🚽 #LearningInTheLoo: Photocopier Fitness

It’s easy to say we don’t have time to exercise. But we all have 30 seconds here and there throughout our day. Try doing 10 or 20 reps of one of these exercises the next time you’re waiting for:

  • your copies to print
  • the staff bathroom to be free
  • your lunch to heat up in the microwave
  • the bus to arrive 
  • the bell to ring
  • students to arrive

What other exercise moves do you love to insert throughout your day?

This edition inspired by Eugene Lee (our model). Thanks Euge!

As always, all my past editions (including this one) of Learning in the Loo can be found here.

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

RHS Reading Challenge Bookmarks #TLchat

Short & sweet.

As promised, here are the bookmarks I made to hand out to staff for our 2021 Reading Challenge now that we are back in the building.

The file is here in case you would like to copy & edit for your use.

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

Learning Skills & End of Course Reflections #OntEd

Here in Ontario we have to report on learning skills at report card time. And even more so when virtual compared to face to face, some of the things we’re meant to assess in learning skills are not always visible to me. So I like to ask my students to complete a self-reflection about their learning skills in my class using a rubric I created years back from the growing success document.

Here are the learning skills criteria outlined in Growing Success (page 17):

So I took that doc and created a rubric with the 4 levels of achievement students see for learning skills on their report card; Excellent, Good, Satisfactory & Needs Improvement.

I ask students to read it over and choose one description for row that best describes their work habits in our course. This is useful feedback to me because sometimes I don’t realise, for example, how much help a student is seeking outside of class time to persevere with the course material (tutoring, homework club, etc.).

Then on the back (I do this as a paper task when we’re face to face for in-school instruction) I ask students to review their evidence record that I’ve emailed them and tell me what level they think they’re currently achieving in the course, as well as which expectations are strong or weak:

This accomplishes a few things:

  • Allows me to see how accurately the student understands their level of achievement in the course thus far. When a student sitting around a 1- tells me they think they’re getting a level 3, then I know I need to have a conversation with that student where we look over their evidence record together to clarify what it’s telling us.
  • Asking them to identify the curriculum expectations where they have not yet demonstrated a passing level of achievement ensures they recognize the gaps they need to fill in their evidence of learning before the end of the course (redo assignments or propose another way to show me evidence of their learning).
  • Identifying their strengths & weaknesses by curriculum expectation can help me when writing up their report card comments as we are asked to provide one comment about their strength, one about a weakness, and one for next steps. I’m not a fan of the comment bank provided to us (it’s still based on the categories in the achievement chart instead of the curriculum expectations) so I choose to write my own comments (using very similar wording to those in our comment bank) that are based on the curriculum expectations since we have transitioned to grading by curriculum expectations (aka. standards-based grading).

The last section asks students to reflect on certain aspects of the course that help provide me with feedback for the next semester (or quadmester now). These can obviously be adapted to match the work done in your class as well as the criteria you’re interested to get feedback on:

When we teach face to face I print this document up on legal size paper & give one to each student to fill out & write their name at the top. When virtual I assign it in Google Classroom choosing to make a copy for each student which automatically puts their name in the title. If you want anonymous feedback for that last part to ensure they’re willing to give you the honest goods, you can turn that last set of questions into a Google Form that doesn’t collect identifying info instead.

As always, here’s the whole document (the virtual teaching version – find the face to face version in the Version History) so you can make a copy & edit as you see fit. Are there reflection questions you love asking at the end of a course that you don’t see here? I’d love to hear what they are in the comments below!

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

Annual Reading Challenge List – 2021 #TLchat

Our 5th annual Reading Challenge is ready to go! I was a bit late with it this year as I somehow missed migrating the task forward to my January to-do list in my Bullet Journal. But a colleague that participates each year reached out to ask if it was coming back which jolted me into action!

It’s usually just staff that participate, but even if students don’t complete the challenge I hope it gives them some ideas of what they could read this year. I have some friends and colleagues that have expressed an interest in reading more lately so perhaps this list can be the motivation to do so for them.

Once we’re back at school and I can hand them out I’ll make the bookmark version of the list to give out to folks. They get laminated to last. I noticed many staff write the title of the book they read next to each challenge so I’ll try to incorporate a space explicitly for that into this year’s bookmark.

What’s the prize? The glory of reading 12 books 🙂
I share out the accomplishment of each challenger on our school conference so we can all cheer them on.

What are your reading goals for this year?

