OAME sketchnotes

At the start of May I attended the OAME conference in Barrie. This was my 2nd year attending. I was disappointed to have my session cut due to low enrollment 5 weeks before registration closed, but c’est la vie! Next year in Kingston I have an idea of how to better “sell” my session in the description. Fingers crossed to not get the final session block on the Saturday either – that drags your numbers down for sure.

The food was the definite low point of the trip. Georgian College offered a poor continental breakfast in the residence and OAME provided all vegetarians with gluten free bread that wasn’t suited for human consumption. Let’s hope the Kingston organizers manage something a notch above.

I thought I would share some sketchnotes I made in order to summarize my new learnings. Let’s start with the Ignite sessions which I think are my highlight of the conference each year. Ignite speakers get 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds to total 5 brief minutes to try & get a strong message across.

OAME Ignite 2016 Part 1

OAME Ignite 2016 Part 2.PNG

I was pretty active on the Twitter feed for the conference as well:

Lastly, I usually try to make an effort to seek out OAME sessions by teachers that I can’t see or work with at home but my colleague Lynn Pacarynuk‘s session on test design & assessment made me think more & harder about my own practices. So much so that I summarized some of her ideas in 2 different sketchnotes:

OAME Test Design Process Lynn Pacarynuk.PNG

OAME Shifts in Assessment & Test Design Lynn Pacarynuk.PNG

Until next year, OAME!

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

Idea Boards & “Reworking the Piece”

My student-teacher is finishing up her month of practicum in my classroom. On the one hand, having a student-teacher adds to my workload in that I spend a lot of time coaching them through their lesson planning, observing their teaching, and then giving them feedback. On the other hand, while I’m in the classroom quietly observing I can sometimes work on other little projects that I don’t usually have the time for.

This time around, my project was to create an “idea board” for activity types to be implemented in my classroom. It’s nothing fancy (I am a math teacher after all, not art!). Here’s a look at the idea board I’ve created on the inside of a cupboard door in my classroom:


On the left is a column of ideas for my bellwork activities. On the right are 3 columns of main lesson/activity types. I have somewhat organized those into; sharing of ideas or products (left), consolidation of learning/concepts (middle), and learning, investigating, exploring & working (right).

My hope is that I’ll refer to this in order to avoid the old chalkNtalk type lessons.

For example, I was creating a lesson last night about the ways in which graphs can be misleading for MAP4C (gr.12 college math). After an hour of work looking for good examples and explanations accessible to my grade 12 college students, I came up with a 2 page information handout that looks like this:


The plan was to have them read the information and then summarize in their own words. But as I drove home I thought “what a bad activity”; read & summarize. They won’t understand or remember any of the material. As the saying goes, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand”. So with that thought in mind, and wanting to engage my students in activities that require them to think critically, I thought about the activity types on my idea board.

I chose to try a “Rework the Piece” activity. “Rework the Piece” is something I had done in the past, but was formally explained to me as a prompt for critical thinking by Garfield Gini-Newman. The idea is to have students transform a product in light of new information or a new perspective. So in addition to the 2 page handout with the information I will give my students, I created a task asking them to take an existing bar graph & transform it using any 2 of the methods outlined in the information document in order to have the graph deliver a different or misleading message. It looks like this:


Hopefully by requiring them to use the information in order to perform a task, they will better understand the concepts and how to apply them. I am always open to suggestions of ways to make my activities even better – hit me up in the comment section below with your ideas!

How could you use an idea board to help inspire your lesson planning?

I have since found this thread of blog posts by MathCurmodgeon showing graphs that distort the data that I plan to use for this topic of MAP4C the next time I teach the course:

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

Bellwork: Number Talks in High School

A quick primer on the “bellwork” concept in case you are not yet familiar. Every period I start class with a quick 15 problem/question/activity on the board as the students walk in. They get to work on it right away, without prompting from me. I have a few different types of bellwork that I use. They are meant to take a maximum of 15 minutes (leaving 60 minutes for the activity of the day). In general the students spend 10 minutes doing the activity/problem, and then we spend 5 minutes discussing it as a class and sharing our ideas and strategies.

One of the bellwork types that I have recently incorporated into the mix is called “Number Talk“. The number talk is a way to encourage students’ number sense, flexible thinking about multiple solutions, and the ability to justify or explain their thinking. I learned about this activity via an online sumer course entitled “How to Learn Math” with Stanford prof Jo Boaler. She posted some great videos that really helped me see how to implement the activity in the classroom.

Here’s how I implement the number talk in my classroom:

As they walk in to class, the following is displayed on the board:


I give them only a couple of minutes to solve (it’s not too complicated). For Number Talks, the majority of our 15 minutes of bellwork time is spent discussing the various strategies.

I start by asking a student for their answer. After which, I ask them to explain their thinking. As they explain their thinking, I write what they’re telling me on the whiteboard for everyone to see. Students often struggle with explaining their thinking clearly, so I will stop & ask them questions whenever they skip a step or don’t explain something fully. I will also put a name to strategies that they are using without even knowing it (distribution, commutation, etc.). The board winds up looking like this at the end:


In our discussion I place the importance on HOW they arrived at the answer, not what the answer is (it’s pretty easy so most of them get it right). There are lots of video examples online of how to implement a number talk in your classroom. Here’s one such video from a 5th grade classroom: http://youtu.be/Y_SQ4dMxPoY.

My hope is that my students will become more flexible, creative thinkers, that they will learn to clearly explain their thinking & reasoning, and that they will know that there is always more than one solution that will lead us to the answer.

[updated 2017.01.05] Kristin Gray came up with this great idea of Number Talk Karaoke where teachers listen to audio of student explanations for a number talk & teachers can practice scribing student answers. Then teachers can compare & discuss the techniques used to scribe. Genius! Check it out here.

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