Friday, September 28, 2012

Why Kids Need Schools to Change

To read the following article from its original source, click here.

The current structure of the school day is obsolete, most would agree. Created during the Industrial Age, the assembly line system we have in place now has little relevance to what we know kids actually need to thrive.

Most of us know this, and yet making room for the huge shift in the system that’s necessary has been difficult, if not impossible because of fear of the unknown, says educator Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well.

“People don’t like change, especially in times of great uncertainty,” she said. “People naturally go conservative and buckle down and don’t want to try something new. There are schools that are trying to do things differently, and although on the one hand they’re heralded as having terrific vision, they’re still seen as experimental.”

“I’m astounded at the glacial pace of change in education.”

During this time of economic uncertainty, especially, Levine said parents want to make sure their kids won’t fall into the ranks of the unemployed and disenfranchised young people who return home because they’re unable to find jobs. “There’s so much anxiety around the economy, they’re thinking, What can I do to make sure that my kid isn’t one of the unemployed”? she said.

Yet therein lies the paradox. It’s exactly during these uncertain times when people must be willing to try new things, to be more open, curious and experimental, she said. In education, although there are great new models of learning and schooling, they are the exceptions, and the progressive movement has not gained much momentum.

“I’m astounded at the glacial pace of change in education,” she said. “Like many academic areas, there’s a huge disconnect between what’s known and what’s in practice. It’s very slow moving.”

Levine, who was a teacher herself for many years, said she has tremendous respect for educators and believes they need full support from parents and administrators. But until the directive comes from those in power — national and state policymakers, superintendents, principals — what can teachers do individually to make learning relevant for their students?

“One thing we know for sure is that kids learn better when teachers are invested and paying attention and showing they care,” she said. “The biggest impact you’ll have as a teachers is the relationship you establish with your student.”

Try to integrate what students are interested in within what’s happening in class, get to know each student, and have high expectations. Taking seriously the range of interests kids have, she said.

In addition to individual attention, Levine believes a child’s time in school should look much like what kindergarten did.

“There’s probably no better example of the throttling of creativity than the difference between what we observe in a kindergarten classroom and what we observe in a high school classroom,” she writes in Teach Your Children Well. “Take a room full of five-year-olds and you will see creativity in all its forms positively flowing around the room. A decade later you will see these same children passively sitting at their desks, half asleep or trying to decipher what will be on the next test.”

In an ideal world, the school day would reflect kids’ changing needs and rhythms. There would be time for free play; school would start later to allow time for students’ much-needed rest; the transition time between classes would be longer, allowing time for kids to walk down the hall and say hi to their friends and plan their next moves; kids would have the opportunity to step away from school “work” in order to regroup and process what they’ve absorbed. “The actual encoding of information doesn’t take place when you’re hunched over a desk,” she said.

And just as importantly, the arts would be integrated into a curriculum, not as an ancillary addition, but as a primary part of learning. “For developing creativity and flexible and divergent thinking, we need to bring back the arts,” she said. “It’s a travesty that kids don’t have arts anymore.”


“We’re operating on a 200- year-old paradigm in a world that needs an entirely different skill set,” she said. “When we talk to business owners, we hear this large and increasing drumbeat that the jobs are there, but kids applying for jobs don’t have the kinds of skills they need.”

Levine spends a lot of her time at Challenge Success, a school training program at Stanford that’s been incorporated into about 100 schools across the country. The five criteria that Challenge Success brings to schools attempts to modernize the obsolete system in place today: scheduling, project based learning, alternative assessment, climate of care, and parent education.

•PROJECT BASED LEARNING. Project-based learning has shown to be a much more effective way to think about learning, “particularly when you live in a world that’s incredibly unclear on what content is going to be relevant in not just 10 or 20 years, but in three years,” she said. “Over and over business leaders say kids need to be collaborative, work across time zones and cultures because problems are so complex.”

•ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT. “You don’t have the opportunity to show what you know in a regular school because standardized tests that are mandated only show what some kids know, but leave out a whole bunch of kids who aren’t able to show what they know in different ways,” she said. We should have alternative criteria for gauging students’ knowledge and ability to show what they know.

•SCHEDULING. Neuroscience research on sleep is becoming more compelling by the day, particularly around depression, Levine said. “We’d always thought fatigue is symptom of depression, but now it’s looking more like lack of sleep causes depression, and that’s something looked at seriously.” Kids needs nine hours of sleep, and if schools were in synch developmentally with teenagers, should would start at 10 a.m., especially when kids enter adolescence. Teachers should also coordinate their exams with each other to ensure that students are not taking multiple tests on the same day.

