Google Classroom’s Plagiarism Checker – Originality Reports #LearningInTheLoo

For years I kept meaning to learn how to use Turn It In so that I could check for copy & pasted work from my students. But I never did get to that. But now Google Classroom has entered the plagiarism checker game. The tool is called Originality Reports and this week’s Learning in the Loo poster will help you get started with it. Melanie Zolnier has a great blog post on the topic, with images, that I turned into this week’s poster:

Learning in the Loo (1)

As always, all the past editions can be found here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

My 2019 Review of My Year on Twitter

Each year I try to look back at my top tweets as a way of reflecting on what I’ve shared on Twitter. Twitter analytics is a great tool for this. Here we go . . .

Sharing a cool project a former colleagues posted on Facebook:

In response to the BFC530 questions of the day: “Have you ever used brain breaks? What have you tried and do you feel like they have helped?”

February brought a snow day

and this repost of a tweet from 2018 that was popular but accidentally got deleted:

March saw tensions rising in the negotiations between education workers in Ontario and the Ford government that (still) spreads misinformation and outright lies at every turn:

Do we see a theme developing here?

This one struck a chord with my fellow teachers:

The OAME conference + sketchnotes is always a winning combo:

I have yet to bead another bracelet, but I do wear this one I made in June:

In July I share a bit of how my summer was shaping up (other than being a Math coordinator for summer school; a position I resigned from at summer’s end because it’s time to enjoy my full summers now!):

Some more sharing of summer in August:

And near end of summer each year I always march in the Pride Parade:

Then the new school year started up:

Some more well-liked tweets that are responses to the daily Twitter Breakfast Chat:

November brought new learning from the OCDSB Google Summit:

and more #BFC530 responses of course:

and unfortunately some informational picketing starting on teacher’s own time outside the school day:

Sometimes it’s nice to share a bit of our lives outside of the classroom with each other:

A sad cap to the year was a full walkout at the beginning of December by all secondary education workers in Ontario as well as many education workers from the elementary system. And followed by rotating walkout strikes around the province every Wednesday to follow & into the new year:

My reflections on all of this:

  • folks like seeing photos of our lives outside of the classroom
  • we are in a very tumultuous period of bargaining with a government that prioritizes slashing funding over student learning conditions with no sign of an agreement getting any closer
  • lots of great ideas and conversations coming out of the daily Breakfast Chat on Twitter. Join us! 5:30am daily (but you can answer/read any time of day), one question for 15 minutes (if tuning in live). Follow @BFC_530 and check #BFC530 to see the conversation each day.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Annual Reading Challenge – 12 Books in 12 Months

In 2017, I stumbled across the idea of a book reading challenge – formatted as a bookmark. I no longer remember where it came from, where I heard about it or how much I adapted that first list:

bookmark 2017

But I sent it along to our teacher-librarian and she liked the idea too. So she printed them up, laminated them & distributed to interested staff & students. She’s kept it up each year, with a new list each time:
bookmark 2018
bookmark 2019

This semester we are sharing the teacher-librarian role as I transition into it & she back to the classroom. So it was my turn to create the new list for the 2020 reading challenge. Here’s what I came up with (with thanks to folks on Twitter & my colleagues for their suggestions):
bookmark 2020

I’ve printed the bookmarks up on coloured paper, added a short poem about reading to the back, laminated them & have put them out for teachers & staff alike to grab one.

Do you have suggestions for my 2021 list of challenges? Leave them in the comments below!

As always, if you’d like to take the file & edit the bookmarks for your own use, here they are.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

#LearningInTheLoo: Podcasts

I’ve been pretty quiet on here as it’s been a busy semester. We sold our house & moved full time to our cottage (giving us a longer drive in to work each day). I’m almost full time as teacher-librarian now & learning this new role consumes my days. And I’ve been working at establishing a better work-life balance so haven’t been doing teachery things in the evening as much as possible.

It was high time for a new edition of Learning in the Loo. This one is all about podcasts. With my long drive to & from work I listen to a lot of talk radio and podcasts. I often hear stories that give me lesson ideas or make me think “that would be great for a [fill in the blank with a subject area] class!”. So these can be great for your personal learning. But these could also be used with students, having them listen to a clip on a certain topic as an introduction to an activity, or perhaps as a listening activity in and of itself.