The list in text form:

Check off after you have read a book that is …

  1. a prequel or a sequel
  2. in the Fantasy genre
  3. by an author from the continent of Africa
  4. in audiobook format (you must listen to the audiobook version) Ottawa public library offers audiobooks you can download to your phone Libro.fm has a program that sends educators free audiobooks each month & you can listen using their app on your phone: https://libro.fm/alc-program 
  5. a cookbook; read it cover to cover
  6. about a hobby (non-fiction)
  7. manga
  8. written FROM a TV show or movie TV shows made into books: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_television_series_made_into_books movies made into books: https://onedio.co/content/22-popular-movies-that-were-turned-into-books-for-some-reason-12834
  9. written between 1900-1950
  10. one you are re-reading
  11. by a Canadian author
  12. non-fiction about anti-racism

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

Grading Tips for Efficiency (aka why the Twitter community is so awesome)

This year is tough. No doubt about it. Colleagues are having conversations around different ways to assess in the virtual online teaching environment in order to ensure students aren’t cheating by, for example, using an app like Photomath to solve equations for them. And sometimes when you look for more open-ended prompts that allow for variety & no one exact solution, it winds up taking longer to mark. So I thought this question from Sabrina on Twitter was timely:

Have a look through all the replies but I thought I would feature a few that stood out to me here. Love this idea from Karen about giving herself a timeline for returning work, graded or not. It happened so often that I trucked piles of marking home, night after night, to wind up not even taking it out of the bag because “I’ll do it tomorrow before class when I get to school & am fresh with renewed energy & motivation”.

Remembering that here in Ontario our final grade is meant to be based on observation, conversation and product; all three. Most of us tend to rely on too much product, me included. It’s tough to get a recorded level written down based on observation & conversations because they happen in the moment & you don’t necessarily have the time to stop & record a level on a checklist. But if you can’t do it in real time, a chunk of time after class is over to use some well-planned observational rubrics, like Meaghan suggests here, and record levels of achievement or anecdotal notes based on your observations & conversations from that class can be helpful:

I appreciated this response from Krista because I could really see myself in it. My style is to mark an entire batch at once. But as Krista points out, it’s hard to carve out that magical block of time to do that. She suggests chunking down to smaller sets. For me, that involved marking an entire set of 1 question. Then coming back to mark the entire set of question #2, etc.

If you’re like me and watch a lot of videos on YouTube (or listen to podcasts) at a speed of 1.25 up to 2 times faster than recorded, then this suggestion from Michael might appeal to you. Have small group Meets & record them. You could open several meets & move between to supervise after hitting record in each. Then rewatch them at a later date but sped up (click the settings cog along the bottom of the video saved to Drive & choose Playback Speed to adjust as desired):

In my first practicum in a grade 8 science classroom I planned a ton of hands-on labs because what’s better than hands-on science, right? My associate teacher smiled and asked if I planned to mark each of the lab reports? Of course, I said! Oh man!!! Her smile should have told me she knew something I didn’t. All those labs are sooooo much work to read through & mark. So I love this suggestion from Audra about only asking for certain sections of the lab report for each lab. This strategy could be applied to other assignment styles beyond science lab reports too:

Another strategy I’ve played with over the years is audio feedback. For a while I was uploading images of student Math tests into Explain Everything & posting a personal video to each student with their feedback as I circled and pointed to that part of their work in the image on the screen. I don’t know if it saved me time or if I spent the same amount of time giving more detailed and informative feedback, but either one is a win. So I liked this reminder from Melanie about audio feedback:

Have you got tips for being a more efficient marker/grader? How to give better or more detailed feedback in the same time or less? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear your strategies!

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

2020 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. It uses stats of views, replies and retweets to determine your top tweets. Here we go . . .

In January I attended my first every Ontario Library Association Super Conference as I learned about my new role of Teacher-Librarian:

Unfortunately we started the new year with more strike days as negotiations with the Ontario government were not advancing as we’d hoped:

Sharing a strategy I used last year with my Math students on test days. Love our Breakfast Chat conversations!

After the OLA Super Conference I followed Michelle Arbuckle’s example and started a thread pinned to the top of my Twitter profile of the books I’m reading this year. Posting the first one:

Some discussion about visual representations of data from our province’s professional association’s monthly publication:

Another morning Breakfast Chat response:

Sharing my latest Learning in the Loo poster that I put up in every staff bathroom in the building:

Then, just like that it was a couple of days before March Break and with Coronavirus cases climbing exponentially we were told we’d be staying home for an extra 2 weeks following the March Break. I shared out about getting folks set up with the same at-home workouts I stream from my favourite online platform & many were interested in the free trial account to see what it’s all about:

As we all worked from home, folks’ schedules shifted. Many of us early risers that are usually up for the 5:30 am Breakfast Chat didn’t need to get up early & commute to work. The real-time #BFC530 crowd got a little smaller with some of us checking in later in the day once we were awake. BFC530 questions often focused on how we were coping with the realities of remote emergency learning & working from home:

6 years ago colleagues gave some PD on the Thinking Classroom framework that they had learned about from Peter Liljedahl at a recent conference. It totally changed how I taught my Math classes, creating more engagement and more success for my students. Along the way I shared some sketchnotes about the Thinking Classroom framework that proved popular. Then early this year I found out that Peter was writing a book (awesome news!) and the publisher asked if I would illustrate it. Talk about imposter syndrome. I sketch stick figures … not much of an artist. But I said yes and told them if my work wasn’t up to snuff they could tell me so & that was no problem. So I didn’t make a peep about the project until Peter announced it on Twitter … I figured they couldn’t fire me then 😉

And of course, there were lots of questions we all had about this whole emergency remote teaching & learning. Open the tweet and you’ll see the many replies – so many lovely teachers helping teachers … everyone sharing their learning along this journey.

Some mornings I still woke early enough (we’re early birds) to check in with the BFC530 crew:

My husband and I started doing a daily live Facebook video check in. We started at the end of March & did it daily until the end of June. Our friends really liked it. My Twitter equivalent was to start sharing a few photos from each week beyond my teacher life:

In June the Thinking Classroom book was available for pre-order which was pretty exciting:

More teachers were interested in learning more about Pear Deck given the need to engage students virtually:

My weekly photo posts were still popular:

The BFC530 chat turned into a weekly slow-chat for summer:

And I kept posting weekly photo roundups – celebrating my first year in a long while of not working summer school:

In August, as teachers prepared to head back to school – some face to face, some online, some hybrid – more conversations happened around working with students remotely:

Back at school, physically, in September, this tweet got lots of responses with a mix of “I’ve been doing this for years, you haven’t???” to “I’m working on that too!”.

Pandemic teaching means looking for ways to get students out of their seats to move but remaining masked & physically distant. This was inspired by a colleague who shared some body break YouTube videos. But the videos mostly featured older folks I thought our students might not relate to so I looked for some videos w/ younger folks in them.

This one gained some traction (likely b/c the CBC morning show retweeted it?):

While working on my own work-life-online balance, I’ve started scheduling emails more to be mindful of the same for others as well:

When people started to get their copies of the Thinking Classroom book, I started to see if there was interest in a weekly Twitter book club:

In November a lot of my top tweets were those announcing the upcoming book club meets or the questions for the book club chats. I’ll eliminate those from this post, but these tweets from my own participation in the chat are fair game:

As December arrived I was thinking about snow days (which my board NEVER calls) and the potential to keep more people off the roads now that we’re set up to teach virtually. And I posed this question about the virtual teachers who – in my board at least – have to report to a school building daily despite not being part of the staff of that school since the virtual school is its own separate school.

As the holidays began (only after we had our last day of school for the year of course) the province announced a lockdown starting on Boxing Day which will mean 3 weeks of teaching from home in January.

I’m a big sharer of my own photos on Facebook & Instagram and so wanted to see people’s photos of their celebrations too:

What a strange year! A pandemic. I’ve actually really loved the time spent at home – but I’m a homebody. Who knows when we’ll be back to “normal”? Will we ever be back to what it was before? What elements of this “new normal” will stick around? Would love to hear your thoughts & predictions in the comments below!

Happy New Year!

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

#LearningInTheLoo: Scan to Email

What a strange year it has been! One of the many changes was that we were asked to pick a designated bathroom in the building for contact tracing purposes. Since I wasn’t meant to go into any other bathroom but the one I had designated, Learning in the Loo had to take a back seat for a little while. But my understanding is that now Public Health does not consider the time spent in the bathroom long enough to warrant contact tracing. So LITL is back!

This week I’m posting one that, in detail, is quite specific to my school and our staff copier (yup, just 1 for the whole staff!), but could be adapted to your specific copier at your school. A colleague was telling me this week how learning how to scan documents to her email inbox has been a game changer when collecting signed forms from students because she can then save them to her drive & not worry about keeping track of the paper copies so much. I realised that we likely had many folks on staff that are not aware of this feature or have never tried it (also evident by the few email addresses entered into the address book on the copier).

So here it is for all to learn (and I posted a copy of this one over the copier too so that when they come to try it for the first time, the steps are right there).

How have you made use of the scan to email feature? Leave a comment below!

As always, all my past editions (including this one) of Learning in the Loo can be found here.