•CLIMATE OF CARE. Research shows that kids do better in classes where teachers know their names and say hello to them, and when they have their own advocates or advisers at school. “Almost every private school has advisory, a person for each kid to go to,” Levine said. “But in public schools, there are just a few counselors for a thousand kids or more. By the time you’re hitting high school, you need someone apart from parents to test ideas with, to kick around problems, a go-to person who a kid feels knows them.”

•PARENT EDUCATION. Well-meaning parents are confounded with how to approach managing their kids’ times. Kids needs playtime, downtime, and family time, Levine said. “We’ve robbed kids at each stage of childhood and adolescence of tasks that belong in that particular stage,” she said. “You can’t push kids outside their developmental zone and expect them to learn. You want to push them towards the edge of it, but not over.”

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who Wants to Be A Math-Millionaire?

Check out this game that was shared by Ms. D. Hill at ECG.  It is built on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire game show but has players figure out Order of Operations questions in a limited time frame.
It is for one or two players.

There is an entire suite of Math Millionaire games with topics other than BEDMAS that can be found here.  I've also added it to the Link List for Students on the left sidebar.  It is part of

Nya:weh, Ms. Hill!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mathletics, First Nations, and Online Learning Success

For those of you who missed it on Monday and Tuesday, here is the article from the FNSSP document and the Fall 2012 edition of Spirit Interactive online math learning and the success that First Nations have had using this type of learning for their students.  You can view it here from its original source or read it in its entirety below.

Students at a community school in Alberta are acing math with the help of a dynamic, online program.

Early in 2011, the Morley school launched Mathletics , an online program for students of all ages. Not only have the school's young students increased their speed and ability to perform mathematical functions, but they have also started to do better in math, many of them for the first time.

"I've heard only positive comments from the students about the Mathletics program," said Danelle Oosterveld, a member of the Stoney Education Authority. "They are all extremely enthusiastic about mastering new skills."

Supported by the First Nation Student Success Program (FNSSP), Mathletics enables students to work at their own pace through 750 online numeracy activities and tutorials. Colourful graphics track students' progress, and visually stimulating animations break operations down into easy-to-follow steps. It's a modern approach to teaching math that enables children to advance rapidly.

"Our students are thriving because of the program's personalized approach. They are solving harder problems and performing faster calculations," said Danelle Oosterveld. "More importantly, they are tasting the excitement of advancing to new levels of skill."

Now, parents are interested in their children's progress, and their involvement is paying off. They are even approaching the teachers to learn more about the program and how they can help their children continue to advance their skills at school and at home.

Ten children at the Morley school have been recognized as top students in Canada based on their skills and participation in Live Math, an interactive part of the Mathletics program that tests students' math abilities against those of other students in the same grade level around the world. By correctly answering math problems, the Morley school students beat out national and international opponents to earn progress certificates and gain recognition on the Mathletics website.

The Morley school students are doing so well that even 3P Learning, the distributor of Mathletics in Canada, is impressed. Several students were able to make it onto the Top 100 list in only a few months.

"FNSSP and Mathletics have enabled us to work within the Alberta curriculum, as well as according to the ability level of each student," said Danelle Oosterveld. "We've seen the students make some really impressive academic gains, which will only become more evident over time."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spirit Highlights Education Initiatives

This season's quarterly edition of Spirit highlights the numerous efforts underway of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to improve education for all Aboriginal students.

Of special note is the Interactive Online Program helping students with Math that is highlighted in the article.  It is related to yesterday's post about the First Nations Student Success Program's achievements in Numeracy.  Read the latest Fall 2012 Spirit online by clicking here

Imagine that?  Using technology and gaming to support student learning in the 21st Century!  Could you think of a reason why students and teachers wouldn't be behind engaging and motivated learning? Some might say you'd have to dumb, and dumb again to not see the potential for student growth and understanding.

How about when that learning is free!?!  Speaking of which, have you applied for the ExploreLearning REFLEX grant yet?  Each school can get a full year's use of the resource in two of their classrooms, absolutely free.  If you haven't applied, go to this link, as the deadline is September 30th, 2012.  A year's worth of educational growth, learning and fact fluency for your students can be had for not a penny. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Nations Student Success Program Success Stories

To read a copy of the document, First Nations Student Success Program Success Stories, click here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Get Mixing with BrainPOP

Last Wednesday I "attended" a BrainPOP webinar on the site's latest features.  How exciting to have a district license with these new developments!!  If you haven't been using your BrainPOP or BrainPOP Jr. subscription this year, be sure to ask your administrators for your school's password!

