Long Range Planning

This year has provided the opportunity to test out my long range planning skills. This past October, I attempted to create a detailed two month long range plan for a Grade 4 Health and Physical Education class.

The process of creating the long range plan involved cooperation with a few of my peers. Here are the steps we took in this process:

  1.  We broke up the Grade 4 Health and Phys. Ed. curriculum into easy to understand parts and parent/student friendly language.
  2.  We brainstormed a list of sports, low organization games and other physically active activities that would eventually for the basis of our units. (Example: soccer, basketball, dodgeball, four square, hiking, skating, swimming, yoga, dance, etc.)
  3. We created a mock yearly schedule and used the activities to spread out our units over the 10 months and create variety while being mindful of skill building over the year. (We did the same with the health expectations.)
  4. We separated on our own to complete our assigned units.

The following is an overview of my units and a small rationale. Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 12.12.35 PM.pngThe long range plans include:

  • Overall Expectations,
  • Specific Expectations,
  • Learning Goals,
  • Activities, and
  • Assessment (includes culminating tasks too!)

for each individual lesson over the two month period. It took a decent amount of time to put together and I truly hope it can be useful for myself in the future and other educators as well.

Here is the embedded version:

Please let me know if you have a quick glance, and any feedback is appreciated!


Grade less, Assess more.


Haunting grades?!

BOO! Are grades haunting your students?! Well, this week our professional learning group for mathematics had a lengthy discussion about the idea of a “gradeless” classroom. At first, many of the pre-service educators shot their hands up in protest or with intense questions. In fact, many of the concerns were actually about fear of parental retaliation! So this post I want to look at: (1) What is this gradeless classroom all about? (2) What does it look like? and (3) Is it right for my classroom?


screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-11-38-34-amA gradeless classroom DOES NOT mean that students don’t receive grades. It does NOT mean that the teacher does nothing. It DOES NOT mean that students and parents are in the dark. What it DOES mean is: greater transparency

According to our class discussions, we agreed that a gradeless classroom switches the focus from letter or number grades to learning and feedback. The idea is that students receive meaningful feedback from their teacher, their peers, and themselves (assessment AS learning anyone!?). As a result of this, we expect students concentrate less about getting a grade and more about how to use their feedback.



Source: Interactive Achievement – Sally l’Anson – http://interactiveachievement.com/tag/descriptive-feedback-for-students/

The gradeless classroom highlights the extreme usefulness and importance of feedback systems before any concrete grade is given. We can use assessment for learning and assessment as learning to achieve our improvement towards meeting the success criteria or curriculum expectations.

This looks like constant formative feedback, but with time to act on the feedback to actually create learning! In “Making It Count: Providing Feedback as Formative Assessment“, Troy Hicks emphasizes that we must move from a fixated student product to having multiple opportunities to reflect and move forward in learning. The key word here is multiple – if we only have students review their work once, are they really learning or are they simply correcting their work?

Students also need to become evaluative of their own work. If we give students the opportunity to give themselves a grade, they are most likely going to choose a letter/number without reason. However, if we are constantly practicing self-assessment then we offer students the opportunity to reflect on where they are, where they want to go, and how they can get there! “Evaluate” is next to the top of Bloom’s taxonomy for learning and it is imperative to learning for students to do so. Edugains is a great Ontario resource to help re-structure your opportunities for self-assessment in the classroom.


Source: The collective wisdom of authors published in the September 2012 issue of Educational Leadership: “Feedback for Learning.” (Volume 70, Issue 1).


In my opinion, there is always a place in education to increase formative and useful feedback processes and switch the focus off of the actual grades. That being said, explicitly stating that your classroom is “gradeless” can seem difficult, especially if you have not prepared your students to use or give feedback. Many educators also worry about the parental reaction to saying their child will be in a gradeless classroom. This can be magnified here in Ontario where we have students from cultures that value grades/performance over the learning process. However, our professor Shelly Vohra has explained that after educating parents on the process, they are almost all usually on board. This means that as an educator, if we are prepared and can support our reasoning for our methods, we can feel confident with implementing them.

I hope this feature has helped you understand the potential benefits of going gradeless or at the least, implementing better feedback systems in your classroom! Please let me know if you have any concerns or if you have tried this in your classroom! What has worked? What was difficult? What should others know about?!

