like my G12 daughter sorry for its future with the district music principal and well loved secondary music teacher not coming back next year). I was even asked to join a society (Thank You For The Music Society ) and even spoke about it to global tv last year. I believe music is an important part of education – both listening and playing. I love how every student has musical experiences that can’t be compared to in other parts of the province. And yes, I also know that band/music classes don’t work for all learners and have regularly gone out of my way to have some parallel activities and always have an open-door mindset – going so far as to have a student who said (something)-no I’m not doing the winter concert change his mind the day of the concert. And we got him onstage (with some supports to ensure he knew what to do) because we believe music matters and it sometimes takes those “unexpected moments” for success to be experienced.

The current plan for the class is spending a couple (6ish) weeks focused on “an” instrument. Trumpet is first. And yesterday I did sneak in to take a video to post to everybody’s efolio with a clip that “only a mother….or music teacher could love”! 🎺

I am looking forward to sharing this with Mr J tomorrow because it certainly feels good when a plan comes together!!

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Day 82 (of 186) sharing some thoughts re “free play” @perfinker @bedleybros

Day 82 (of 186) sharing some thoughts re “free play”


During our staff meeting, a couple of “interesting” opportunities came up!


The third week-ish of January has been our district & community’s Unplug & Play week (yes, I did my customary “boo”-tease for this event) – I’m not opposed to unplugging…in fact, my class gets outside often – and I can even plug the Walking Curriculum by @perfinker

as I believe in balance – yes to Tech, yes to outdoors……almost a “culture of yes”….!


Our community has a variety of family events planned – from family snowshoeing (no experience necessary) to sledding events to reading with our local hockey team. Our school is doing similar – afternoon board games and “a day outside” are being plotted…. it even made me connect to another great “opportunity” to explore ‘changing the classroom rules’ – The Global Day of Play initiated by the @bedleybros for Feb 7th – an opportunity (excuse?) to do different….to enable some “freedom” -with my own reminder about the need for over 45 minutes of “uninterrupted play” before “deep play” is experienced:

So….sometimes more is more….in a very good way….!


And then I stumbled onto another possible event, January 29th is Puzzle Day….got me thinking about a “day of puzzles”  – playing, making, creating, solving…..could be an interesting opportunity!  And it’s nice to see so many others embracing “learning through play” no matter what the age – Tim & Scott Bedley getting an international movement going….. SFU professor Gillian Judson sharing her work on a “walking curriculum” all giving permission (Do we need this permission?) to try some things differently… engage and encourage different ways to learn… worksheet does not fit all….any??


I enjoyed sharing some of these ideas with the rest of the staff….hoping that more and more take a risk to try a day of “different” – so that different isn’t so unusual…

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Day 81 (of 186) nice when there is trust

Day 81 (of 186) nice when there is trust

Once upon a time there was a student who was struggling. In class. Outside. Everywhere. None of our strategies seemed to be working so we decided we needed to see if anything was up at home…..and it was. His grandfather (who he was very close to) had passed on the weekend. Information that if we had we could have and would have handled things more than a little different.

So I have expressed regularly how much I appreciate it when families trust us to share needed information

And today I received one of “those” emails. Our fun “create a car” project was not going well for her son – it was making him competitive and he did not want to have those feelings. We had discussed we’d like to see how fast and how far each car would go and that got his competitive juices flowing, but not in a positive way.

I sent a couple messages through the day reassuring her that things were okay. And when dad arrived at the end of the day, we were able to end the day with smiles. Not necessarily during the times of the day when we were working on the project, but both myself and our CEA were able to help him with some coping strategies to survive the day – even getting him to focus on some good parts during a planet-exploration-fact-finding activity.

But it meant a lot that while the family was considering keeping him at home for the day that they trusted that we could give it a try and we would know that the family was on standby if his brain wouldn’t let him be productive. But as I have ranted before – rule 1: kids should be in school every. darned. day. (Unless sick of course!)

Fortunately in an anxiety-focused/friendly classroom, we can do a lot to help our learners be successful. One day….one block…one moment….at a time.

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Day 80 (of 186) theme days and “deadlines”

Day 80 (of 186) theme days and “deadlines”

This week has marked a full shift of thematic days with my class. Positive attitudes and good flow through the day.

I’m still thinking about shifting my themes though. Thinking rather than “a day of science” shifting to “a day about cars” (as an example). It would still allow me to have discussions (as we did today) about potential and kinetic energy. Though I did like how we were able to talk about gravity and space as well during our “day of science” :

Marbles rolled across a mat showed how things change when we add “gravity” at first a basketball which made the marbles roll in a curve. Then adding a medicine ball to see what happens when a black hole gets involved! Nice to have a visual like this for the kids to make connections to – one even tried to stretch our thinking by having us try to imagine it not as a flat plane but as a circle…..360 degrees of gravity. Wish I had a mat to show that!! But I did have balloons so we could draw on galaxies and then see how far they moved from each other in an expanding universe theory.

We then extended our thinking on potential and kinetic energy by talking about Newton’s three laws:

Which led to some fun discussion about friction and vehicles….so we started building vehicles – using either balloons from our expanding universe visual or rubber bands!