Here's what I discovered from the webinar:  The BrainPOP Mixer.  This new function allows teachers to create, build and share their own quizzes on BrainPOP (as of the time posting this blog post, Mixer was not yet available for BrainPOP Jr. but is in development).  That means YOU have access to over 9000 pre-made questions from BrainPOP, plus teacher created content being added daily, PLUS the option to personalize questions based on classroom experiences and the ability to ask OPEN-ENDED questions.  Not too shabby, if you ask me.

If you want any assistance utilizing this new device, feel free to ask me for help, or check out the webinar I attended here.

This is just one awesome development.  There are also new games added all the time to the GameUP section.  This flower power game is a great way to have students practice ordering fractions and decimals in a fun, fast paced way.  I am hooked!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This Looks Like Fun

Aboriginal Numeracy Challenge a big success

If the video above doesn't work, try using this link:  Click here.  Then click on the video entitled "Aboriginal Numeracy Challenge".
Wests Tigers hosted an Aboriginal Numeracy Challenge (ANC) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Wednesday, September 5.

In conjunction with the Department of Education and Communities, the Aboriginal Numeracy Competition (ANC) was designed to engage Aboriginal students in mathematics. Students challenge other students their age from different schools within the region.

Teams were split into four pools of four students and rotate around four numeracy activities.
The goal for students was to earn as many points as possible in each activity.

Points were calculated and the winners of each pool were announced and presented prizes to recognise their achievements. The overall winner took the trophy back to their school for the term.

This term's ANC had a Rugby League theme with activities happening across the various facilities at Campbelltown Stadium including a Wests Tigers behind the scenes tour.
Students competed in mathematical activities, timetable killer, jeopardy, thinking on your feet and deadly data.

This year’s ANC was an outstanding success with 96 Aboriginal students competing on the day with teams travelling from as far as Wellington and Newcastle.

A highlight of the day was the visit from Wests Tigers players Linc Port and Andrew Vela who signed autographs and participated in the multiplication showdown on the halfway line.

Linc and Andrew were a big hit with the students, sharing stories about the importance of a good education and believing in yourself to achieve your future goals.

Wests Tigers would like to thank the Department of Education and Communities South Western Regional Aboriginal Education Team for all their hard work in making the numeracy challenge go ahead, Sally Pratt from Campbelltown City Council, and the many volunteers, parents and school staff for assisting on the day.

Winners list:
Pool A: Mt Anan HS
Pool B: Wellington HS
Pool C: Wellington HS
Pool D: Elizabeth Macarthur HS
Overall winners: Wellington HS

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan StarPhoenix Report

Delay in funds is inexcusable

The StarPhoenix

The money promised in the federal budget five months ago to address the deplorable shortfall in funding for schools on Canada's First Nations was at best a fraction of what's needed, but it's shocking to learn that even that meagre amount is yet to make it to reserves in Saskatchewan. In a province where young aboriginal people represent a vast, mostly untapped human resource that's vital to securing economic growth and prosperity, the foot-dragging by Ottawa in ensuring that children on reserves are provided an education of a quality that others in the province enjoy is inexcusable. What's worse is that the Conservatives in government who control the purse strings joined opposition MPs in February to support unanimously an NDP motion to put First Nations schools on an equal footing with provincially funded schools. While the government's subsequent budget commitment of $275 million over three years was hardly equal to meeting that lofty goal, it at least promised to spend $100 million on early childhood education programs and provide $175 million to construct or repair reserve schools. Yet, as StarPhoenix reporter Jason Warick reported this week, First Nations schools in Saskatchewan have yet to see any of the money they so badly need to address some immediate infrastructure problems such as leaky roofs, let alone put in place programs to meet the long-term educational needs of students. Frankly, $100 million over three years for early literacy education for Canada's rapidly increasing cohort of native kids is hardly adequate to meet the need. In Saskatchewan, the province provides about $10,000 per student enrolled in its schools while Ottawa funds reserve schools at a rate of $6,400 per student. With an estimated 16,000 students on reserve, that meant the federal funding shortfall in this province alone is more than $54 million a year. That's money that could be used to ensure the reserve schools are staffed by teachers who aren't paid $5,000 a year less than their counterparts in the provincial system and to ensure they don't leave at the first opportunity. That's money that can ensure the classrooms have adequate supplies and the libraries have good, new material. Premier Brad Wall is right to express concern that even the meagre funding commitment hasn't been met so far. His former Education minister Donna Harpauer was right to express concern in April that the promised federal funding still isn't going to operating funding for staff and resources for on-reserve schools. This foolhardily shortchanging of the education of some of the most marginalized citizens ill serves a First World nation whose leaders have been told repeatedly by experts in economics, social sciences and medicine that education is the key to breaking the costly cycle of poverty and poor health. That they still persist in paying lip service to the ideal while doing the bare minimum or even less to address an inequity that's taking such a demonstrable toll in economic and human terms is unconscionable. All Canadians pay a price for it, not only those who are robbed of life opportunities.  The editorials that appear in this space represent the opinion of The StarPhoenix. They are unsigned because they do not necessarily represent the personal views of the writers. The positions taken in the editorials are arrived at through discussion among the members of the newspaper's editorial board, which operates independently from the news departments of the paper.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Youth Make Great Statements

