November 17

Digital Math Resources

I have compiled a list of 5 resources that support technology in mathematics and that have the ability to transform the Primary/Junior math class! These resources are definitely some that you will want to try and use in your classrooms to benefit and assist math learning.

KnowledgeHook

https://www.knowledgehook.com/

KnowledgeHook is an online program that engages students with immersive game-based activities designed to improve understanding. Teachers are provided with a dashboard that tracks student performance, identifies gaps in understanding, and provides lessons and resources to target those gaps. KnowledgeHook can be used in 3 ways: Missions (students work on tasks individually), Game Shows (students work collaboratively or competitively as a large group), or Paper-Mode (students use printed QR codes to answer multiple choice questions). These activities are great for diagnostic or formative assessments, providing both the students and teachers with immediate feedback about their understanding of a specific topic. It can also be used to differentiate learning, as individual students can be assigned content from any grade level. My school board has provided every teacher with licenses for this resource and I believe it has been a beneficial tool in our math classrooms (not to mention the students love it!). 

Scratch 

https://scratch.mit.edu/

Scratch is an online coding platform. In fact, it is the world’s largest free coding community for kids! With Scratch, students can program their own interactive stories, games, and animations using block-based coding. This platform provides students with an area to create their own animation, view other’s animations, and follow step-by-step tutorial on a number of different topics, such as making a chase game. There are so many possible cross-curriculuar ways to use Scratch, such as animating a story written in Language or creating a dialogue between two characters about something they learned in Science that week. My students have enjoyed using Scratch (and ScratchJr.) to learn how to code, how to think creatively, and and how to work collaboratively towards a common goal. 

Toy Theatre

https://toytheater.com/category/teacher-tools/virtual-manipulatives/

Toy Theater is a collection of interactive educational games for elementary students. Their games and tools can be used on computers, tablets, or mobile devices. My favourite part of this website are the virtual manipulatives. There are so many different virtual manipulatives available on the website, such as interactive clocks, 2 colour counters, 3D dice, probability spinners, graph builders, fraction bars, base ten blocks, and many more! The virtual manipulatives offer the opportunity for students to manipulate tools that help them to understand math concepts, which is especially beneficial when physical manipulatives are not available in the classroom. My students have enjoyed using these virtual manipulatives and have found them to be helpful in their learning process, especially when we had to pivot to distance learning throughout the pandemic. 

Osmo 

https://www.playosmo.com/en/

Osmo is a gaming accessory that provides hands-on learning activities in which players use objects in the real world to interact with the digital world shown on their tablet. Essentially, there is a mirror that connects to the camera of the tablet, allowing it to capture what is being done on the table in front of it. This allows for the table to become the workspace for the learner as they follow the instructions on the screen to complete the activities, which is determined correct or not using the mirrored camera. Osmo’s games are geared toward embodied learning, meaning their games teach abstract concepts by connecting them to objects and actions in the physical world. There are a variety of games and accessories available, such as coding, tangram, and number activities. I have seen students gravitate towards these activities, as they uniquely combine physical and digital interactions. The games also help to foster social-emotional skills like problem-solving, creativity and perseverance. 

Solve Me Puzzles

https://solveme.edc.org/

The iPuzzle project has developed apps for students to explore logic-building and mathematical puzzles in an interactive, digital format. There are three games to play on the website: SolveMe Mobiles, SolveMe Who Am I?, and SolveMe MysteryGrid. 

  • SolveMe Mobiles: This activity provides students with a hanging mobile, in which they need to figure out the missing value of the shapes. They have to use their understanding of equations and expressions to balance the mobile using the correct numbers.
  • SolveMe Who Am I?: This activity features puzzles where a number robot gives clues about what number it is. The goal is to fill in the blanks for the digits to solve for the mystery number.
  • SolveMe MysteryGrid: To solve these puzzles, students must place all of the tiles on the grid so that every row and every column contains exactly one type of each tile (similar to sudoku).

The SolveMe Mobiles is something I use on a yearly basis with my students and I have found it to be a positive and beneficial tool. This activity really challenges students to use their knowledge of variables, expressions, equalities, and inequalities, and it gives them a visual representation of what the meaning of the “=” in an equation is.

