About mslwheeler

Math teacher at Ridgemont High School, OCDSB. Twitter: @wheeler_laura Class website: misswheeler.pbworks.com

#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)

Body Breaks at Your Desk – for students too!

In our board, in this year of COVID school, students and teachers have the same class all day for 4 hours. Students are not allowed to leave the classroom expect to use the toilet and refill an empty water bottle. They can’t get within 2 metres of each other in class which puts a real limit on what sorts of activities and group work can be done, with many teachers opting to have their students remain in their seats, in rows, for all 4 hours of class time. And since staff are trying to keep their distance from students too, many are sitting at their teacher desk at the front of the room and lecturing in a way most haven’t done in many years.

But our bodies aren’t meant to sit at desks all day. A colleague posted a message to our conference reminding folks to stretch during the day and attached a YouTube video of a classroom stretching routine. But when I watched the video it was led by an older lady and had a bit too much of an old-school vibe I found. I thought there must be some more current videos out there we could use with our students to encourage them to stretch periodically throughout the day with needing too much space.

So I created a YouTube playlist of 8 videos between about 5 and 10 minutes long that show different stretches you can do while at your desk:

I envision throwing one of these on at each break (3 or 4 times a day) and encouraging students to stretch along with the video. As a teacher – if I had a class of kids still – I would lead by example. Maybe give them a chance to check their phone first, then once that urge has been satiated do one of these videos together before getting back to the next activity block.

If you have suggestions of videos your students enjoy using for body breaks in the physically distanced classroom, please put a link in the comments below!

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

Social Media; My Social Dilemma #TheSocialDilemma

There’s a documentary on Netflix right now that is trending called The Social Dilemma. Have you watched it? It gets at the addictive nature of social media and what that does to us. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know from this documentary, but it told its story well and was a good reminder of why I want to be careful about my social media use.

That said, I love social media. I’m a big sharer; a wide open book. My instagram account is public. I don’t post anything to it I wouldn’t be comfortable showing my students, their families and my employer. My Facebook is more private because I share more photos of family & friends there than I do on Instagram and they don’t necessarily want me sharing about them so openly. My Twitter is more professionally oriented, but in summer I’ll often post photos of what I’m up to in my non-teacher life.

So I’m a big sharer – lots of photos and stories. My colleagues tease when we get back to school in September “I don’t need to ask how your summer was … I saw it on Facebook!”.

I’m also a big consumer of social media. I spend time on Twitter learning from all the amazing teachers I follow there. I spend time on Instagram checking out people’s photography and watching their stories. I spend time on Facebook to catch up with friends and family, to know what they’re up to recently.

But sometimes it’s too much. And I know it’s too much but I’ll still catch myself refreshing the apps and scrolling through like a zombie looking for something new. Then I complain that I don’t have enough hours in the day for habits I’ve been wanting to adopt, like playing ukulele more often and trying meditation*. But I would if I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling social media for no good reason.
* As an aside, the Headspace app is free for educators right now!

And it’s not my fault … social media is designed to hook me in like that! If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend the Social Dilemma doc to see what I mean. But there are things I’ve started doing to work towards a healthier use of social media for myself. And I thought I would share about them here.

The first thing I did was to set up app timers in my phone’s settings for various apps. On my phone I go to Settings –> Apps & Notification –> Screen Time to see the timer options. It also tells me how much total screen time I’ve been on my phone for each day. It’s surprisingly high (do you ever check yours?). So Instagram, Facebook and Twitter each get a 30 minute timer. And that seems like a lot because if I use each one to the max, that’s an hour and half of my 24-hour day gone to social media. When you say it like that, it’s a lot! But when I just go about my daily habits of posting photos, checking out other people’s photos, their stories and messaging a few people back & forth, it’s surprising how quickly that 30 minutes is up!

And I’m not saying I never go over those 30 minutes. I run our social media accounts for the school, so some days I have to turn the timer off to get in to those apps to post stuff for work. Sometimes I consciously turn off the timer to go back in a see messages later in the day – trying to be conscious not to let myself get sucked into scrolling mindlessly. But the timers act as a reminder of how much time I intended to spend on the app daily. And once the timer is up & the app gets “locked”, it adds an extra onerous step of going into my settings to delete the timer to be able to access the app later that day if I need or want it.