Learning in the Loo.png

If you’d like to use podcasts with your students but are wondering what that might look like, maybe read what some of these teachers have tried:


Teaching the Art of Listening: How to Use Podcasts in the Classroom by Alix Mammina
(also touches on how to go the next step & get your students podcasting about local events/issues)

How Podcasts Can Improve Literacy in the Classroom by Michael Godsey
(talks about using the transcript text to allow students to read along with what they are listening to)

Past editions of Learning in the Loo can be found here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

#LearningInTheLoo: Reply All vs Reply Sender

I’m transitioning into my new role as Teacher-Librarian this year. Part of the role, as I see it, is to coach staff and students through pedagogical strategies and technology. I’m hoping I’ll have more time to put out regular Learning in the Loo editions . . . although I don’t think my to-do list has ever been as long as it is now in the library!

This week, I’m sharing some tips on when to use Reply All, Reply Sender & BCC:

Learning in the Loo

Past editions can be found here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

My Summer of Nutrition & Exercise (#TeacherLife)

Fair warning: This post is less about teaching and more about #TeacherLife and how I’ve spent my summer looking after my health.

I don’t know about you, but for the last 10 years or so my weight has increased a few IMG_20190725_190436pounds each year. Some years more, some years less. I started to look at photos of myself and not like what I was seeing. I started being self-conscious of my body; what I looked like in my bathing suit, how my stomach looked when sitting in tight jeans. I kept buying slightly looser clothes. And I thought if I keep going like this, another 10 years down the road, I will not be happy at all with where I’ll be. But I’m a busy teacher with not a lot of free time. I jog a few times a week usually, so I deserve to eat whatever I want, right? How can I help myself when our Math office is renowned for having great snacks and treats on the table almost every single day?

And while these thoughts were forming & solidifying in my brain, I was following fellow teacher Marie-Andrée Ouimet on Instagram. I met Marie-Andrée at an EdTech conference in 2015 and was immediately drawn to her because of our shared interest in sketchnoting. Over the last few years her Instagram has shifted to focus more on her fitness and nutrition journey. I watched from afar as she shared about eating better, working out each day and getting fit. Her transformation was incredible!

View this post on Instagram

Chaque personne a un moment dans sa vie où elle décide que de prendre soin d'elle est maintenant une priorité. . Et il n'y a personne qui est immunisé de ce processus. La différence entre nous tous, c'est que pour certains, ce processus est plus facile. Manger mieux, bouger plus et boire assez d'eau n'est pas difficile pour certaines personnes. Et tant mieux pour elles! . Je ne suis pas cette personne. Tu penses peut-être que je suis cette personne. Mais encore à ce jour, mes mauvaises habitudes et mes mauvais plis peuvent rejaillir dans l'instant d'une seconde. La vérité? J'adore manger, j'adore les bonbons, j'adore toute la malbouffe sur la planète! Ça fait bientôt 2 ans que j'ai arrêté de consommer du fast food et encore aujourd'hui, je passe devant un établissement et juste l'odeur du gras de patates frites me donne le goût de tout abandonner. Vivre mon style de vie est une nécessité. Ce n'est pas optionnel. Appuyer sur «play» pour faire mon entraînement le matin, calculer mes portions de nourriture pendant la journée et boire mon super shake sont des non-négociables dans ma vie. Et ce le sera pour un bon bout. . Ces habitudes font en sorte que je suis la personne que je dois être pour vivre une longue vie, une vie remplie d'aventures et de succès. Mais attention – le début de ce parcours fut difficile! Ce fut difficile pour moi, et ce sera difficile pour toi aussi. Au niveau mental, tu mèneras une guerre interne avec toutes les raisons pour lesquelles tu n'as pas besoin de passer à l'action. Et sache que lorsque cela arrivera, c'est un signe de POURQUOI tu dois passer à l'action. Le changement est difficile, tu seras testée et tu dois comprendre que le progrès quotidien sera toujours plus gagnant que la perfection. . Je n'ai pas des abdos de fer, je ne suis pas toute découpée, mais j'ai progressé et ma vie n'est pas une vie de perfection – c'est plutôt une vie à profiter de chaque instant, à s'amuser et à poursuivre mon parcours, aussi imparfait qu'il puisse être. Je le sais que c'est épeurant de demander de l'aide afin de débuter. Mais je te promets que je ne mors pas! Joins-toi à moi!

