Category Archives: classroom

Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci

I’m reading this book to prepare for professional development which I am leading in the fall.

I just hit something I want to remember and didn’t quite know where to put it so, here I am. It’s been three years since I blogged anything. I write my reviews on Goodreads and I tweet periodically things I find which interest me but for more in-depth work, I guess this is where it goes.

From Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment p. 33: “Eaters and bakers. Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie; bakers want to make a bigger pie. Eaters think that if they win, you lose, and if you win,, they lose. Bakers think that everyone can live with a bigger pie.”

This quote makes me think about life in competitive dance. It’s very hard to keep your child remembering that all of their class can improve as dancers and yet that’s what makes dance so engaging and exciting. Just because you dance well doesn’t mean I can’t dance well. On one day to one examiner or adjudicator one of us may be ranked higher but that isn’t the end or beginning. It’s just one day.


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My fixed mindset

I have a fixed mindset when it comes to my athletic ability. I stopped thinking of myself as an athlete long ago – grade nine or so. I was one of 90 girls who tried out for Junior and Freshman basketball. They cut to 40 after one day. I didn’t make it. Then in the later part of the year, I spent the whole track season looking for something at which I would be competent. This meant that I would be among the top three in my age category because it didn’t seem to matter if you were less good than that. My school was large. I wasn’t that good at anything. They recommended middle distance running. It didn’t interest me. That was the complete end for me in athletics. I spent the rest of my high school career in fine arts and academics. I was in the top of my class but there were 60 or so of us in the higher academic stream. I ‘belonged’ there. I was among the best of the musicians.

I married an athlete. I see him take so-so runners and encourage them to be active and enjoy their own improvement. I wish I had considered improving my own athletic ability before I got arthritis in my feet. I’m not sure I would have ever loved to run but perhaps if I had been better earlier in my life, it would have made a difference.

I struggle with my fixed mindset when I work with disadvantaged students. Students who have already given up on themselves and are not motivated to learn are hard to teach. It’s not that I don’t think they can, I don’t think they will. I’m not sure how to move that part of my thinking. It’s not a long distance from ‘they won’t’ to ‘they can’t’.

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Questions and Reflections about Learning in the Digital Environment

Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt are facilitating a Digital Citizenship Massive Open Online Course(#DCMOOC). The community within this course is discussing the digital environment and the implications for educators and students. The week two presentation looked at learner participation in the digital environment and the implications for critical thinking and ethical behavior. We explored the questions around age restrictions and filtering for learner environments. The following questions followed the presentation for continued discussion.

How do we ensure that learners are critical, ethical, and knowledgeable creators, consumers, and participants of digitally mediated environments? How can we develop students’ abilities to become self-regulatory in the appropriate use of digital media, rather than relying on external filters and restrictions?

Learners need guided opportunities for purposeful use of digital environments. We teach critical and ethical activity through our modeling during instruction and by setting tasks which require thoughtful creation of artifacts and products. When we plan for these tasks, we need to establish the guidelines which support students’ understanding of copyright and privacy. Along the way, we can give feedback on their sources and their citation of their sources. Learners’ develop their abilities to self-regulate when they are given real opportunities to choose. In the digital context that means choosing their sources of information and critiquing them. In the early years, we can do these tasks together as a class and model the citizenship they will need to develop. As they grow, we can give opportunities to develop their skills by providing examples and non-examples of sources and materials as well as guidance for what to do when they ‘arrive’ at online places they know are not appropriate. I think the following analogy is appropriate: we teach children to swim by taking them to the pool. If we stayed in the bathtub, they would not learn what they needed in order to swim. Just as children need to be in the pool to learn to swim, we need to go into digital spaces to learn to participate in the digital environment.

How do we model modern approaches to copyright and creativity, where the rights of both creators and consumers are balanced and respected?

I believe learners and teachers need to know the limits and freedoms we have as citizens. Under Canadian copyright legislation, it is recognized that citizens can make mash-ups of material without breaking copyright. Mash-ups are digital artifacts made by mixing a number of sources (photo-shopping a photograph, mixing two music tracks, adding music to a series of video clips). These mash-ups must not interfere with the ability for the owner or creator of the original to make a profit from their creation or product. As a consumer, I also have a right to use portions of material for research, for private study, for review or criticism, and news reporting. I also have a right to use materials for education, for parody, and for satire. My uses must be fair to the owner or creator of the work. To use work fairly, I need to give credit for the work, not sell the work, and not interfere with the selling of the work.

Learners need to be aware of their rights and the rights of others when it comes to making and sharing work digitally. We need to teach them simple ways to give credit. With younger children we can call it a ‘thank you’ for the work of others which is supporting their work. We can model these things in our own presentations and artifacts which we produce for school. We can develop age appropriate ways to say ‘thank you’.
How do we help students develop positive digital identities? What activities/assignments/projects can we integrate into our teaching to help our learners build their digital footprints?

How do we help our students to become kind and caring citizens who act with integrity in all spaces, including digital ones?

As a parent, I help my children develop their digital identities by having them use their own name when they work online. We started with their email addresses and have slowly added tools and artifacts to their online spaces. They check with me before adding friends and talk about how what they ‘like’ sends a message about who they are and what is important to them. We have talked about how what appears private can be copied and shared in public. We have started to develop portfolios of videos and projects which will form the oldest section of their digital footprints.