The second thing I did was to turn off notifications for social media apps. I no longer get push notifications on my phone for Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. This means I have to consciously decide to go check for messages. Some days I catch myself doing that more than necessary. But it has stopped me from opening the apps all day long every time a push notification for a new message buzzes on my phone. I’ve turned off these notifications for my work email also! For the apps with no push notifications, I also removed that little red dot with the number of messages/notifications waiting for me. I still allow push notifications for my texts, Messenger and personal emails as these are ways that friends & family with important things to say contact me. But these apps don’t wind up in mindless scrolling for me, so it’s not a worry.

The third thing I’ve done is to not have any devices in the bedroom. We used to spend our evenings in our bedroom, on the bed, playing on our computers or phones because the kids had taken over the couches in the living room. Our bed was our couch. But when we moved to the cottage full time last year, I made the decision to not keep my phone, computer or tablet in the bedroom. They all get plugged in the living room now. And I make a point to use them there too. Before bed I put my phone down, head to the bedroom and read before actually sleeping. My husband still brings his computer in the bedroom every so often, but it’s much more rare than it used to be.

The fourth & last thing I’ve started doing (and am still working on sticking to consistently) is to not use my phone at all for the first 30 minutes after waking up each morning. Last year I listened to the audiobook version of The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life: Before 8AM. And while I don’t follow everything he advocates you do in the morning, I have started to establish a healthier morning routine for myself that does not involve my phone. Because, I don’t know about you, but my morning routine & timelines can get totally derailed if I start scrolling social media – it’s a time suck like no other!

So now the alarm goes off at 4:45am (my watch buzzes me – I keep my phone out of the bedroom!), I wake up and cuddle a few minutes with our new cat we adopted, Sly. Then I empty the dishwasher & mix my pre-workout drink. I check in with my bullet journal, planning events and tasks for the day, while drinking my pre-workout. If there’s time left I read (on paper – no screens). Then at 5:15am I do my morning workout.

These 4 changes have made a big difference for me. They’re helping me spend my time in a way that better matches my intentions. I’m certainly not perfect, and I don’t always follow my own rules to a T. But I’m glad to be thinking about these things, taking some actions to fix areas that can be improved and working towards a healthier relationship with screens and social media. I’d love to hear from you – how’s your relationship with your phone and social media? Have you implemented any of the changes I have? Are there any I didn’t mention that have been working for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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

My Podcast Playlist

I love a good podcast. I listen while I cook dinner. I listen while doing chores I’m less interested in like vacuuming or folding laundry. I listen on my 50 minute commute to school & back each way. I listen to talk radio almost exclusively & I do like tuning in to CBC Radio 1 live to hear the latest news & issues from my area. But I also love listening to podcasts; many of which are live radio shows that I listen to on demand via podcast at a time that suits me best.

I posted last month about how I discovered that the audiobook format is my way to engage with non-fiction. And podcasts are very similar in that I learn so much from them! The podcasts I listen to are not fictional stories. They are long-form investigative journalism, they are science made understandable for the masses, they are news comedy shows, . . . they are varied! Often there are tidbits in them that spur an idea for a lesson plan for my own classes or that I can pass along to other teachers.

For example, the episode of Under the Influence titled Selling Yourself discussed some great issues around what your email address says about you, what your profile photo says about you, what your resume says about you, etc. That content then found its way into my lessons for my leadership and business classes.

Are you new to podcasts? The first thing you’ll need is a podcast player app. This will allow you to subscribe to podcasts so that your phone automatically downloads a new episode each time it’s released. There are many apps to choose from. Your phone may even have a native app that it comes with – so have a look. I use one called Podcast Addict that works well for me.

Once you have an app downloaded then you can start to look up & subscribe to podcasts. You can simply search for topics that interest you, but I often find I hear about good ones via word of mouth from friends and colleagues. So let me share with you some great podcasts that you might enjoy & might even inspire some lessons for your classroom:

  • Under the Influence: Take an unprecedented ride through the hallways of the ad industry. Host and adman Terry O’Reilly explores why we make the shopping decisions we make, and how we are influenced by words, colours and images. He tells stories of the remarkable creativity found at the higher realms of marketing, and analyzes the ads we love to hate. Under The Influence is not a show about advertising. It’s a show about life through the lens of advertising.
  • Because News: Canada’s funniest news quiz. Host and award-winning comedian Gavin Crawford makes games out of the headlines, along with a panel of comedians and celebrities.
  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me: NPR’s weekly hour-long quiz program. Each week on the radio you can test your knowledge against some of the best and brightest in the news and entertainment world while figuring out what’s real news and what’s made up.
  • Committed: Join host Jo Piazza as she delves into the hilarious, heartbreaking and inspiring stories of couples of all kinds who’ve soldiered through unimaginable circumstances, and after the longest of days, still want to wake up next to one another in the morning.
  • This American Life: Each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, we also feature essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and found footage.
  • The Minimalists: Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus discuss living a meaningful life with less.
  • Podcast Playlist: Podcast Playlist curates the best content and stories from the podcast world. Each week, your hosts sample some of the most intriguing of what the internet has to offer.
  • Reply All: ‘A podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.
  • We Regret to Inform You: The fascinating stories of successful people who triumphed over debilitating career rejection. And the insights those rejections provide.
  • Freakonomics Radio: Discover the hidden side of everything. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) — from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything.
  • The Debaters: The hit show where comedians go toe-to-toe in a battle of laughs and logic. The program is a combustible combination of sharply crafted comedic rants and hilarious ad libs. The engaging format is part stand-up, part quiz show and part comedy competition, with the live audience picking the winners.
  • Stuff You Should Know: If you’ve ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.
  • Laugh Out Loud: Every week host Ali Hassan features the best and funniest comics in the business. Recorded at festivals and comedy clubs across the country, LOL is the show to hear to stay on top of the Canadian comedy scene. From the famous to the found, LOL will bring you the funny every week.
  • Unreserved: Intelligent, Insightful, Indigenous. Stories, music, culture. Unreserved is the true voice of Indigenous Canada.
  • Someone Knows Something: Host David Ridgen joins victims’ family members as they investigate cold cases, tracking down leads, speaking to suspects and searching for answers.

I’m always keen to hear about great new podcasts so if you have a favourite that you don’t see on the list here, leave a comment below to tell me about it!

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

New Book Coming: Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics

A while back I was approached by Corwin Press about the opportunity to illustrate a book being written by Peter Liljedahl about the Thinking Classroom framework. Who, me?

I am far from being an artist or illustrator. But years ago I created a sketchnote about the elements of the Thinking Classroom that seemed popular on Twitter as more of us learned about this teaching framework. Shortly thereafter I updated it to include the most recent elements of the framework Peter was sharing. I think based on these sketchnotes Peter may have given my name to Corwin as a possible illustrator. But I was VERY reluctant to say yes to illustrating the book. What do I know about illustrating? I sketchnote to share what I’m learning about. My sketchnotes are often text heavy and the illustrations I do make are full of rudimentary stick figures. I mentioned the opportunity to a colleague, explaining how reluctant I was to take it on as I did not have confidence I could produce something good, and she really pushed me to do it even if it was outside my comfort zone.

So I said yes to Corwin. Full of nerves. I also told them straight up that if what I produced wasn’t up to par that they were welcome to tell me so at any time & go with someone else for the job. I stayed quiet about the whole thing as I got to work on it, not because I wasn’t excited about it, but because I really had this nagging feeling that at any moment they were likely to come back to me and say the drawings are not quite what they were hoping for & they’d have to go with a proper illustrator.

Then last month Peter tweeted this:

. . . and it was at that point that I thought, well I guess they won’t fire me now that it’s been announced I’m illustrating it!

I have since finished all the illustrations. And man do they every take longer when they need to be good! Normally I’m sketchnoting just for me. I share them online, yes, but the quality is less important as I’m making them to help myself remember & make sense of what I’m learning about and to share that with others. “Ideas, not art” as Mike Rohde says. So I was really shocked to see how long each sketch was taking when creating something that needed to be as excellent as I could possibly make it in order to do Peter’s ideas and research justice. I finished the edits they asked for this week. And just yesterday I got to see the cover for the first time! With my name on it 🙂

I’m so excited to get my hands on a copy of this book. I have learned so much reading it even after having used this framework for 6 years in my classes. There are so many subtle teacher moves and nuances that you can master to increase its effectiveness and this book covers it all! When it’s ready for orders you can be sure I’ll post the news here!

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

The Body by Bill Bryson

This week I finished listening to the audiobook version of The Body by Bill Bryson. I sketched a (not so quick in the end) sketchnote. I based the sketchnote on a photo I took of the actual book that I got as a gift because I do love Bill Bryson. But my Dad, who gave it to me, mentioned he found it a bit of a tough slog to get through. And I struggle to read non-fiction already, so I opted to wait for the audiobook to come available from the public library. As always Bryson brilliantly weaves together fact and history and storytelling to take you on a journey through the birth, life, health and death of the human body.

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

Sketchnote book summary for When by Dan Pink

My latest audiobook read (listen?) was When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink. It was chock-a-block full of ideas and actionable advice so I decided a sketchnote to help me remember was in order. Unfortunately I didn’t think early enough to jot down notes as I listen (somewhat impractical too as I often listen while driving) so instead I used summaries others had written online in order to remember the key ideas from the book.

When Daniel Pink (1)

The only part not captured fully in my sketchnote is each chapter’s time hacker’s handbook that capped off the chapter with actionable advice to try. But by the time I thought about it, I had already hit return on the audiobook loan from the library. Ah well!

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

How Audiobooks Got Me to Start Reading Non-Fiction #TLchat

IMG_20200512_111432_517Or should the title of this post be How Audiobooks Got Me to Start “Reading” Non-Fiction? Do you consider listening to an audiobook to be the equivalent of reading? Both result in you knowing the content of the book, even if the path to get there is different in each case. There’s research out there to indicate they’re equal in terms of brain stimulation.

But here’s the thing … before I got into audiobooks I hardly ever read non-fiction. A few exceptions were books like Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods & Cheryl Strayed’s Wild which were true stories that read more like a novel than a non-fiction book. But mostly whenever I tried to read non-fiction, I’d find myself getting through a page or two before my eyes fell shut at bedtime. Without a story in which I want to know what comes next, there was nothing to hold me awake long enough to read more than a page or two!

Screenshot 2020-05-12 at 11.29.04 AM

For many years I’ve been a fan of podcasts. In fact I should probably write a blog post on that topic too as it’s happened many times that a podcast episode sparks an idea for a lesson or class activity for myself or that I’ve passed on to a colleague. So I looked into getting an audible subscription so that I could also listen to books, specifically non-fiction books I was interested in. But an audible subscription runs over 100$ per year. The advantage to Audible is you have instant access to the titles you want. But the price is costly & goes up from there if you want more than one title per month.

Screenshot 2020-05-12 at 11.28.08 AM

Then I thought about the library. But I live in a rural area in Québec where my local library is small and the primary language of materials is French. So I looked into the Ottawa Public Library as there’s a branch a block away from my school. For 80$ per year I can, as a non-resident, purchase a library card. This gets me access to all of their materials including physical books, audiobooks & even movies etc I think but have yet to explore. Perfect! I signed up.

And so I started listening to audiobooks (and taking out physical books too – trying to declutter at home, so buying fewer books these days). They are great to listen to in the car (I have a 50 minute commute each way), while cooking or doing other chores. Many people like to listen while out walking or running but I prefer to have my ears open to the sounds of nature & approaching cars on our rural roads myself.

Screenshot 2020-05-12 at 11.28.27 AM

An interesting thing I’ve discovered is that if the audiobook is available in CD format, there’s often less of a wait list for it as vehicles and homes shift away from having CD players. But my older car (2009) still has one so I often place a hold on both the mp3 version as well as CD version and take whichever arrives first. This worked great to get Michelle Obama’s book Becoming via CD much faster than the mp3 version would have been available.

Half of the books I’ve read so far this year have been in audiobook format which means I’m reading WAY more non-fiction than I was a year ago. I have some catching up to do I guess – think of all the non-fiction books I’ve missed over the years. So … what are your must-read non-fiction books? Leave me a message in the comments below so I can add them to my list!

EUl-xbuX0AEzkicI still read physical books. Nothing beats reading a chapter of a novel in bed before falling asleep exhausted. Or curling up on the couch and reading through a rainy morning. But I’m glad to have found a way that gets me listening to these non-fiction titles that I would have otherwise missed out on.

Next step … is how do we get audiobooks to our students? Our school library does not have a collection of audiobooks students can borrow. Does yours? If so, what system does your school use or pay into? Or should I just work to help students access audiobooks via their public library card like I do? Share your thoughts in the comment section please!

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