21st Century Learning: A Time of Change for Teachers and Students

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists” (Eric Hoffer)

Today, all the teachers in our board participated in professional development centred around 21st century learning.  Each school sent a few representatives to the symposium, while the remaining teachers and support staff at each school logged in to a live stream and watched the presentation together.  I can honestly say that today’s symposium and speakers were amazing.  I have so much to write and think about, but I need to go over my notes to really do it justice.  So many excellent ideas were presented today and I really want to reflect on how to be a learner and a teacher, how to engage my students in innovative ways, and how to apply all this new knowledge to my teaching.

Here are a few things though:

I have so many thoughts running through my head regarding the questions raised today, but I have to try to formulate some sort of plan to address these ideas in the classroom.  One item that was mentioned today was teachers using blogs to get connected to students, parents, and other educators…on that note:

Here’s our latest TeachHUB.com article: The Importance of Teacher Bloggers! Please read our article, leave a comment, ask a question, or tell us about your blogs!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

Factor Sticks: A Math Center to Review Factors

Today’s post is about practice and review.   We have prepared a product for your classroom where students can independently review their factor identification and recognition.  Our Factor Sticks are simple to assemble, just print, paste and laminate.  Students will immediately have a quick review of the factors for numbers 1-50, definitions for factor, composite numbers, prime numbers and a list of perfect squares. Also, a student recording sheet is included.  Remember reviewing concepts will allow students to deepen their understanding.  Just click on the image and you will be brought to our product page!

Asking Prompting Questions During Math Instruction: Resources for Teachers

prompting questions during math

Elita has done a great job explaining the three-part math lesson with posts on Bansho, Gallery Walks, and Math Congress. The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat has an excellent resource on the three-part lesson in math, which also includes a series of webcasts. (Aside: if you haven’t had a chance to visit, I highly suggest you review the many excellent resources that are available on curriculum.org). One of the key components of the three-part math lesson is the student collaboration and communication that occurs.   It’s important to note that teachers play a key role in helping students engage in mathematical communication and collaboration.  How can teachers help students contribute during math lessons? This webcast featuring Marian Small is a great starting point: Marian Small: Asking Prompting Questions During Instruction (scroll down to the sixth video…it’s just under 4 minutes long and provides great info).

Some of the key points that Marian Small makes:

  • Generic prompting questions (e.g. “Why do you think that..”, “What did you do here?”) are useful and help students explain their thinking
  • However, it’s really helpful when teachers truly understand the math they are teaching, so that they are able to formulate specific questions based on the concepts being discussed (e.g. “Why did you decide to do it in this order?”)
  • Teachers often ask questions to check for understanding, but they should really be asking questions to initiate thinking (what a great point!)
  • Teachers need to ask themselves: “Why am I doing this? Mathematically what are the kids going to get out of this? What is the important mathematical idea that I want to come out of this?” This line of questioning will really help teachers to develop initiating questions along these important mathematical concepts
  • Look at the types of questions you ask students to solve; for example:
    • “If you cut this shape of the dotted line, what will the two parts look” (this type of question will elicit discussion that is over quickly, with the majority of conversation being “teacher voice”) vs
    • “What shapes can you create by cutting up this shape?” (this type of question is much richer, provides a key ideas for students to explore, and initiate a deeper conversation with much more “student voice”)

The link provided above has other webcasts that would be beneficial for teachers regarding discourse in the math classroom.  The webcasts feature Marian Small, Deborah Ball, Steven Katz, and (my favourite!) Lucy West.

6 Awesome Cooperative Classroom Games! Find them on our TeachHub.com article

We are always looking for ways to ensure that we meet all of our students needs.  The best way to do so, is to utilize cooperative games in our classroom.  Doing so will have great short-term and long-term benefits for you and your students.  Creating a safe and conducive environment to allow your students to grow emotionally and academically can be achieved through cooperative games.

