Tag Archives: Inquiry Learning

A Little Bit of Honesty

Today I was honest with my grade 3 students and I think it surprised them. In fact, I don’t think they believed me at first.

I shared how when I was a student I did poorly. I had mostly C’s and D’s on my report cards. I wasn’t motivated to complete my tasks and would often scribble sloppily to get it done rather than taking my time and effort. My spelling was awful, I overused comma’s, my basic math number sense skills shocking and my cursive was a disaster at best. I can vividly remember learning cursive in the fourth grade. When we became “neat enough” we were given a blue ball point pen to do our school work with. I was the last person in my class to get one. My teacher said with a scowl when she handed it to me “Your cursive is still awful but you are the last one in the class to get a pen so here.” It still makes me emotional and ashamed when I think of that moment. For years I avoided writing cursively. I’m learning it all over again with my students.

I was so uninspired by my education that in grade seven instead of doing our big animal research project I had materials spread around me about penguins but I never actually completed a project. I lied to my teacher and tearily said “I did hand it in.” I guess she believed me as she said I saw you working hard on it and you’re such a nice girl. For the record, I was given a B on that project – one of my best marks in elementary school.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have potential to do well. Or that I didn’t have great educators, generally I did. I liked my teachers but I was terribly shy so asking for help when I didn’t understand something just wasn’t going to happen. I felt awkward and uncomfortable around my peers. I felt different like I couldn’t relate to them. I didn’t get them and I know for sure they didn’t get me.

I loved learning. I remember making elaborate butterfly life cycle models and painting them with my mom and bringing it proudly school in the third grade. As a Kindergarten student I was very interested in Dinosaurs and when my classmates shared for show and tell what they were going to be when they grew up I proudly proclaimed -a palaeontologist and my teacher was awestruck! I knew dinosaur names, facts, and details and created volcano models. I was fascinated by constellations prompted by winter Girl Guide hikes I remember even getting a star machine for Christmas one year that was accompanied by a tape. I would spend evening after evening listening and learning. I loved nature, collecting seeds, leaves and rocks. I read novel after novel. Young Adult, Adult didn’t matter I always had a book in hand. My parents purchased us an kids animal/nature encyclopedia set and I read all of the books cover to cover, over and over. When I think back to myself as a child I’m shocked I didn’t end up in a science-based career, but I failed grade nine science I wasn’t good at it.

I want to reiterate that I had great teachers. I was just an out of the box student that didn’t fit within the makeup of our school system.

I needed to share my struggles and then my success story with my students today because I needed them to understand that I understand. Success is so much more than an A or B on a report or a great score on a standardized test. This is why I am trying to dive more and more into an inquiry based program. The spark comes from the students and hopefully it reaches those out of the box thinkers.

My daughter is me. She wants to do her own thing all.of.the.time. She loves birds, insects, reptiles and nature collections. Her favourite netflix show is Magic School Bus (or My Little Pony). She’s soft, sensitive, shy but strong in her convictions and is great at advocating for herself. She fits well into an inquiry based world and I hope that her future teachers will get her.



Genius Day – Best Day Ever!


Yesterday we dedicated the entire day (minus Gym first period) to working on our genius hour projects.  I was a little worried if they would be able to maintain their focus on one thing all.day.long but the students in 3B did not disappoint.  Not only were they totally focused they were happy and collaborating and talking but on task.  I did not have to behaviour manage a single time.  It was so cool to be a part of these young people creating something with zero or minimal intervention from me.  A super big high was when my group of builders finally got their lego car to move.  They had been struggling all morning to get it to go and when they did the four jumped up and cheered! 


Here are some highlights from our day


Check out our Vine Videos too! 




Digital Leadership Conference 2014 #Peel21st

My colleague/friend Michelle and I spent the whole day preparing our Prezi for the North Field Office Digital Leadership Conference.  I’m super excited that our proposal to present at this conference was approved and we are going to get to share what we do and love in our classrooms – Genius Hour.

Michelle teaches Kindergarten and really every day is Genius Hour in her room.  Her classroom is a full on Inquiry Learning environment and a lot of what I know and have learned about Inquiry learning comes from her and the Kindergarten team that I use to be a part of.  Truthfully if you are not sure how to implement Genius Hour or Inquiry Based Learning then I encourage you to befriend a K teacher.  Spend some time in their classroom or chat them up on Twitter.  Better yet teach Kindergarten for a year you really will get a solid understanding of how it works!

I also use Genius Hour in my classroom and I’ve said this before but it’s been a game changer.  I started it because I have a wide range of students in my class and I wanted something that could address all their individual, unique needs at the same time and would allow them to feel good about themselves and be successful. This is totally happening and I’m so excited to share about it at the conference.

We are also going to focus on the technologies that we’ve integrated into our Genius Hour time like Twitter, PicCollage, iMovie, BookCreator, Educreations, Magisto, Aurasma, YouTube Capture, KidBlog, and so on.  After the conference I’ll share a link to our Prezi for all to view.  If you are a Peel District School Board teacher there is still lots of time to sign up on My Learning Plan for the conference on March 27th in the evening.  There will be an AMAZING Keynote speaker George Couros and you do not want to miss him!

Hope to see you there!


The Cardboard Challenge

Saturday October 5th was Global Cardboard Challenge which celebrates the anniversary of the flash mob documentary Caine’s Arcade communities globally celebrated child play, creation and innovation.  

My students love Caine’s Arcade.  I used the video as a method for launching Genius Hour and it’s the one thing that really got them hooked.  They couldn’t believe that a kid their age could create something so cool and they loved that he is famous. You should have heard their squeals of delight when they noticed @cainesarcade was following us on Twitter 🙂 very exciting! Anyway when I read about the Global Cardboard Challenge I knew this was something we would have to participate in.  

True to grade 3B form my students ROCKED this challenge.  It’s funny how when you give kids something creative, hands on and open ended there are zero behaviour issues, zero children feeling frustrated and deflated.  You get pairings of kids working together that you would never imagine but authentic collaboration, and discussion happens.  Even the next day when I had the students reflect on their experience in their journals not a single student groaned.  They really had a blast with the previous day so writing about it was a non-issue.  

When I reflect back on the day I feel really proud of them.  When I first came across this activity I hesitated participating.  School life is busy right now  and sometimes I worry with all of the “initiatives” I have going on with my class am I going to fit curriculum in?  But the answer is yes.  These initiatives support curriculum and they open students minds up to it.  They become sponges and willing participants in their learning because they are excited keen to find out what “Ms. L-Y” has planned next.  


The massive pile of cardboard in the middle of our carpet.  You might not believe it but there was not a single piece left at the end!

The massive pile of cardboard in the middle of our carpet. You might not believe it but there was not a single piece left at the end!


Shameala created htis house.  She added so many fine little details to it.

Shameala created htis house. She added so many fine little details to it.


Hearing the story that went a long with Timothy's robot was pretty cool.  I'll have to share his journal entry later

Hearing the story that went a long with Timothy’s robot was pretty cool. I’ll have to share his journal entry later


Do you think my apple love is having an influence on my students?  Adam made an apple Mac Book!

Do you think my apple love is having an influence on my students? Adam made an apple Mac Book!


Such amazing focus

Such amazing focus