– A


Teachers Throw Out Grades – FB Page


#TTOG – Twitter Feed


Going Gradeless (Edutopia)


Ditching Grades


Reading Motivation

A few weeks ago, I teamed up with some fellow pre-service teachers to create a monograph on an issue in literacy. After some time in schools, a couple of our teachers noted a lack of reading motivation in their students. We decided to dive deeper into the situation regarding reading motivation in Ontario, the benefits of increasing reading motivation, and a possible link between reading motivation and comprehension. Here is a summary of our research:


Part of my role as a pre-service teacher is attempting to develop useful learning tools. The next step in this research project was to create a digital learning object in relation to the literacy issue. As I looked to increase reading motivation I found several educators that highlighted the effectiveness of curating a classroom library that created a culture of excitement about reading. I looked to find a tool that did just that – and I think I did!


The tool I found was called Classroom Organizer by Booksource. It is an online tool that curates the books in a classroom library while allowing students to check books in an out. There are many other features too, including individual student accounts, book ratings, book reviews, and detailed student reports. This program seemed like an excellent way to create an excitement around reading and serve as a key part of an educator’s reading motivation strategy.


I used ThingLink to create a digital learning object that aims to familiarize students with the online tool. The following is the final teacher’s guide for my digital learning object. It includes tutorial videos, an assessment for the learning object, and an assessment for overall reading motivation in the classroom. I have also inserted the live learning object.

If you find this tool useful or think you may want to try the learning object in your classroom, please let me know! I am excited to receive any feedback as I look to grow as an educator!

– A

Visualizing Technology in Math

This past week in our professional learning group discussed the importance of visualizations in mathematics and also looked at the role of technology in the mathematics classroom. For this post I would like to touch upon the importance of visualizations and diagrams and also the ways in which we can responsibly use technology in the math classroom.


Visualizations are an important way to approach math instruction and are important for students to access as strategies to solve problems. Jo Boaler has a lot of great information about using visualizations in the math classroom and notes that it is well known that visual math improves performance. Through our class discussions, we also touched on the importance of using visual solutions as a way to fully understand the math processes instead of simply memorizing a formula. When we encourage visualizations we can reduce the memorization needed by increasing the key information our students understand.


In teacher’s college, there is a high emphasis on facilitating 21st century learning skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Many times, we discuss the use of technology to achieve these goals and demonstrate our skills. However, I believe many pre-service teachers (and perhaps in-service teachers) are still confused about the EFFECTIVE use of technology in the classroom.

Continue reading

Rich Ta$ks


Last week, we focused on making mistakes in the math classroom and how we can design learning to allow for these mistakes. This week, our professional learning group looked to build on this knowledge by exploring at rich tasks. As a group we defined what a rich task was:


Rich Tasks  – Andrew Morris (2016)

The OAME also offers an alternative, but similar, explanation of rich tasks which is adapted from NCTM‘s Mathematics Assessment: Myths, Models, Good Questions, and Practical Suggestions. This week, I am also responsible for hosting a webinar that explores facilitating financial literacy through math. What could more appropriate for teaching financial literacy concepts than the use of rich tasks?! As a former banker and a self-directed investor, I feel very passionate about educating our students about the importance of making sound financial decisions and how the money world works around them.


An elementary Ontario curriculum that outlines the expectations for financial literacy does not exist, BUT there is the Financial Literacy Scope and Sequence which highlights the areas for financial literacy in each of the existing curriculums. This document is an excellent starting place to find entry points to incorporate financial literacy into unit plans. I do agree that a solid financial base comes from the combination of explicit and implicit financial teachings. My hope is that educators will continue to keep financial literacy as a core part of their teaching in all subjects, especially during math. At the end of my post, I will add a list of resources that I have used during my webinar as well as some other blog posts that look at financial literacy strategies.


This rich task was adapted from from Kyle Pearce on tapintoteenminds.com. This is an amazing resource – please check it out! The final slide I made outlines the ideas behind this financial literacy rich task:

This task has clear connections to number sense and numeration in the Ontario Mathematics curriculum for multiple grade levels depending on the solutions given.