A post shared by Coach MAO ✨ -110 lbs (@maouimet) on

This spring Marie-Andrée was offering a “challenge group” for anyone who wanted to get more on top of their nutrition. I’ve often used my few runs per week as an excuse to eat whatever I liked, but with my weight continuing to go up I was facing the fact that I couldn’t out-exercise the food I was eating in order to keep fit. Something had to change. And Mari-Andrée’s group came at the perfect time for me. I didn’t just need to exercise more, I needed to start eating right. And although I thought I ate fairly healthy (I eat vegetables!) clearly I need some help.

I bought into this program and challenge group starting May 20th this spring. I was all in, so dedicated. The nutrition plan, with Marie-Andrée as my coach, taught me about proper portions sizes of different food groups. And how many portions of each I should eat throughout the day in order to lose weight but feel full and satisfied all day. I was so scared I would be hungry, but oh man I get to eat lots of good food every day. The plan got me drinking more water too (hands up if you’re that teacher that drinks a cup of coffee in the morning & then nothing again till you get home in the evening 🙌🏼). No food is off limits but I choose when to treat myself to the really decadent stuff and I budget it into my portions for the day. I’ve reduced how many carbs I eat (and I was eating A LOT of carbs) and increased my protein, vegetable and fruit intake. I was also a big fan of the drive-thru, grabbing McDonald’s breakfasts on the go so I could just get into work and be more productive. But I’ve learned to plan out my portions in advance and meal prep everything but dinner so that each morning I grab my breakfast, lunch and snacks to pack with me to work.


A day of food on my weight loss nutrition plan (including treating myself to movie popcorn that night and dinner out at a Korean restaurant with my husband).

Even before the end of June (1 month later) my colleagues started to notice a change in my weight and shape. They said they could see it in my face! By the 2 month mark in July I had reached my 5K running goal and planned to keep running a few times each week and work towards 10K. But the deer flies were terrible on the country roads around our place this year and I was less motivated to go out and run. So I started investigating some of the online video workouts that came with my nutrition plan. To my surprise I really enjoyed them and started a 3 week, 21 day daily exercise routine following the videos. When I finished that 21 day set, I started a second 21 day program that took things up a another notch. I have some basic equipment at home, stream the workouts and dedicate just 30 minutes each day to a workout I don’t have to leave my house for.


A mix of strength training with weights, cardio, pilates, yoga … Sometimes I even convinced my husband to join me for my workouts.

And let me tell you! I have lost 20 pounds in 3 months. I feel fit and comfortable in my own skin again. My clothes are too big for me now (I hate clothes shopping, but Joe Fresh here I come for some new pants for work!). And I have so much energy. I mean, I know it’s summer break, but I feel so ready to tackle the school year. I’ve switched my nutrition plan to a weight maintenance plan (more portions each day now) and am working to tone up with daily 30 minute workouts.

I wanted to share this on my blog because it’s been a big focus of mine over the summer, and I like to share how teachers spend their time off. I wanted to share because this has been a game changer for me and I’m keen to help others that might want to dial in their nutrition also (and maybe even add exercise, but not necessary). I wanted to share because our health is important – as a teacher I want to be at the top of my game, mentally and physically, so I can give my very best to my students and school.



This was a summer to take care of me. Make sure I am healthy and happy. I’ll be starting a challenge group on September 16th for anyone interested in trying this nutritional plan. Exercise is optional, but the workout series I am doing is included with the nutritional plan. What better time than the start of the new school year for a teacher; a teacher’s new year resolution. If this is something you think might interest you (you do have to be in Canada, US or UK) please get in touch via Twitter, Instagram or email. I’m so keen to help other teachers, that are feeling the same way I was, get back on track. If that’s you, then let’s chat!

I love hearing how other teachers have spent their summers recharging & re-energizing. Tell me in the comments below, how have you spent your summer months this year?