November 9

Pedagogical Approach to Assessment: Pedagogical Documentation

Pedagogical documentation is “a process for making pedagogical (or other) work visible and subject to dialogue, interpretation, contestation and transformation.” (Dahlberg, 2007, p. 225). By engaging in this process of interpreting student thinking and conversing in professional conversations with our colleagues, we can gain a deeper understanding of student learning and our own teaching practice. When we engage in pedagogical documentation, we are “examining and responding to the interplay between learning, the educator’s pedagogical decisions, and the student’s role and voice in the learning” (Capacity Building Series: Pedagogical Documentation Revisited, 2015, pg. 2). 

What on earth is pedagogical documentation?

Assessment FOR and AS learning are both integral parts of the learning process, providing us with ongoing opportunities to give feedback to students, as well as guide them to become valuable self-assessors. Pedagogical documentation, assessment FOR learning, and assessment AS learning all have a focus on the students’ learning process. It is important that we reflect on and discuss our teaching process that led to our students’ work samples. Assessment FOR learning provides students with learning opportunities in which they can practice the skills being taught., while assessment AS learning allows students to self-reflect on their own performance and set goals. Assessments FOR learning also provide teachers with the opportunity to provide feedback to students, guiding them in their learning process towards success. Through pedagogical documentation, we can reflect on the moments of feedback that we provided our students and work with our colleagues to improve our current feedback practice.

Pedagogical documentation differs from assessments OF learning, as this type of assessment is based on the student’s achievement of learning curriculum expectations at the end of a learning cycle, rather than the process of learning that they engaged in leading up to the summative assessment. While we can use pedagogical documentation to reflect upon student learning displayed through assessments OF learning to guide future instruction, it is much more of a proactive approach to reflect on and adjust our teaching practice throughout the learning process, as guided by assessments FOR and AS learning.

I think I would choose to engage in pedagogical documentation because it would allow me to connect with other educators and discuss aspects of our current teaching practice, whether they could be improved or not. We know that learning is an ongoing process and therefore, there will be many moments of reflection throughout in order to guide future actions. It is especially important for educators to find time to reflect with each other, whether that be with another classroom teacher, Special Education teacher, administrator, educational assistant, or a consultant. “When engaged in collective reflective practice, teachers question, reason and probe ideas in order to push thinking of the group further” (Collaborative Teacher Inquiry, 2010, pg. 4).

This approach would also benefit students when they are invited into the process. When students are aware of what they are learning, how successful they currently are, and what they need to do next in order to achieve their goals, they can be contributing members of the learning process and have agency over how they learn (i.e., “I didn’t quite understand that task. Could I continue working on it tomorrow with a classmate?). Through pedagogical documentation, students “can develop and use metacognitive skills crucial for ongoing, lifelong learning” (Capacity Building Series: Pedagogical Documentation Revisited, 2015, pg. 2).  

This approach can be incorporated into my plan for professional learning with colleagues by encouraging pedagogical documentation as a regular practice among our team. The Capacity Building Series article suggests getting started with this process by documenting some form of student learning for about two minutes a day. We are all able to find 2 minutes a day to focus on documentation, and by doing so, we will organically begin to make it part of our daily practice. We can keep each other accountable by having short-and-sweet check ins with each other to reflect on our documentation process and discuss future steps for student learning based on what has been recorded.

I think it would be a valuable professional development exercise to challenge our division staff to predict how their students will perform on a future assessment OF learning task based on their documentation and review of the assessment FOR and AS learning tasks that led up to the assessment OF learning. After making their predictions, they would mark the assessment OF learning task and could see how accurate they were. This would provide many opportunities for reflection: If student performance did not correlate with predictions, then why? Was it the task? What part of the learning process could have been improved to further student success? This action item following our meeting would encourage our staff to truly focus on the learning process, especially the assessments FOR and AS learning.

While at first it may be intimidating to open up my teaching practice and student work samples for other teachers to examine, it is important to remember that it would be for the ultimate benefit of the students’ learning process. When we open ourselves up to feedback from other professionals, it can be a bit scary, but it can also lead to incredible learning outcomes that can greatly improve our teaching practice.