Click on this link where you will read our latest article published on TeachHub.com, which focuses on the benefits of cooperative games.  In addition we have included games appropriate for each division level.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow us so you can receive all of our posts!


Gr 4 Science Unit ~ Habitats and Communities

We have done it again!

We have now compiled a complete unit for Habitats and Communities to help you in your Gr. 4 Understanding Life Science Strand.   This unit, just like our Combined Gr. 4/5 Science Unit for (Habitats and Organ Systems), integrates curriculum in order to create cross-curricular lessons. Once again you will not only be covering curriculum expectations, but cross-curricular activities which tend to be more engaging and creative.

Here is what is included:
* Learning centres: students work in small groups or individually to rotate   between three centres over the course of the activity (five types of centre activities: iPad integration, technology, reading/writing activity, creative response, and a fun or hands-on activity);
* Whole class lesson/discussions followed by either small group activities or whole class activity
* Cross-curricular integration with other subject areas, including Language Arts (Reading, Writing, Oral Communication, Media Literacy), Drama, Physical Education, Art, and Health
* A focus on Assessment For and As Learning through student self-assessments and group assessments, KWL charts, exit slips, anticipation guides, and project planning sheets
* Reading strategies addressed include making connections, inferring, determining important ideas, drawing conclusions, and cause-and-effect
* Differentiated Instruction is achieved through Learning Centres, choice board for the end of unit project, RAFTS assignment, and a variety of hands-on activities and labs

The entire unit, including lessons, assignments, assessments, printables, and centre activities comes to over 160 pages!

Need more?  Preview the unit!

To be taken to the complete unit just click on the picture below!



Stay tuned as we are working on our Gr. 5 Science Unit for Organ Systems!

Three Part Lessons ~ What is a Math Congress?

Here it is, the last installment on my three part lesson plan series.  After discussing the concept of Bansho and Gallery Walk, we move onto another instructional strategy that supports the development of mathematical thought.  This last part is called Math Congress.

While every child’s solutions are valuable, we as teachers are always in need to be effective communicators and efficient in the ever-stringent timetables we face on a daily basis.  This strategy allows for us to have whole class discussions on two or three, carefully chosen student solutions where connections can be made to every student’s mathematical learning.

Utilizing this strategy to consolidate a three part lesson for problem solving will allow a teacher to direct thoughts to big ideas, which can be extrapolated from the thinking of other students and their solutions.

This strategy is built upon the belief that learning and developing connections within a concept can arise from a group of learners who discover, discuss and reflect upon their solutions.  To do this, students need to be encouraged to test, try, and discover efficient strategies and come to a consensus on mathematical problem solving.  The Math Congress provides an environment to communicate their thoughts, hurdles, solutions, problems, justifications and assumptions.

To prepare for this type of instructional strategy student groups or pairs post their solution on chart paper and decide what to share in their presentation to the rest of the class.

While students are writing out their solutions, we as teachers need to be aware of students’ use of different ideas.  The teacher acts like the mediatory in a congress to mitigate discussion and conversation.  Questions a teacher should ask him/herself are:

1)   What ideas/strategies in the solution should be discussed?

2)   How do the above connect to the lesson learning goals and previous knowledge?

3)   Which ideas can be generalized and how do I develop a strategy for students to come to these generalizations?

4)   Between the solutions I want presented, how will I have students present, so it is in a manner that scaffolds learning for students?

During presentations probing questions are necessary in order to facilitate discussion.  Some sample questions could be:

1)   What are the similarities and differences among solutions presented?

2)   Will this strategy always work?  Why or why not?

Again this type of discussion is of great value.  Typically students are not asked to defend their thoughts, and will stumble initially but with practice they will become more comfortable in communicating their thoughts about their understanding of concepts being taught.

Have you tried any of the 3 strategies?   Will you try any of the three?

Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome!  Drop us a comment or leave us some samples, we would love to share what you have learned and continue to learn.


Resources consulted for this post: