Tag Archives: 21st century learning

What Happens if We Make a Mistake?

My husband Phil and I have been involved in this great program called Cool Little Kids.  It’s Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for young children (3-6) that are experience signs of anxious behaviour.  It’s a parent program to learn strategies to help your children overcome anxieties. We’ve only attended 2 sessions so far we’ve already learned so much to help our daughter Keelyn.

Something that I’ve taken away both session is the question “what do you think will happen if you do x”.  It’s a great way to start conversation with children and allow them to express how they feel.

I used this idea with my class this week during a math lesson.  I gave them the open-ended task for perimeter “How many figures can you create with a perimeter of 16cm?”  Many were up for the challenge and problem solved a bunch of creative solutions.  A couple were frustrated and expressed “I can’t do it” and one didn’t even try.  I asked those kids “what do you think will happen if you make a mistake”.  You could see their thoughts turning and one student said “I’ll get a bad mark on my report card” and another said “I’ll look dumb” and another said “I’ll feel frustrated”. Finally a fourth student said “I think that if we keep making mistakes we will still learn about perimeter.”  When I inquired what do you mean? He said, “well if you keep drawing figures and counting the perimeter you are learning how to figure it out”. I smiled for this answer was perfect and really profound for a 9 year old.

We brought the question back to the whole class as a discussion and talked about how taking a chance and trying out something even if it isn’t something we are comfortable with and even if we make a mistake has a ton of value and a ton of learning.  I feel like my students really got it.  In fact the next day we did a perimeter/minecraft art activity where the kids did block letters for their names or initials like text in minecraft (I was quickly corrected that it was pixels not blocks) and had to calculate the perimeter.  My most reluctant student happily created his letters and even calculated the perimeter without the normal worry lines on his face.  Maybe it was pairing the activity with the name “minecraft” that made him give it a shot – but I like to think it was the pep talk about making mistakes.  I guess time will tell!

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#Peel21st Blog Hop – What Does 21st Century Learning Mean to Me

I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many #Peel21st educators and other members of my twitter PLN to discuss 21st century teaching and learning and what it means to us.  When the #Peel21st Blog Hop was presented I was excited to share as I missed out on the first round.  Read on to learn what I think about the meaning of 21st century learning and then check out the other blog posts listed at the bottom of my post.  

Happy Reading!

When @jrichea presented the #peel21st Blog Hop I was excited to participate. I was even more excited that the topic was 21st Century Learning and what it means to me. I’m having difficulty articulating it. Images of BYOD, Twitter, #geniushour and inquiry float around. While I certainly feel that those are elements to successful 21st Century learning I don’t think they define it. When I think about my own two children Keelyn and William I can’t help but hope for an education system that embraces their interests, quirks and nurtures their passions. That doesn’t make them feel self conscious or embarrassed when they don’t “fit in the box”.  That’s what 21st Century learning means to me.

Keelyn and William - 21st Century Learners!

Keelyn and William – 21st Century Learners!

Blog Hop Participants 

Happy World Teacher’s Day

Today is World Teacher’s Day. I’m spending the morning snuggled up on the couch with my two favourite little people. We are watching Umi Zoomi and our fire place is on. We have a busy day of errands, mostly party prep for Keelyn’s 5th birthday party this week. My husband Phil also an educator is outside building our fence (he’s wearing shorts and a toque 🙂 ).  It’s actually a pretty fantastic way to celebrate.

I’ve been teaching for 11 years now and I feel that finally I’ve found my groove.  I am much more confident as an educator. Thanks to the connections (both online and offline) I’ve made I created a style of teaching that works for me.  I’ve become a risk taker and I no longer take things personally when a lesson I prepare doesn’t work out.  I am able to step back and reflect and either move a long or shift my focus and try again.  I make decisions in my classroom based on the needs of my students in fact everything I plan and craft up is with those unique 20 individuals in mind.  In a lot of ways being a teacher is so much tougher than when I first started.  I’ve been a mom for almost 5 years and a lot of the time I had to dedicate to professional learning, running extra curricular, working on committees is now refocused on my family.  It’s been tough to balance.  My daughter has recently broken her arm and when I’ve been off with her for appointments I’ve had to push back on the feelings of guilt that were building with being away.  I had to tell myself out loud “my family needs me!”

Teaching is certainly not glamorous and I often think I should have chosen a job where I could wear stilettos but I love that I am a teacher.  I love the connections I’ve made to kids and colleagues and as I reflect back on my practice I’m glad I became a teacher!

Be sure to thank an awesome educator today!