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

#LearningInTheLoo: How to Recharge this Summer

Learning in the Loo

I slacked off a bit (OK a lot) in getting regular editions of the Learning in the Loo out this spring. So I wanted to put one last edition out there (also I might have been procrastinating on my marking 😬). I asked colleagues to make suggestions of how to recharge over the summer break & here’s what we came up with!

Past editions can be found here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

#OAME2019 roundup; #sketchnote

This year the annual OAME Math conference for Ontario Math teachers was held in my hometown, Ottawa, at the University of Ottawa campus. I missed the road trip with my teacher buds and I missed staying in the dorms. Being in my own town meant I felt like I had to still do my regular life obligations in the evenings. Next year it will be held in Oshawa May 7-8 and while there are no Saturday workshops I think we should all stay over Friday night and go have breakfast together Saturday morning before driving home.

This year’s conference had great featured speakers. All of the sessions I attended were great and gave me food for thought, new strategies and new tools to try. And best of all I got to meet for the first time & get to know better some of the fine folks that I follow in the #MTBoS (blog & Twitter world). That’s always special.

So I thought I would compile the sketchnotes I made for each of the sessions I attended below:oame2019.PNG

Vera Sarina: Measurement Formula Sheets
I also learned during the session that we are now allowed to give my grade 9 students a formula sheet of our own making for the EQAO exam (so long as it does not contain instructional material). Love that!

Nat Banting: Instigating Mathematical Action
I met Nat briefly at last year’s OAME conference. This was my first time hearing him speak and is he ever an engaging presenter! And so much application of his ideas to my Thinking Classroom routine that I’ll be putting into place.

Cal Armstrong: Streamlining Observations & Conversations
Cal is another teacher I follow on Twitter so really great to finally attend one of his sessions. Love his shout out to Learning In The Loo also!

Tom Steinke: Notes in a Thinking Classroom
I’ve followed Tom and his dedication to the Thinking Classroom framework for a while on Twitter. His workshop title was very close to mine so I was curious to see his ideas on the topic.

Heather Theijsmeijer: Capturing the Math Beyond Traditional Assessment
Can’t remember whether or not I’ve attended one of Heather’s sessions before, but she’s another Twitter friend that I was lucky to see in action this week.

Sam Shah & Mattie Baker: Teacher Voice
Two big names in the teacher community that I was fangirling over. They prefaced their talk by saying they were not used to such a large audience and they were really awkward. Except they were anything but. They were heartfelt, passionate & polished speakers with a lot of humour. Two things of note. One, they had every person in the room crying when they showed a well-timed emotional video after a particularly personal anecdote (see below for link to the video). Two, they got a standing ovation. STANDING OVATION AT A MATH CONFERENCE, people. That just doesn’t happen.

Just ignore my grammatical error in that tweet. 😲

Tracy Zager: Student Thinking
A heavyweight in the #MTBoS world. My first time hearing her speak. Very engaging! Check the sketchnote for a couple of books she strongly recommended being worth the read.

Carl Oliver: Making Connections
Speaking on a topic I love, a great chance to meet & listen to another MTBoS teacher I’ve followed online for a while.

Jennifer Wilson: Reflecting, Connecting, Communicating

Mary Bourassa: Desmos Activities
Saturday was filled with Desmos sessions. Mary, a teacher from my board, presented on Desmos Activities and I paired up with a colleague of mine that was unfamiliar with them. He was so excited to get to play with it as a student and really saw the power of this tool in Mary’s session. Mary was also one of the main folks on the organizing team for the conference (I do not know how she does it all!).

Marieta Angjeli: Project-based learning
Not captured in the sketchnote were the plethora of examples of student projects she shared with us.

Eli Luberoff: Breaking Down Barriers with Technology
Eli is the CEO of Desmos. He was the final feature speaker. He gave a great talk that while using Desmos & talking about Desmos, wasn’t only about Desmos. Really great to hear him speak after following him online for so long. Also, my colleague that was attending his first OAME conference told me he sat beside Eli in a previous session & chatted with him all the while having no idea he was talking to the CEO of Desmos – and he commented on Eli’s friendliness & generosity.