We need to make the positives so loud, that the negatives are almost  impossible to hear. – The digital classroom, transforming the way we learn
October 26

What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is a concept that everyone is aware of and participates in, but has a hard time defining. My working definition of collaboration is:

A reciprocal exchange of information during the process of two or more people working together in order to achieve a common goal.

In the education sector, there are many forms of collaboration, such as: teacher-teacher collaboration (working to improve practice, share strategies for supporting students), student-teacher collaboration (providing information and sharing strategies to help guide learning experiences), student-student collaboration (working to solve academic challenges and goals), and teacher-parent collaboration (discussing ways to best support student). 

The article “Collaborative Teacher Inquiry” from the Capacity Building Series outlines 7 characteristics of teacher Inquiry:

  1. Relevant → Student learning guides inquiry
  2. Collaborative → Teacher inquiry is a shared process
  3. Reflective → Actions are informed by reflection
  4. Iterative → Progressive understanding grows from cycles of inquiry
  5. Reasoned → Analysis drives deep learning
  6. Adaptive → Inquiry shapes practice and practice shapes inquiry
  7. Reciprocal → Theory and practice connect dynamically

There are correlations between my working definition of collaboration and these characteristics of teacher inquiry. Collaboration is relevant in that the individuals working together have a common goal; they both have something invested in the process, such as a teacher and parent both wanting the learner to succeed. This, in turn, makes it a very reciprocal experience as all individuals have something to contribute and/or gain from participating in the collaboration. 

It was interesting to consider reflection as an ongoing part of the collaboration process, as we typically think of reflection as an action after the collaboration process has been completed. However, we know that learning is an ongoing process and therefore, there will be many moments of reflection throughout in order to guide future actions. It is especially important for educators to find time to reflect with each other, whether that be with another classroom teacher, Special Education teacher, administrator, educational assistant, or a consultant. “When engaged in collective reflective practice, teachers question, reason and probe ideas in order to push thinking of the group further” (Collaborative Teacher Inquiry, 2010, pg. 4).

October 14

Mathematics Leadership Goals

After reflecting on my role as a leader in a school setting, I feel as though there are two main strengths that make me well equipped to be a math leader. While these leadership qualities may not be specific to the subject area of math, I believe that they are crucial skills for any leader to have. 

The first leadership strength that I possess is approachability. A leader can only lead if others are willing to engage and/or collaborate with that person. I always want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming to me for support or advice. I make a conscious effort to check in with others, whether personally or professionally, to show that I care and I am here for them. My social circle within my staff team extends beyond my same-grade teaching partners, which is something that I am proud of. There have been times when Intermediate teachers have come to me for support when teaching a specific subject area, even though I am currently teaching in the Primary division. This is a true testament of the importance of being approachable; your age, experience, or grade level does not necessarily matter, as long as others know they can come to you for support!

My second leadership quality is my willingness to try new things. I believe that this is a crucial leadership skill because it models the importance of personal and professional growth, as well as an openness to making mistakes and failing. An expert is only an expert because they have tried something new, learned from it, and is now equipped to teach others. I am excited when learning new types of coding technology, such as online programs or physical robots. Sometimes, it’s the students who are teaching me, rather than the other way around! Is the learning experience always a smooth one? Absolutely not! But the only way to learn is to try… and try… and try again. My willingness to try new things also involves trying new teaching methods. Social pedagogies, such as a thinking classroom style of teaching/learning, took some time to adjust to, but has paid off greatly in my teaching practice. 

https://twitter.com/spencerburton/status/1232791098856075264?s=20

A long term goal in which I feel I would be able to best utilize my leadership skills would be becoming my school’s math lead teacher. This role would allowed me to work under the direction of our school board’s math consultant, learning from them and providing math coaching on-site to teachers. I think this would be a valuable position in that it would help me to improve my own teaching practice, while also being able to support, learn from, and co-teach with my colleagues.