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

#ThinkingClassroom Book Club – #MTBoS #MathChat

With everyone receiving their copies of the Thinking Classroom book over the last few weeks I thought it was a good time to launch a book club on Twitter so folks can think about what we’re reading & share our thoughts and questions with each other.

So every Monday at 8:00pm EST all are welcome to join us at the hashtag #ThinkingClassroom on Twitter. Each week we’ll discuss one of the chapters from the book following this schedule:

Nov 9fwd + intro + 1Types of Tasks
Nov 162Visibly Random Groups
Nov 233Vertical Nonpermanent Surfaces
Nov 304Defronting the Room
Dec 75Answering Student Questions
Dec 146Task Delivery
Jan 47Homework –> Practice
Jan 118Student Autonomy
Jan 189Flow
Jan 2510Consolidation
Feb 111Student Notes
Feb 812What we Evaluate
Feb 1513Formative Assessment
Feb 2214Grading
Mar 115The Toolkits

I post, from my personal Twitter profile, a new question every 10 or so minutes. We use the Q# / A# format. Remember to include #ThinkingClassroom somewhere in your tweet so others will find it in the chat! And then at 9pm EST, for those that want to stick around, we’ll work on a task together via Google Meet & a Jamboard.

This week was the first meet up for the first chapter & I couldn’t believe how many folks came out to participate! Must have been in the hundreds – it sure felt like it. My notifications were blowing up & I could hardly keep up with it all. It was amazing. The author of the book, Peter Liljedahl, participated this week too which was awesome of course. So great to see so many educators take an hour out of their packed evening to chat about this book & the classroom practices it outlines:

Then at 9pm I invited everyone that wanted to stick around to a Google Meet where we use breakout rooms and a Jamboard to randomly make groups & let people solve a task together. I chose the Four 4s task: Make the numbers from 1 to 30 using four 4’s and any operations. We had about 15 people divided up into 4 groups. You can check out their work on our Jamboard here if you’re interested.

I can’t wait for this coming Monday to see everyone back for chapter 2! Will we see you there?

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

Plagiarism & Academic Integrity Resources #TLchat

As the teacher-librarian for my school I am now the de facto lead on Academic Integrity issues. Our new VP had a good suggestion for this year to create a committee of teachers to look at each case of plagiarism or academic integrity infraction to determine the appropriate response and consequence for each student. The outcome might differ for an ELL student that copies & pastes for the first time in grade 9 versus a student in a university level grade 12 course with a history of submitting copied work. At the moment we have 3 teachers, including me, on the committee.

A few of the resources I’ve created to help with our work:

A one-pager overview of what plagiarism is & how to avoid it:

Original file here if you wish to edit to suit your needs.

I also reworked our school’s assignment that is one of the possible consequences for students that have been reported for plagiarism. The assignment is a rejigged version of what was passed down to me from the former TL (which she in turn based on work from a TL at another school in our board). If some of that work is yours, and the credit due is missing, please let me know:
1. Academic Integrity assignment
2. Academic Integrity – short acknowledgement form (short version of assignment)
They used to be something we printed & had students complete during a lunchtime academic integrity session in the library. I reworked them to be able to assign them virtually via the library’s Google Classroom since the physical library space is closed to students so far this year.

Finally, here’s the Google Form we use to collect information from teachers about each case of plagiarism: https://forms.gle/YJWZihwwDBbQHopU7

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

New Book Out: Building Thinking Classrooms

In the spring I posted on my blog that I was working on illustrating a book coming out this year. And this week I got to hold a copy of the book in my hands and celebrate with the author and many Math friends with a virtual book launch!

Receiving my copy of the book! Don’t mind the unbrushed hair straight out of the tub LOL.
Virtual Book Launch

If you’re reading my blog then I likely don’t need to convince you of how amazing the Thinking Classroom framework is. In short, it was an overnight game changer for my classroom. It got my applied level learners solving problems, collaborating with their peers, talking about Math, succeeding in the course & even enjoying Math a little it more!

The book looks great in addition to being chockablock full of amazing teaching tips based on careful research. The team at Corwin did an amazing job with this book. I am so thankful to Peter Liljedahl, the author, for including me in this project with him!

A better photo of me with the book taken the next day by my lovely colleague Kim Guité

If you wish to purchase a copy of the book you can do so from Corwin’s website here.

The author, Peter Liljedahl, announced at the book launch a new website dedicated to all things Thinking Classroom!
It includes his first blog post titled Thinking Tasks for Online Teaching.

Last but not least, I’m hoping to get an online book club going shortly so we can all read & discuss the book together on Twitter. If this is something you’d be interested to participate in, please fill out this form to get notified of the details.

Let me know what you think of the book in the comments below!

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