Cross Curricula Circus

Gymnastics, music interpretation, gesture sketching, visual arts, and dance.  Stir them together and arrive with our affectionately-named “GDART”.  Yup.  The grade fours are channeling Cirque Du Soleil and using collaboration skills to design and perform a symmetrical circus performance.   All video snippets are sewn together and given an arty filter to make it dramatic.

When completing multi-subject tasks it’s interesting, and easy, to see how many curriculum links sneak into the mix.  Then add in the learning skills and it becomes a highly-assessible project.

Next steps:  independent video reviews via Google classroom online forms, learning skill endorsements via, a grow and a glow with a Padlet shared document and assessment of gesture drawings for a visual arts mark.  Take it further!  Let’s use the elements of dance to do a ‘making tracks’ or mindmap review activity.

Check our our our final product:

GDART Cirque Performance Video


Twitter Pt. 2


So within minutes of posting my short mid-read Twitter review of the “Learn Like a Pirate” book by Paul Solarz the author liked my tweet and personally invited me to an education chat! The world is truly at our fingertips these days.

In different news, I was chatting with a teacher in the Waterloo District who works at a school where all teachers keep parents informed daily using private Twitter accounts.  Parents use Twitter to view class photos and receive news updates.  They can even message the teacher with quick questions.  Cool idea.  Think it could work here?

Stop Motion Metaphors

iPads, Fleetwood Mac and stop motion animation.  A perfect match for my grade 4’s today. The challenge was to examine and interpret a chorus or verse from the classic “Landslide” lyrics.  I was at first asking myself why I’d chosen such a somber tune to practice inferencing, but once students had the chance to look at the metaphors in the song they truly surprised me with the depth of their understanding and came up with meaning that I had never considered.  To top it off, I wanted them to visually represent this with stop motion animation on our school iPads.  One ten minute lesson and sixty minutes of ‘animation workshop time’ and we had all the pieces we needed to supplement the lyrics.

Oh, and did I mention that we performed the song live for the music video?  The kids nailed it.

From a teaching perspective, I always remember these rich projects.  Students are excited, motivated and creative.  They know there’s an audience and the collaborative efforts really result in something meaningful.  What a fun day.

Grade 4 Landslide video


Up Periscope!

The collaborative challenge:  use a shoebox, mirrors and tape to create a periscope.  I really enjoyed watching the process as it went from blueprints to finished products. We talked a lot about the importance of persistence and a ‘plan B’.  Positive thinking and a not-giving-up-yet mindset made for a fun afternoon.

Students were also challenged to document the entire process and be ready to reflect on successes with the shadow puppet iPad app.  Key question:  how could you improve it for next time?  Good thinkers know there’s always room for improvement.

Students Reflect on Making Periscope

Thanks for sharing your shoeboxes, parents!

Future Jobs Report

Wow.  Look at creativity and emotional intelligence needs rising rapidly in the next four years.  On the flip side of that equation we see quality assurance dropping in importance.  Wow.  As educators, which of these specific life skills are being addressed in our daily planning?  I think I am going to post this graphic somewhere relevant in my room.  Grade four students don’t exactly need to be job ready for quite some time, but I do think it is crucial that classroom expectations mirror the real world. That’s the whole point, right?



Gamification in Class

Games in the class.  Fun?  Yes!  Useful?  Yes!  Downsides?  Maybe.

Knowledgehook is right from the Ontario Math Curriculum.  Students log in, the lights dim, the anxiety/excitement-inducing theme music begins.  The question pops up on their screens and students quickly problem-solve with peers and lock in their answers.  Feedback is immediate.  Groans or cheers ensue.   Teacher quickly sees topics that are mastered or need to be readdressed.  Kids are hooked – games are fun.  They’re for review or practice, or sometimes used as a fun way to get students thinking about a new topic.

Meet Kahoot.  This is just like knowledgehook except that you create your own questions.  I have created Kahoots for inferencing, science review, art and math.  I set the timer and decide how many multiple choice answers are presented. I control the language I like to see when posing questions for students.  It’s party trivia to the extreme and kids literally cheer when it’s Kahoot time.  This free website is so easy to use.  Anyone with a device can log in with the code for your Kahoot and play along.

So what is the downside?  Game stress pushes some kids to excel.  It makes other students panic. The trivia games have countdown timers and points are awarded for both speed and accuracy.  There lies the small problem.  We encourage students to think deeply and take their time.  Gamification of learning conflicts with this positive mindset approach.  Competitiveness has its place, but it’s sometimes controversial in a classroom.

My approach, therefore, is to use games from time to time.  They are never assessed, but are instead springboards for lessons or review. Students always play with at least one partner so they can lean on each others’ strengths.

One thing is certain.  Game time = 100% engagement.  Every time.


is the best Professional Development I’ve had in a long time.  I’m very new to Twitter.  I held off for a long time as I felt I had nothing to add to the Twitter sphere.  I use it differently though. I don’t really post anything.  Instead I follow other teachers who share their best ideas, strategies, videos, links and project successes. Real people with real stories that inspire me every day to try something new. I think it is like having personal mentors on my phone.  Every day there are new tweets to check out and ideas are uber current.  So I encourage you to find 2 or 3 people you want to be like and starting your own Twitter PD 👍🏻

Was Einstein looking into the future?

“Never memorize something that you can look up”.  I didn’t know those were Einstein’s words until yesterday.   Imagine how different school would have been if the hours upon hours of completing textbook pages “89-91, questions 1-4, 6 and 7, but just part B”, were instead spent on problems, case studies, or creative endeavours.  I forget SO much of the math I learned as a child and a teenager, yet my report cards tell me I did well.  Now if you need to solve a tricky math problem, do you Google  it?  And do you probably get the same answer as the person who still remembers that old formula?  Ask Siri.  She can probably answer it for you too.

So the debate is do we teach the how (manual calculation) and drill it until kids can easily fill in formulas on tests?  Or do we teach the why?  Why is knowing the reasons the formula is important – and where can you go to find that formula if you need it (thanks Siri and Google).

Mr. Aspinall, your TED talk has got me thinking.  I encourage watching his take on this debate.  And I also want you to imagine going back to those math classes yourself and pulling out an internet connected tool, throwing away that old textbook and solving math problems in groups. Sounds a lot like where classes are going today!