As I am on parental leave at the moment, I was not able to put my name forward to be our school’s math lead teacher for this school year. However, there are steps that I can take this year to prepare myself for this role in the future. It is important that I continue to check in with my fellow educators, especially on the topic of math (i.e., curriculum, instruction, best practices, types of assessments, etc.). Another short term goal would be sending out valuable resources to my staff as I come upon them. This would allow me to be an informal leader in my school before any formal position is assigned. Lastly, I will continue building upon my own competencies as a math teacher by continuing to seek professional development opportunities about teaching math.

A math concept that I am interested in doing a deep dive into is “coding skills”. While coding is something that some teachers have been informally teaching for many years, it is now officially a new addition to the math curriculum. My first experience with learning coding in the classroom was when I took a Grade 10 Computer Science class. I am thrilled that students as young as Grade 1 will now be learning coding skills and building upon them throughout their educational journey. I am interested in exploring the continuum of curriculum expectations throughout the elementary grades, discovering new resources, and developing more teaching strategies that I can incorporate into my own teaching practice and share with other teachers as a math leader.

July 16

Teaching Eucharist Ideas

In a Grade 2 classroom, as a connection between their preparation for receiving the sacrament of the First Holy Communion and their study in Science on the life cycle of an animal, the Eucharist could be taught in comparison to that of a butterfly. First, students could either draw a picture of butterfly, or they could draw out the life cycle of a butterfly, from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Then, each student could share their butterfly pictures. The teacher would then ask them these questions:

  • Where do butterflies come from?
  • Can anyone explain how they are transformed?
  • Did you know that there is a transformation at Mass, too? What is it?
  • How is a butterfly’s transformation similar to the transformation at Mass? How is it different?
12,007 Butterfly Transformation Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free  Images - iStock

This provides an opportunity to explain transubstantiation and how this will relate to their receiving the Eucharist for the first time. This conversation will allow students to see that the Holy Eucharist is more than just a piece of bread; it is the body of Christ that helps to nourish our body and spirit.

The word Eucharist comes from a Greek word, eucharistein, which means “thanksgiving.” Not only does receiving the Eucharist remind us of Jesus and the sacrifices that he made for us, but it allows our body and soul to be nourished through the presence of God within us. Celebrating the Eucharist challenges our way of being in the world in that it reorients our life to be more in tune with the presence of God. This removes the worldly distractions around us and allows us to focus on being the best disciple of Christ that we possibly can.

Lesson activity/question prompts: https://www.thereligionteacher.com/liturgy-of-the-eucharist-lesson-plan/

July 15

Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is a great way to provide support to students within the framework of the same learning task. In my teaching experience, I have only had students on IEPs that are modified at grade level. Therefore, the assistive technology that I use helps these students to “perform and complete” the same, or very similar, tasks as the rest of the class “with efficiency and independence” (Assistive Technology Tools, pg. 1). As I look at my class list for next year, I know that I have students on alternative programs and modifications at various grade levels, so the study of assistive technology is one that will greatly benefit my teaching practice for many years to come.

Assistive Technology in Special Education - ViewSonic Library

In my primary classroom, students incorporate the use of technology to share their understanding or learning of a topic in a variety of ways. I am big on using Google Applications on a regular basis with my students. This proved to be very beneficial as we transitioned into distance learning this past school year. Students in my class were proficient in using Google Docs to type out their thinking, Google Slides to present their information in creative ways, and Google Forms to answer comprehension questions. Each of these platforms provides internal supports for students, such as voice typing capabilities (Tools > Voice Typing), as well as spell check. We also were able to utilize Google Read & Write, which allows students to use voice-to-text or text-to-voice to help them with their reading and writing. When creating products of learning with these Google Apps, students were also able to freely share their assignments with others for real-time collaboration and feedback. By providing immediate feedback, especially with Google Form’s self-marking abilities, students are able to adjust their thinking and make corrections.

Read&write For Google Chrome - Google Read And Write Logo Clipart - Large  Size Png Image - PikPng

Students also used various digital libraries and online literacy activities to assist them with research and/or their daily reading tasks. Programs such as GetEpic, Raz-Kids, and Lexia, contained many assistive tools, such as “read-to-me” capabilities, highlighting text when reading, and immediate definitions of unknown words. These programs definitely helped my struggling readers to be able to learn and perform grade-level tasks independently. 