(Ex. Grade 8 – Quantity Relationships –  express repeated multiplication using exponential notation pg. 111 // Grade 6 – Quantity Relationships – solve problems that arise from real-life situations and that relate to the magnitude of whole numbers up to 1 000 000 pg. 88)

This task is differentiated by being open routed – different grade levels can be expected to solve using age/developmentally appropriate strategies. It connects to financial literacy big ideas of compounding interest and savings. It uses many of the process expectations, including reasoning, communication, problem solving, and selecting computational tools and strategies. It is also engaging and relevant to the students’ lives. It is therefore a RICH TASK.

It is clear to see that we can develop rich tasks to approach financial literacy in the classroom. I am so excited to enter my placement and watch my students explore mathematical concepts through the useful financial literacy lens. What other resources do you use? What kind of rich tasks have you explored your students?

– A

RESOURCES (will update)

Elementary Financial Literacy – Brian Page (Edutopia, 2014)

  • A blog post breaking down more resources

Big Ideas in Financial Literacy (Money As You Learn)

  • My favourite resource that breaks down some big ideas and their age-appropriate levels

Practical Money Skills Canada

Financial Literacy Resources by Grade (Edugains)

Designing Opportunities for Mistakes

An abundance of research and blog posts exist that point to the learning that happens when our students make mistakes. This week, I wanted to explore some ways to use this knowledge in the classroom/as a class. There are certain ways that educators can set the whole classroom environment to embrace mistakes, but going further I want to find ways that teachers can create math questions/scenarios that leave room for mistakes to promote learning.


As I read about mistakes, I kept thinking, “OK great we need mistakes to happen, but I can’t force my students to get it wrong…so what do I do?”. I could not find many articles specifically on how to create openings for mistakes in the classroom. However, many of the ways we can do this, we already are familiar with. The following is a list of key ideas I compiled that I believe are essential to creating opportunities for mistakes in the math classroom (or all subjects!)

1. Encourage students to seek challenges

Carol Dweck – the pioneer of the growth-mindset – says, “I want challenges to become the new comfort zone” (PERTS, 2016). If we can encourage students to seek challenges, then the mindset of the educator and the student are aligned. As we discussed last week, there are many ways to encourage this growth mindset beginning with something as simple as praising based on ability (“You’re smart!”) but on effort (“You worked hard to achieve this”).

2. Make mistakes part of their work

This idea from Kelly O’Shea asks students to make an intentional mistake in their solution to a problem. They are able to choose a mistake that one of their group’s members made along the way to finding the solution, or create a mistake they feel other students might make. Unintentional mistakes are also welcome (as always!). Explicit mistake activities are a great way to get students to ask questions about mistakes rather than just pointing them out. This also asks students to reflect on the experience and review how struggle can be part of the learning process. My professor, Dr. Shelly Vohra, also highlighted an exit strategy that asks students to choose a favourite mistake they made during their math activity – a similar strategy to the one above.

3. Give work that encourages mistakes

This video highlights work with younger learners, but is very applicable for all ages. Let’s look at steps we can take to give work to encourage mistakes appropriately…

  • Find your student’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Vygotsky, in this paper, says that the ZPD is the difference between what the learner can do with help and what the learner can do without help. Instruction and questions should be catered to the ZPD so that our students can struggle, but struggle appropriately. The question is, how can we differentiate this for all students? Answer – question types!
  • In her blog post, “Open Ended Questions in Math”, Dr. Vohra explores the benefits of using multiple question types in the classroom – specifically open-ended and open-routed questions. Here is a chart she developed based on the work by Marian Small.
  • Within open-ended and open-routed questions we can also assign parallel tasks. Parallel tasks are sets of related tasks that explore the same key idea but are suited to different levels of student readiness. The Ontario’s Capacity Building Series Differentiating Mathematics Instruction suggests that using open-ended, open-routed and parallel tasks are imperative to differentiated math instruction.

If we use questions that have either multiple solutions or multiple ways to get the answers, we leave MORE freedom for students to mistakes. In my opinion, this is a beautiful way (theoretically) to encourage mistakes through the work educators give students!


In our professional course setting, we worked in groups to take closed-type questions from popular math textbooks and change them into either an open-ended or open-routed questions with a parallel task. This seems like a solid step towards creating improved math instruction techniques. Creating open-type questions takes a lot of time and perhaps workshops like these would be useful to in-service teachers as well. There are some resources with open-type questions, but what do you think about in-service workshops focusing on building an open-ended question database? Also, please share any more resources you may have OR any ways you leave room for mistakes for learning in your classrooms!

– A


O’Shea, K. (2012, July 5). Whiteboarding Mistake Game: A Guide. Physics! Blog!. Retrieved from https://kellyoshea.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/whiteboarding-mistake-game-a-guide/

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2008). Monograph:  Differentiating Mathematics Instruction. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2011). Monograph:  Asking Effective Questions. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

PERTS. (2016). Make Challenge the New Comfort Zone. YouTube Video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2d1CQS8YNRY

Vohra, S. (2015, April 30). Open Ended Questions in Math. [Image]. Retrieved from https://techdiva29.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/72/

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Interaction between learning and development (M. Lopez-Morillas, Trans.). In M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds.), Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (pp. 79-91). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Don’t Call Me “Smart”!

Last week we looked at rebranding math – shattering the stereotypes and beliefs that have clouded the minds of many students. This week, we naturally transition our focus onto the mindsets of our students and the messages educators and parents/guardians convey. Quite simply, we’re looking at “fixed” vs “growth mind-sets”. A “growth mind-set” is one that understands the correlation between effort and achievement and has a strong will to work hard to improve and grow. A “fixed mind-set” is a belief that talents or intelligence are pre-determined fixed traits that can only improve so much.


Perhaps the most famous researcher and author on this subject is Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor who has spent many (40) years conducting research on the ideas behind the mindsets. She advocates that the Secret to Raising Smart Kids is that we shouldn’t “tell kids that they are [smart]”, rather help them focus on the process (Dweck, 2015). This highlights the dangers of praising students on fixed qualities, such as being talented or smart, because it stifles their efforts to grow and paints mistakes as failures instead of opportunities to learn and improve.

The test results, especially in visual form, really highlight the importance of the messages we give our students… but is it enough to just praise efforts? As we discussed this in our professional learning environment, I couldn’t help but think – if we only praise children for their efforts than we miss the overall objective of actually growing.


Turns out, Carol also realized that many people seem to have misinterpreted the results of her studies. Educators cannot simply claim they have a growth mindset without conveying positive messages that promote learning. Messages and message-framing are important in and outside the classroom. You can find thousands of growth mindset messages online with a simple search, but I believe an equally important aspect of these messages is the consistency with which they are delivered. The educator AND the parents/guardians all need to convey similar messages and beliefs.


(Espinosa, 2015)


In my grade 7 placement last year, my mentor teacher did not allow the students to say, “that was easy”. I loved this rule. “Easy” is a perspective, not a fact and stating something seems easy does not foster a safe environment for learning. If we want students to value effort and view mistakes as learning, the classroom needs to be set up for this. If a student is finding things “easy”, then the educator needs to find a way to help that student grow – a next step for learning or a problem situated in their personal zone of proximal development. Perhaps there is even a value in teaching our students to complement each other on the growth they see in their peers and friends.


“Growth mind-set” is clearly a buzz word in education these days, but for good reason. I hope as an educator I can apply strategies in the classroom and deliver the messages to create this growth environment, especially in the math classroom. There is no “math person”, rather every student can learn math because our brains have the capacity to grow! Please let me know some strategies and messages you have found to be successful in your math classroom (or classroom in general)!

– A


Anderson, J. (2016, January 12). The Stanford professor who pioneered praising kids for effort says we’ve totally missed the point. Retrieved from http://qz.com/587811/stanford-professor-who-pioneered-praising-effort-sees-false-praise-everywhere/

Dweck, C. S. (2015, January 1). The Secret to Raising Smart Kids. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids1/

Espinosa, O. (2015, June 18). Try one more time. [Image]. Retrieved from https://orlandoespinosa.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/one-more-time/

Ragan, T. (2014, January 30). Carol Dweck a Study on Praise and Mindsets. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY

Rebranding Math

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Andrew Morris, 2016.

New Year, New Problems

As the new school year begins, the coverage in the media has quickly switched from back-to-school excitement to current issues in education. The most popular news comes on the back of the latest results from the EQAO testing which revealed a decrease in mathematics scores. The Canadian Press (2016) reports that this year, in Ontario, only 50% of students achieved a score at the math standard – a drop from the 58% in 2012. As a result, the government has put forward a 60-million-dollar plan to improve students’ test scores in mathematics. There is much to say about this (including my opinion on standardized testing), but check it out the link to explore some more about this plan. As I head back to the first ever* second year of teacher’s college, this news is extremely relevant and important.