Cardboard base

Old CDs and DVDs for wheels

Straws with skewers for axels

Then the “fuel source” of their choice

And then the challenge to decorate (aerodynamics coming up next!)

But then one of Einstein’s greatest adversaries became our own enemy: time

We ran out of it before we could do our races – and one learner had a rough time because he knew the bell would toll soon and he wasn’t done – and he did not like the uncertainty of when “next time” would be.

With a thematic day…should our next day of science be the same time next week? While it could….rules are not set in stone! So “next time” will be the next day (Monday) to keep the enthusiasm going – our days of ____ are a mindset, not based on an artificial calendar deadline – cause the learning ain’t over till it’s authentically over!

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Day 79 (of 186) awkward…..

Day 79 (of 186) awkward…..

Sometimes my kids like to tease me. They know only too well my opinion of things like homework (I give eye rolls when my youngest hauls her giant textbook out of backpack) and sigh that my oldest likes to do the homework to get her overall percentages into triple digits thanks to “bonus marks”. Even my anxiety boy will use cursive mainly to get a reaction (not often….not often at all, but at just the right time). So occasionally I get a text from one of them to see what my reaction will be. And I have learned to sometimes temper my first reaction (a trait that is always important in a social media era) and knowing my girl I smiled when I got her note:

It’s definitely one of the awkward parts of differentiation. What to do for the faster moving kids? It can’t just be a “reward” of more work…..I remember getting to do the odds AND evens questions – until I learned not to do so much work…. (subtle rules in the “Game of School”). And I know her teacher has a great “bonus” project to work on….and she knows it to….we just know it’s not ready to roll quite yet…but she wants it to be ready!

Always an important step in the differentiation planning – working on personal learning plans for all learners – essentially individualized education plans for all learners – because everyone is on their own trajectory – and I want to support each with appropriate work, not just “more” – as I’m likely to say again and again: quality over quantity!!

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Day 78 (of 186) a day of numbers….math stuff all. day. long….

Day 78 (of 186) a day of numbers….math stuff all. day. long….


When I mentioned my “theme days” to my youngest daughter and “day of numbers” came up – she was a first wondering: a whole day on math? but then she realized it wasn’t just going to be worksheet after worksheet….because what’s the fun in those?


And because we were having a “special guest” visit our class, I did not include my usual “recreational mathematics” – though I couldn’t help but put it on my opening slide for the “day at a glance”

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But we started the day finishing off yesterdays “missed activity” – playing ‘battleship’ to look at using grids (connected to our look at maps). We then also did some exploration around probability and statistics through one of my favourites: deal or no deal – which we play as a class – randomly selecting a suitcase and then going around the class eliminating suitcases and discussing when it would be a good point to “cash out” – we did it globally first and then they get their index cards to indicate

a) which suitcase they would’ve chosen & how much it was worth once we open it


b) when they would cash out

It’s a fun way to turn it a tad competitive but also speculative in nature – based on what suitcases are left, how likely is it that the offer will increase or decrease….


After recess our special guest rescheduled (class reasons, not because of the guest) so instead we did some work that our numeracy lead teacher had been working with the class – emphasizing the working memory of basic times tables (and we are getting better at it  – focusing on responding to 1-12x table questions (no time limit) and then leading us to the lab to do some ‘fun work’ (dots [which I modelled for the afternoon numeracy centers] and/or deal or no deal) before we got some time for Mathletics – a program that the school and PAC have used for a number of years…..and I’m still figuring out if I like it or not….need to spend a bit more time to see how I can better use this program)



After lunch we read Jon Scieszka’s Math Curse – a fun one to read in a bit of a manic voice (the librarIAN in me keeps coming out) as it nicely emphasizes how angst-ridden math can become – but also how math is everywhere – and how math can be pretty awesome – and how math can be pretty fun….

(and due to time crunch, I postponed the Rock Paper Scissors challenge – good for looking for patterns!)


And so on to our math centers:

Connect 4

Connect 4 with dice (roll 2 dice and then find that number and claim it)

How close to 100 (2 dice multiplied together)

Battleship (on paper)

Dots (both on paper or online versions)

Soduko (kids groan at this one because it takes thinking + rethinking)

Tangoes (using tangrams to create specific shapes)

Chess (against the computer)

Mancala (against a computer who always seems to win, but building our own in 2 weeks)

Marble Blast Gold (classic game on my old iBook G4)

Ultimate Tic Tac Toe

place value yahtzee (rolling dice to put numbers into specific places – ie 5 in tens position)

real yahtzee

memory (equations/answers)

dice arrays station (filling up a grid)



As my LRT pointed out as the final bell suddenly loomed – we could’ve spent a lot more time doing these centers – which is kind of the point – tempt the group with some of the fun games connected to math and then change some of the unpopular ones (and then use some of these games to reinforce specific skills (place value) or introduce new ones (measurement….soon…..very soon….)


The “day of numbers” went well – and nicely broken up by the mini-recesses that have become a very popular part of the Finnish Bell Schedule.  45 minutes of work and knowing a 15-ish break is coming has helped many find the “rigor” that they struggled with earlier in the school year….. more transitions in the day, but less mind shift transitions subject wise…. it’s keeping me thinking and rethinking (and looking for some others who are better thematic teachers than I am)!

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