I also found that when my students used technology in new and innovative ways, their typical performance levels changed. For example, when using Scratch coding to create 2 sprites and have them teach each other about something we’ve recently learning in our Social Studies unit, the students who would normally struggle with brainstorming ideas and communicating their thinking in words were able to enter the task at various points and use images to drive their communication and thinking. It was very interesting to see how the “playing field” leveled when we tried something out of the ordinary. 

LibraryMakers - Create a conversation with Scratch

Assistive technology can enhance the learning and ultimate sharing of your students’ thoughts by providing supports for students that would otherwise be hindered from success. By using voice-to-text or text-to-voice, students are able to focus on the content, rather than the spelling of words, typing on the keyboard, etc. Assistive technology helps students to be more independent in their learning, in situations when they would normally be sitting and waiting for teacher support. Not only that, but the integration of technology creates a learning environment in which the learning isn’t so “assign-and-complete” oriented. Technology can provide opportunities for deeper learning. When time is given for students to work on meaningful tasks that cover multiple curriculum expectations, it allows students to truly demonstrate their passion for the subject and a willingness to share their learning with others.

Student voice and choice is of utmost importance in our classrooms, whether you teach the younger primary students or the oldest senior students. Student voice is valued in classrooms where the student and teacher roles are flipped, in that students are becoming the experts on a topic and teaching their peers what they have earned. With technology, teachers no longer have to be the “keeper of wisdom” and teach their students in lecture-based lessons; students have the world available to them online and are able to research, discover, and share their learning with others. Student voice can also be fostered through a partnership between the educator and students by co-constructing success criteria. This can, in turn, go one step further and lead to student choice by having the students have some control over the assignment itself (e.g., How would you like to demonstrate your learning on this topic?). This allows students to choose their medium for communicating their learning in a way that satisfies the co-constructed success criteria. These are all ways that we can continue to foster student voice and choice in authentic ways in our classrooms.

July 10

Teaching About Sin/Salvation

I came across this activity idea by Wright Ideas With Susan that is both interactive and rich in it’s learning outcomes. I think it could be used in a grade 2 classroom, as the students prepare for their first reconciliation, or in grades 3-5 leading up to a confession. 

The activity starts with students using feathers to hit the bullseye on a target. This proves to be very challenging, but is used to support the learning goal later in the lesson. Following the target activity, the class will read a bible story that contains the theme of sin (e.g., Adam and Eve). This will allow students to discuss the theme of sin, talking about “What did they do in the story that God did not appreciate?”. Then, the teacher can relate the conversation back to the target activity by bringing up the fact that no one got a perfect score and that we all fell short of the target. The bullseye represents the correct action that God was looking for. This will then open a discussion for students to discuss sins, or things that we do wrong. 

The subject of salvation comes when the discussion outlines the sins that we commit, and recognizes our need to be forgiven by God for our actions. Jesus died on the cross so that all of our sins, all of the times that we missed the target, were paid for. By believing in God, we receive the Holy Spirit, which helps to guide us to make good choices and actions. Not only that, but we can receive the sacrament of reconciliation, which allows us to repent our sins and be forgiven for the times that we missed the target – to seek salvation.

May 19

Differentiating Instruction: Grade 3 Probability Task

This is a Grade 3 Probability lesson taken from the Math Makes Sense textbook. This lesson explores themes of conducting probability experiments, which include the use of tally charts, number cubes, coloured counters, marbles, and spinners. The lesson is divided into 4 parts: Explore, Connect, Practice, and Reflect. Some suggested activity differentiation is outlined next to the lesson instructions.

In conclusion, there are multiple ways for each part of the lesson to be differentiated for different students, given their specific academic and behavioural needs. Many parts of this lesson require hands-on manipulatives, which provide students with concrete tools to help with their learning. Visual examples and cues would be beneficial in communicating and retaining the vocabulary necessity for understanding and completing each activity. Many of the lesson activities could be differentiated by reducing the number and complexity of expectations to assist students with their operational sense, time management and ability to attain to a task. Small groupings or pairings are a beneficial way to assist students in completing each task, using the unit terminology in their vocabulary, and sharing strategies with each other. Check-ins and rephrasing of expectations are useful strategies for whole or small group comprehension.