Category Archives: Sound Pedagogical Practice

Take 5 to Make Math Meaningful


Mathematicians, researchers and teachers support a constructivist/problem-solving mathematics classroom. This design engages students in critical thinking, individual and collaborative thought and builds upon and improves on their current knowledge while solving the task in front of them. Check out the resources, in alphabetical order, that will help you in asking questions in the math class:





General resources for math teachers:


Myths of Teaching and Learning

Recently, the Canadian Education Association released its latest poster regarding some neuromyths connected to learning and teaching. Take time to read each of these three myths and share how you are taking current neuroscience research to change your teaching practice and students’ learning environments.

edcan_neuromyths  1) Adapting instruction to students’ learning styles (K,S,A)

The promising practices that I do see making are difference are:

  • multiple means of representation – information/content is shared via audio, images, video, text so that students can engage with it in a variety of ways, not just their “preferred” way. I often share with staff and students that there may be times when I would just read the content on my own while another time I’d like the computer to read it to me or watch a brief intro video instead. It’s the opportunity for access to these options that I find crucial.
  • cooperative learning – engaging students by learning with and from each other via ‘scripted’ learning and sharing opportunities exposes students to a variety of experiences so even if the student prefers a specific way to learn, they are supported through practicing other ways in a safe and engaging manner.

  2)  No such thing as brain dominance

Promoting Passion Projects (197 examples, in the classroom), Genius Hour or Innovation Weeks (GCMS) where students study, explore, create a level of learning that is very personalized and student-centered allows opportunities to further develop their talents and/or skills in a particular area OR dip their toes into something of interest that they may never have pursued.

3) Cognitive capacity and function improves after 30 mins of vigorous exercise

Initiatives like Daily Physical Activity (DPA) and Physical Literacy offer fantastic opportunities for students to get up, moving and socially connecting with each other and themselves. Brain Breaks (such as GoNoodle) give the brain a break and may regroup students’ attention but do not necessarily improve cognitive capacity.

So, go ahead, share this poster with colleagues, print it off and take turns speaking about it during a PLC/Staff meeting. What are your thoughts regarding these neuromyths?


So u Wanna Coach Teachers?

Praying Handsphoto © 2008 jill, jellidonut… whatever | more info (via: Wylio)
For the past many months I have been devouring various articles, blogs, books, speaking with learning coaches and attending a number of workshops dealing with instructional coaching. Alberta Education in its Exploring school-based learning coaches document (2010, November), illustrates the roles, responsibilities of both coaches and administrators as well as an implementation guide and a sample ‘day in the life’ of an instructional coach. Another pertinent document is the Alberta learning coach role description (2010, December). The ATA also released a Discussion paper on learning coaches (2011, March). So, it’s definitely on the minds of Alberta educational institutions. But, let’s break it down for a moment. What are some things we should think about before entering into an instructional coaching career?

Here are some basic tips from my experiences so far:

  • Understand how adults learn – Adults learn best when they understand why something is important to learn, do and/or understand. They also like a variety of learning opportunities that are positive and encouraging.
  • Be organized – Use low to high tech tools to keep your information, research, notes and ideas all organized and readily available.
  • Ask questions – Asking effective and great questions are important when speaking with colleagues. There are several resources listed below that assist coaches in asking the ‘right’ questions.
  • Attend PD – You need to continue your professional development so that you can pass on the ‘gems’ too!
  • Build in reflection time – Time for your own reflection as well as collegial reflection is important. Some coaches use a journal, others blog, whatever works for you to be able to see the growth in this process.
  • Administrator support is key – Being enthusiastic and motivated is great, but having the complete support of the administrative team at the school is key to having the rest of the teachers also buy into this way of working and learning.
  • Identify clear roles and responsibilities – What is it really that you do? Try to set up a one-page summary outlining your roles and responsibilities. It’s a good way to promote what you are doing to administrators and teachers and it’s also a good way to target your own P.D. experiences.
  • Build relationships – This is number one in my thoughts. Building trust and understanding in this collegial learning relationship is pertinent to furthering the impact on students in that particular class.

After discussions with colleagues and continued reading and reflecting…..I think I like the idea of calling an instructional coach a “Lead Learner”. In my many sports-filled years I have had the opportunity to work with and for many coaches. I see coaches in a different light; shining brightly on the area of being ‘the expert’ more so than being a colleague who is at a level learning platform. So, for me, the “Lead Learner” title resonates more for me.