Laura Wheeler (ME!): Course Packs for the Thinking Classroom
I had about 75 or more folks in my session on Saturday. We spent our time discussing course packs for student notes in a Thinking Classroom framework. Thanks to everyone who joined me!

Looking forward to the 2020 conference, friends!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Bank Balance problem

A few weeks ago I was ready to do my first Linear Systems of Equations problem with my MFM2P grade 10 applied class. The first step is to get them to solve systems graphically (a review of gr9 essentially) and interpret the solution. The last few times I did that topic, I used a scenario of a race between a runner and a dog-walker w/ a head start; where/when do they meet? It’s always complicated and requires more hints from me than I’d like. So I decided to design a new scenario – something that would allow us to practice our linear relation skills at the same time. I came up with this scenario of 2 different bank account balances as they grow over time:

Screenshot 2019-03-19 at 2.56.46 PM

  1. Presented with the above data, we worked through our notice & wonder routine using Pear Deck.
  2. Then I showed them the question I had for them:
    “When will they have the same bank balance on the same day?”
    Students estimated how many days before that would happen via Pear Deck.
  3. Then we had turn & talk time with our visibly randomly grouped (VRG) partners to discuss what we should measure, look up, and/or calculate in order to solve the problem. We shared our thoughts to the whole group.
  4. Then I sent students to their group’s board (VNPS) to solve the problem in any way they saw fit. Periodically when the majority of groups seemed either stuck, or ready for it, I called them all over around some board space to do some direct teaching. The things I called them over to talk about at different moments:
    – first differences & whether or not each table is linear
    Desmos: plot the tables
    – Desmos: linear regression for line of best fit
    Asked them to sketch their graph from Desmos on their board.
    Here are their boards:
  5. We had a follow up day where I walked them through interpreting a couple of different graphs of system of equation scenarios.

The whole activity is available in this slidedeck that has added Pear Deck interactivity if you use their add-on.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Reflecting on our First Test

My grade 10 applied class this year has some students with some serious gaps in their math abilities/knowledge. We had our first test last week (which is late – about 5 weeks in – too many interruptions to class so far; assemblies, etc). For the first time I tried Howie Hua’s strategy with my class:

I asked my Tweeps if they do VRG for this or let students choose. Almost everyone said they let students choose. I may try VRG next time as there were a couple of students who didn’t get up to talk to anyone. I’ll be asking them for feedback today about how they thought that helped them (or whether or not it did).

Unfortunately on test day due to an assembly running long that morning, they took 10 minutes away from my period. A number of students had trouble finishing. I struggle with that b/c I think many of them want more time, but simply spend the time staring at the page, not being productive in solving. This class is mostly ELLs thought (more than usual) and in the past when that’s been the case & I have slower test takers I have made shorter more frequent tests.

So normally I test ever 2 to 3 weeks once we’ve done activities & practice that cover 4 or 5 of the 9 overall expectations for the course. Then the test is 2 pages double sided, each side of a page is 1 overall expectation (usually one or two problem solving tasks). In the past I’ve changed that to testing every 1 to 1.5 weeks on 2 of the 9 expectations instead. I think that’s what I’ll need to do here so that if a student needs more time they can have it within that class period.

I haven’t yet returned their marked tests (I put feedback only on the test & they receive their grade separately a day later on their evidence record via email; research shows that mark + feedback results in students caring only about the mark, not the feedback). Yesterday I sketched on the board the same triangle based prism they’d had in a Toblerone bar question on the test but with different dimensions. I asked them to find surface area & volume (dimensions were such that they needed to use Pythagorean Theorem to find the height of the triangular base). Most groups took almost the entire period to solve this!!! One group never got beyond the Pythagorean Theorem part. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to facilitate, correct misconceptions, etc.

As an aside: A colleague came by to watch (said he’s been meaning to for a while now) and I had to ask him not to write on the students’ boards or tell them how to do the next step. Reminded me how hard it is to teach other teachers the skill of not telling students the answers always, but asking questions that help them figure it out for themselves. He said “but they’re nodding so they understand what I’m showing them”. I explained I want them doing the math, not him. I asked him to talk with them but don’t do the math for them.

I also got a short video of the groups getting started on the problem if you’re interested:

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)