Social Studies Inquiry Day

Last week was our Social Studies Inquiry project day.  After working in our library learning commons space for 2 periods it became very clear that I needed to give the students a really big chunk of time in order to put their projects together.  So I told all the students that Wednesday would be Social Studies Inquiry Project day.  The kids were so excited I think of few of them responded with “it’s going to be like free time all day”.  I told them that I would provide all the materials they needed to put projects together but if they wanted anything special (e.g. glitter, stickers, colour pictures etc.) they would need to bring them in.  (Note: If you do not wish your classroom to look like a glitter bomb went off specify that the kids bring glitter glue not loose glitter).  Anyway when project day arrived I had the kids set straight to work.  I’m not going to lie it was madness and I was a little stressed out.  You already know about the glitter but there was paper scraps all over, plasticine mushed into the tiles, puddles of glue spilt all over, pencils, pencil crayons and erasers littered on every surface.  Pretty much chaos but organized creative chaos.  In the moment I had a hard time seeing the creative productive side.  I was caught up in the mess, the noise and the fact that every 30 seconds I was being pulled in one direction to the next, “can you print this Ms. Lewis-Young” or “My iPad isn’t working” and “I can’t find my glue stick lid” and even the good old “I don’t know what to do!”  I actually starting thinking to myself that the whole inquiry based learning was a nightmare and that I was never going to do it again.  I felt like I had failed.  We’ve spent so many hours learning how to ask good questions, seek out the big ideas, fine tune our questions, research answers and now this mass chaos?  They weren’t even taking it seriously just making a big huge disaster.  Or so I thought in the moment.  I asked them to line up at the door as we would take our projects to the room across the hall (an empty room) to store so they could dry.  Normally getting my class to line up can be like herding cats but they all lined up with the biggest smiles on their faces and projects in hands.  It was then at that moment that I really began to see what they had done.  Big beautiful posters, 3D plasticine models, sets for news reports all 100% kid thought of, created and crafted. I got a little bit teary because I was so proud of them and disappointed at myself all at the same time.  They had really come through and yes created a huge mess in the mean time but messes can always be cleaned.  The learning and experience that the students were given was worth it.  Every single student produced something.  Even students who are normally reluctant to work.  Pretty amazing!  I’m 100% bought into the Inquiry Based learning experience and will be running my Social Studies and Science programs 100% in this way.  I can’t wait to see how they share their projects now.

Sharing ideas and materials to create their posters

Sharing ideas and materials to create their posters

More collaboration going on

More collaboration going on

Finishing up their research using the iPads

Finishing up their research using the iPads

Using plasticine to create a 3D model

Using plasticine to create a 3D model

T's 3D model of a green space within an urban community

T’s 3D model of a green space within an urban community

S's has shared ideas how people can help keep their community and environment clean

S’s has shared ideas how people can help keep their community and environment clean


Close up of how Weather has an impact

Close up of how Weather has an impact

Back drop for A's video she is going to film on how weather affects where we live

Back drop for A’s video she is going to film on how weather affects where we live

Look at how gorgeous this poster is!

Look at how gorgeous this poster is!

Look out Ellen!  M has the jokes, confidence and skills to create a smash talk show!

Look out Ellen! M has the jokes, confidence and skills to create a smash talk show!

#BYOD in Primary

BYOD or Bring Your Own Device means students bring their own wifi enabled device to school to use for academic purposes.  It is a really good idea because our schools in Peel are equipped with wifi and while many schools have invested in equipment like netbooks or iPads they are not 1 to 1 and they are shared with other classes so you don’t always have access to a device.

I’m encouraging my students to BYOD in Grade 3.  You might read this and think that’s nuts.  But they have demonstrated responsibility with devices time and time again.  I am lucky to have a few devices and I allow the kids to use them and they are careful and respectful of them.  They are also really interested in using the technology and I find their focus and attention goes up when the word “iPad” is mentioned.

Having their own device certainly makes #geniushour a lot easier. Students have access to research or look at videos at their finger tips instead of having to share my devices or use the 1 classroom computers.

We have a system in place for keeping devices secure.  When not being used by students they are locked in a cupboard.  The classroom door is locked when we are not in the room and students understand the importance of leaving their device in their backpack to and from school.

I understand that a device like a smart phone, iPod, tablet is an expensive piece of equipment so I get why some parents may be hesitant to send them to school.  However they are a super valuable learning tool.  Having your children explore and learn and discover how to use their own or family device in a new way (e.g. other than playing angry bird) is a great learning opportunity and a really effective 21st Century Learning Tool!


Long Range Planning

Let the fun begin!  

I’m teaching grade 3 next year.  A straight 3 as far as I know.  Things could change once we reorganize in September but for now it’s grade 3.  Last year I had a 2/3 but I didn’t start it until February when I returned back to work from maternity leave with my youngest, William.  The group I had of 2/3’s were amazing.  It says a lot about the teacher who was covering my leave actually.  But on their own they were just really caring, kind and enthusiastic.  I have many of the 2’s again in my 3 and I’m looking forward to spending the year with them once more. 

I taught grade 3 a few years ago and I have to admit it was not my best year.  For whatever reason the kids and I did not gel and they did not gel with one another.  We lacked cohesion.  Don’t get me wrong individually we were all fine but together we just did not fit.  That experience unfortunately has left a negative grade 3 impression in my mind so I’m looking forward for this year to change that.

I’m currently working on my long range plans for this year while William sleeps and Keelyn watches Stella and Sam.   Luckily my long range plans from before were developed by a great team of grade 3 teachers (there was 6 of us) so I have a good base now I can just infuse the 21st Century skills into it!