At school, I work with young children. Not all their parents are ready to have their children identified online by name. I think we can help to mitigate this concern by using first name, last initial, and avatars for identifiers with younger children. I hope to counsel the students’ parents to consider how creating a ‘fake’ identity could harm their child’s ability to navigate the online world honestly and carefully. Our children need opportunities to develop their online presence with the support and advice of trusted adults. Teaching them to be themselves online is an important first step in developing a positive digital citizen.

What is the role of schools in terms of developing student activism? How might we encourage and support students to use online spaces and social media to contribute positively to our world?

I believe in being an active, engaged citizen of the world. I struggle with the term ‘student activism’. Why? I should love it. I believe in learners being active, engaged citizens of the world and I believe in being in online spaces using social media. Activism needs to be the outgrowth of student engagement. I think we need to be cautious about doing social action because it’s well-marketed. This is peer pressure activism, which I sometimes get a whiff of with the “Be the Change” T-shirts or mandatory Pink T-shirt day. I think we need to get our learners into the real world and making a contribution in the ways which “fire them up” and make the world a better place.

So how do we encourage it? We do things that matter. We teach about the real world, real people, in real places, with real struggles. We cry, we laugh, and we think carefully about what we are doing and when we have kids ask the question, “but what can we do?” We do something, anything, which we can think of together to help make a difference.

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Making Thinking Visible – continued

Routines versus Strategies

Routines are a structure teachers use over and over again to build student independence and to create their classroom culture.  When we have routines to support thinking within the classroom we are supporting students thinking as a regular part of their experience and developing their ability to think independently.

Strategies are ways of processing or working.  When we teach a strategy for learning, we tend to teach it and then move on.  Perhaps we bring out the strategy again once in a while but strategies don’t create culture.

I like the idea of having routines for thinking.  I know routines help classrooms run smoothly and make the work of running a classroom simpler and smoother.

The authors of Making Thinking Visible fill the rest of their book with thinking routines divided into three sets:  set one – routines for introducing and exploring ideas, set two – routines for synthesizing and organizing ideas and set three – routines for digging deeper into ideas.  Although I could summarize them all here, I think perhaps the book does it best.  In addition, I think I need to try them to really add anything to what is there.


I hope to try some of each of these routines throughout this year.  I’m wondering if I might blog about them here or if they should be blogged as teaching practices on my school division’s instructional practices blog.  I’ll see.

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lock and key by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen was recommended to me by a teen friend of mine and indeed she does not disappoint. lock and key is another entry in the class of teen angst and coming of age literature.  A realistic fiction novel about a girl, Ruby, as she moves from living with her alcoholic mother to living her long-estranged sister.  A rags to riches plot line, attractive and interesting character set in wealthy suburban USA, lock and key will delight many of your young female clientele.  Some YA content – language, casual sex, use of drugs and alcohol, physical and verbal abuse.   Not a must-have novel but definitely a decent read.  This is a novel worth adding to the 7-12 library for pleasure reading.
angry face

Rating #1 (Highly Recommended) #2 ✓  #3 #4 (Not acceptable)

Interest Level: grades 7+  Reading Level:  7+

Curriculum Area: Language Arts

Themes/Topics: family, relationships, abuse, recovery, advocacy, change, wealth

CommonSenseMedia review

LibraryThing reviews

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Soccer Sabotage by Liam O’Donnell and Mike Deas

Soccer Sabotage is a graphic novel which is part adventure and part instruction manual.  Liam O’Donnell weaves a story which flows well, if you don’t mind some holes in the realism, and the soccer tips are well-placed and informative.  I enjoyed the layout and artistry of Mike Deas as well.  Many of graphic offerings are intended for older audiences but appeal to a younger audience because of their pictures.  This one is intended for a younger audience but still has some adventure to appeal to their sense of danger and excitement. One of my students reviewed this one and thought it was worth adding to the library.  Well worth the money for a K-8 library, not intended for 9-12.

Evening Soccer

Rating   ✓ #1 (Highly Recommended) #2 #3 #4 (Not acceptable)

Interest Level: grades 2+  Reading Level:  3+

Curriculum Area: Language Arts

Themes/Topics: mystery, soccer

This book would be suitable for ✓ Lit Circles ✓ Kit Materials

Brain Lair Review

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Charlie Bone and the…

the castle crackled with magic as its gods held lightning, ready to smite down the non-believersJenny Nimmo has a great set of characters and adventures in the Children of the Red King series. As a lover of fanatasy, I’m an easy sell and this series has me searching out the next one to see where it goes. I find Charlie, the main character, likable and hopeful without being cloying or irritating. He makes mistakes and tries to correct them. He accepts the consequences of his behaviour and is always on the look out for the welfare of his friends and family. It’s too bad his mother is such a weak person. I’d like it if his mother had a bit more spunk but I suppose that would get in the way for the story plots. It’s been somewhat confusing to find my way through the naming and renaming of these books. The original series has a wonderful set of names which have been altered to reflect the Harry Potter franchise, “Harry Potter and the…”, now “The Blue Boa” is “Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy”, but publishers have to do what publishers have to do.

I would recommend this series as an addition to the K-8 library. I wouldn’t add them to a 9-12. Charlie is 10 and although he ages as the series progresses, he doesn’t age as fast as Harry. The books are written for a younger audience and keep a more consistent tone than you see in the Harry Potter series. They are also a more consistent length. I believe these books would make an excellent read for the child who can’t yet manage the Harry Potter books both in maturity or reading level.

Rating #1 (Highly Recommended) #2 ✓#3 #4 (Not acceptable)

Interest Level: grades 3+ Reading Level: 4+

Curriculum Area: Language Arts

Themes/Topics: fantasy, adventure, magic, family, losses, good and evil


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