Check out further resources:

CoachGinsburg on twitter

Cognitive Coaching with John Clarke

Evocative Coaching – Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time

Instructional Coaching – A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction

JimKnight on twitter

Joellen Killion with Learning Forward

Power of Teaching – The Science of the Art: Behavioral Pathways to Excellence in Teaching

Radical Learners blog

The Big Four ning

Unmistakable Impact – A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction


An EYE for Design: How Schools Challenge Students

Beautiful Phoenix

I recently read an article in the Fast Company March 2011 issue. A Teen Eye for Design accounts how teachers, students, post-secondary design schools and design firms can connect together to provide an authentic learning and creative experience for students.

There are a number of similar projects such as:

  • Rediscovering Creativity by Building It where Nueva School students collaborate with designers and educators at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.
  • Project Interaction is a 10 week after school program for high school students that guides students in changing their communities through design. A brief intro video is found on their fundraising site.
  • Sweat Equity Enterprises (SEE) takes place in a real professional environment where teenagers participate year-round for all four years of high school in the US. As SEE expands nationwide this year, it plans to reach thousands of youth, teachers, and professionals. Check out the intro video of SEE with founder Marc Ecko.

So really, what’s so important about having design enter into middle years and high school classrooms?

Whatever way teachers and students have the opportunity to be creative, to engage in authentic learning experiences, collaborate with each other and the community and build relationships in the process is a GREAT thing! In a province that continues to ‘shout out’ that we have an exceptional educational system, we really should look at bolstering up these opportunities as recorded above so that our students can regain their creative nature and our teachers can guide them through critical challenges (not filling in scantron sheets). I wonder how many middle years schools and high schools are able to connect this work and fold it into all aspects of the curriculum? This reminds me of the work that Chris Lehmann’s Science Leadership Academy and San Diego’s High Tech High groups are doing.

Anyone interested in sharing their experiences and/or ideas?

NOTE: The Fast Company magazine is filled with various articles relating to technology, design, ethonomics and leadership. (Ethonomics or ethical economics refers to businesses that are good for the world as well as the bottom line. They are practicing social change through urban revitalization, sustainable agriculture, green IT, alternative energy and online community-powered investing.) It may be one magazine that you’ll want to add to your RSS feed aggregator page!

photo © 2005 Cyprien Lomas | more info (via: Wylio)


How to Guide Professional Learning

I am always ready to receive, search or obtain professional learning materials/resources. One such resource that I have been receiving for almost a decade now has been the ASCD Educational Leadership publication. Originally only found through print via mail; over the past many years, ASCD has complimented the publication with online features for members. The articles presented are always engaging and easily discussed with teacher colleagues. Today, I find myself reading an ASCD SmartBrief email (must be an ASCD member) and at the very bottom of the scrolled page I see:


Continue your professional development with the Educational Leadership study guide
Did you know that each issue of Educational Leadership is complemented by a free study guide? Delve into and discuss topics from this month’s issue on what students need to learn — from addressing common core standards to how to best teach reading — with the March study guide. Access the guide.”

What? I can have MORE of ASCD? I can GUIDE the conversations more effectively? WOW, what else can I say? I know that the EL Study Guide has been around for many years because I just checked the archives!


This gets me excited about using the EL Study Guide in:

1)     Continuing the discussion of a particular article with a PLC group.

2)     Sharing an article with administrators and creating a discussion question where they can either share their thoughts in a F2F environment or even an online forum.

3)     Inviting students and parents to share their thoughts on a specific topic published in EL with directed questions.

4)     Engaging subject-specific teachers in workshops to think deeper about an article.


What am I doing with this newfound professional learning? I will be taking time to either leaf through my EL print copies or online versions to see where I can further my understanding and direction on articles that I have ‘favorited’ over the past year (or more).


What are you doing in using the ASCD articles and/or the EL Study Guide? I would enjoy hearing from you about your experiences.



How Should Critical Thinking Be Integrated with Technology?

This question was the topic of discussion on yesterday’s first #edchat discussion on Twitter. (Or follow through the Educator’s PLN Ning.) Although I was quite engaged in other matters, I was able to peruse the discussions archived on the wiki which was helpful. It provided an opportunity to see the variety of ways we THINK about critical thinking.  I agree with @cybraryman1’s comment that “good teaching requires an understanding of how technology relates to the pedagogy and content (see my #5.) As well, @Parentella makes the statement that “it requires critical thinking skills and problem solving to be able to function in the world we live in” whereby I give out a rebel yell ‘ YES!!’ and come down to reality. The way schools are structured in learning silos must be disintegrated. Reform is not the way, a learning revolution MUST take place in order for a majority of our schools to change the way they are educating students. (Check out my blog on The 21st Century Learning Environment and even Sir Ken Robinson’s Bring on the Learning Revolution TED talk.)

Here’s my own path towards critical thinking:

1)      I have had various teachers and mentors who have facilitated my own immersion into critical thinking.

2)      The  definition of critical thinking from’s 21st Century Lexicon cites that it is the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.

3)      With the above definition in mind, I have even had an opportunity to work on the newer Bloom’s Taxonomy by giving it a digital addendum. (See my SLItech blog.)

4)      I recently have been exposed to TC2 which is part of our AISI (Alberta Initiative for School Improvement) three year project. Critical thinking, according to TC2, is concerned with developing sound judgment. Teachers need to guide students to think critically through various forms of learning. Developing criteria to judge a particular project, instructing strategies to organize thinking and acquiring a vocabulary about thinking are some of the necessary activities to build critical knowledge and skills.

5)      Finally, let’s talk tech. Being a BIG supporter of the TPACK model, I believe that critically thinking will involve some form of technology. If this isn’t clear, check out Judi Harris’ wiki with learning activity types which offers a way for teachers to deliberately plan their lessons with technology if they so wish. Now, add some critical challenges, investigation of images, ask some powerful questions and you have started on your way! (Sounds easy, but take little steps like concentrating on one form of critical thinking first) As well, our own K-12 Alberta Social Studiescurriculum  is smattered with critical thinking possibilities to assist teachers.

Critical thinking is a lifelong learning process and I am certainly glad to be part of the experiences in our school division. I can thank Leah, Diane (our curriculum facilitators) and Wally (TC2) for that!



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Effective Teaching Practice?

I have been a Teacher List member for at least ten years. Pete is a local teacher and married to a retired teacher-friend of mine. For the most part, I appreciate his thoughts and TeacherList member recommendations. Passing on websites and interesting links to other teachers has been a delight. Yet, there are times where some of the material presented has struck a chord or a reflective ponder:

“does this resource truly fit the vision,

needs and wants of our school/division initiatives?”.

There have been many a discussion of certain articles, blogs, software, etcetera. I believe, as an educator, we should critically question what we are reading. Look for resources that fit our needs, however we should also be aware of those resources that DO NOT fit our needs.

What am I really talking about? What is the ranting? This week, TheTeacherList promoted Doug Lemov’s book, Teach Like a Champion. I thought to myself – “catchy title” and decided it was worth a look. The URL: provided some basic information, but the nine page NY Times article gave me some really interesting points of thought. Ultimately, my stomach was in a knot about sharing this, yet I thought I would get some good comments from my Learning Services colleagues. I sent the TeacherList write up with these comments (I tried to stay neutral in my thoughts):

***Click on the URL and go to the NY Times article. Although it is 9 pages long, it is well worth the read!! I would welcome your thoughts on this. Should/Could this be a good resource that we share with teachers and admin?***

Diane was first with her comments –

My interpretation of the article and other thoughts:

What I have gleaned from this article is that the taxonomy offers ideas for improving “stand and deliver” techniques. Many of the suggestions offered in the taxonomy are strategies for improving classroom management (how to make the students listen better to the teacher, behave better, follow directions, look at the board…) as well as emphasis on the teacher as the content expert.

While the suggestions are definitely great strategies for a teacher centered approach, I wouldn’t recommend sharing this article with PSD staff. We want to endorse the shift to a more child centred approach, where the classroom is a community of learners, students understand the learning targets, and are engaged as a result of their ownership of the learning. There’s no question that classroom management is a huge component in a child centered approach. However, different techniques are required than those offered in this article.

…And here’s my soapbox (or more eloquently known as my “talking points”)…

The critical thinking approach we are working with is one approach that puts learning into the students’ hands. The teacher’s very important role is to pose the kinds of questions or problems that give students a purpose for learning the content, leading to deeper thinking about the big ideas by having students use predetermined criteria to support the judgements they make. Teachers scaffold the learning by offering them thinking strategies and differentiating instruction along the way. Students uncover the knowledge and understanding outcomes by being engaged in tasks that have them learn and practice the skills outcomes identified in the program of studies.

I added my thoughts and returned the discussion back to the group

First of all, I agree with Diane’s interpretation, thoughts and talking points. I was taken aback from the comments made in the NY Times article that this “taxonomy”/book is targeted to new teachers……they are a group which are more than willing to try anything to be effective and successful teachers; well, ALL teachers want to be effective and successful. My point is that, such as Diane has iterated, this book IS a teacher-centered resource n(according to the article). There is no thought to 21st century skills which are student-centered in nature. Do I want to pick up this book to read? Not really, since there are so many better books out there. Yet, I believe it is important for us to be aware of other ideas/information targeting “effective teaching practices”.

Now, I believe it is time to let others have their chance to discuss…..and add my comments to Pete’s comment area. After all, he should know that he has spurred on some great discussion.

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