Tell Me How You Really Feel

It is not unusual to hear how much students hate math class. In the above video, we can hear the negative opinions and beliefs about math and even gain some insight to how they are formed. Quite simply, students find math useless and difficult. This can lead to a cyclical process where students receive poor grades in math leading to decreased self-efficacy and increased perceptions of difficulty which again lead back to poor results. Another aspect are the stereotypes and perceptions associated with mathematics. North American media often portrays math as a negative subject and math is often stereotyped as a subject for boys, not for girls. Many people also believe that they are not a “math person” (which is just not true). My point is, there are multiple factors that contribute to this perpetual distaste and hate for math. However, the outlook for educators shouldn’t be bleak. In the Discovery Education video above, we hear that students who enjoy math enjoyed it because of what their teachers did! Change in attitude and standardize testing results will always require support from multiple environments in a student’s life, but there is at least one intervention point that we have control over – our classrooms.

Next Steps / Reflection

Where do we often go wrong? One of my classmates, Aaron Strong, suggested that math is often taught in a “vacuum” and is isolated from other subjects. This vacuum implicitly creates irrelevancy for students – math is meaningless. I also believe that this is a huge issue in our math education today. Change in the way teachers approach math will not be easy. There are many in-service teachers that are very set in their ways of teaching. As pre-service teachers I think we have an increased responsibility to bring new and fresh ideas to our schools.

This week has been useful in reopening my mind to the strategies I need to use to increase my resource pool and start thinking about math from an integrative viewpoint. As we continue to explore math this year, I will blog about the ways in which I hope to rebrand math because: (1) anyone can do it, (2) it is applicable in our lives and (3) yes, it can be fun!

– A

*My cohort is the first to enter a new two-year Bachelor of Education program in Ontario. Previously, the B.Ed. was achievable in one year of study.


Discovery Education (2015). How do you really feel about math? YouTube Video.

The Canadian Press (2016). Only 50% of Grade 6 students met the province’s math standard.

Queen’s Printer of Ontario (2016). A renewed strategy for math.


ELL/ESL Adventures

This summer I will be working for a company in Toronto that offers educational vacation trips for schools from all over the world. The mornings will be 4 hours of class instruction to students who are grouped by their English abilities. We will be focusing on reading, writing, speaking and listening – very similar to the Language Arts curriculum here in Ontario. The second part of our day will be taking tours of various sites around the city, including the Royal Ontario Museum, the CN Tower, Centre Island and more!

I am very excited for this opportunity because my classes and topics are very flexible. I am hoping to introduce these students to an exciting style of education and hope to cater to each of their learning preferences. Follow my twitter for updates from the classroom!  😉

– A

Social Studies Unit Plan

Strand B of Social Studies for Grade 6 is People and Environments: Canada’s Interactions with the Global Community. For this unit, students will look at the big question, “How can international events, such as the Olympics, affect Canada’s relationship with the international community?”


Rio Olympic Logo: Source

This unit is an excellent opportunity for students to explore a CURRENT event – the Rio Olympics in 2016 – and all the issues that surround Canada’s participation as well as an opportunity for Canada to host it. Students will explore sport and international events through various important lenses including equity issues, environmental impacts, sustainability goals, financial implications, and more. There are multiple levels of significance for the student, the community and the world. Students will become informed citizens (especially important because the Olympics are a current topic) and will develop many transferable 21st century learning skills such as collaboration. They also will learn about their Canadian identities. This unit is also important to the community. Exposing our students to the importance of Canada’s relationships in the international community will empower them to be active and hold our government accountable for its actions through informed perspectives. This unit also emphasizes the student’s and Canada’s responsibilities to the World community. For example, as hosts, Canada needs to be responsible for its environmental impact. Also, the Foundations of the Olympics uphold human principles that aim to make the Olympics a universally safe space for all people to co-exist.

In the culminating task, students will be asked to use the components they developed during the unit to address the overall big question.

This process was long and required the collaboration of myself and two other pre-service educators. It is not a perfect project, but is an example of how far we have come with TLCP and the unit planning process. The third page has all of the instructional strategies and approaches we used in our lesson plans. It is quite extensive. This is included in my “Work Samples” page but I also put a link below. Have a look!

Grade 6 Social Studies TLCP“How can international events, such as the Olympics, affect Canada’s relationship with the international community?”

– A