Native American Teens Honor Traditional Tobacco & Fight Commercial Tobacco Use

Sophia Sarenpa and 7 other Native American Mashkiki Ogichidaag (Ojibwe for “Medicine Warriors”) teens, worked all summer on anti-commercial tobacco smoking public service announcements (PSAs). The teens brainstormed concepts, developed scripts, conducted interviews, handled the lighting and cameras – and premiered their new works August 25th at the Division of Indian Work’s Dakota Lodge, 1001 E. Lake St., Minneapolis.

“I’ve learned so much about the difference between traditional and commercial tobacco use,” said Sophia. “Like how something so sacred has caused so many of our people to die. I’ve come to care about the issue a lot.”

Tiana LaPointe, a Native film artist project mentor says, “They really took on the leadership for the project. They worked in front and behind the camera, and were in charge of their own shoots.”
Armando Rivera loved learning about filmmaking, and discovered a lot about the original, gifted and sacred tobacco of Native nations.
  • PSA #1: Mashkiki Ogichidaag mission focus; promote community awareness and support for adoption of commercial tobacco-free policies with American Indian worksites in the Twin Cities.
  • PSA #2: features statistics and facts about the dangers of second-hand smoke in Native communities.
This is Phase Two of an initiative for cultural values and traditional strengths to help the Native youth become policy change advocates. They produced four videos for community presentations, YouTube, and created an online petition at to make it easier for people to show support for their anti-commercial tobacco stand.

All Nations Indian Church, Native American Community Clinic, Migizi Communications, Indigenous People’s Task Force, and Div. of Indian Works have adopted new policies banning the use of commercial tobacco use on their property and have also revised their policies.

The teens understand that progress is incremental. But with the program goal of building capacity in American Indian youth as traditional tobacco use and policy change advocates and protectors of Native medicines for future generations, they are making great strides.

Mashkiki Ogichidaag videos: YouTube or ordered on DVD 612-279-6355 or

Mashkiki Ogichidaag is a program of the Division of Indian Work, and funded by the American Indian Community Tobacco Initiative and a Tobacco-Free Communities Grant from the Minnesota Department of Health, Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

International Dot Day

Come Celebrate International Dot Day with Us – September 15, 2012

Every year on September 15, innovative educators around the world celebrateInternational Dot Day by making time to encourage their students’ creativity and genius potential. Inspired by Peter H. Reynolds treasured story, The Dotstudents are encouraged to “make their mark” by starting simply with a dot and then seeing where that dot takes you.
I am especially looking forward to this year’s event. I have partnered with Peter and the amazing team at FableVision in an effort to connect like-minded educators willing to share their passions and talent with one another across the larger world community.

Over 350,000 educators and students have registered so far for International Dot Day and have signed up to share their stories with one another using the Skype in The Classroom Network. It is awe-inspiring to see children, teachers, leaders and entire communities representing all 50 states and spanning 6 continents join together to let one another know how much they matter to the world.
And, this is a perfect time to issue a challenge to all the worldchangers and leaders in your community to Make Their Mark and Make it Matter.
There is still time to participate so please join us:
  • Visit to learn more about International Dot Day, activity suggestions, resources, a global map showing participants and a peek at the dots being created by celebrities.

Make sure that you get registered on the Skype In The Classroom Network. We will be using the SITC platform as a way to enable  teachers participating from around the world a way to find and connect with one another. (if you already have a Skype account you can login with the same details. If you don’t have a Skype account already, you can create one here.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Are You a Muggle When it Comes to Geocaching?

Geocaching in the Classroom

Imagine geocaching for a grade in school? It's happening more and more. Teachers are tapping into the location-based adventure of geocaching to move their lessons outside of the classroom and into neighborhoods and nature. Geocaching is active learning at its best. Teachers say caching helps combine outdoor activity, team-building and problem-solving with the ability to customize lesson plans to a specific grade level. is here to help teachers build their lesson plans.
Educators can explore a page loaded with resources by checking out our Geocaching and Education page. See ideas on how to use geocaching education kits to supercharge a classroom, camp, or seminar. There's even information for caregivers on hosting educational geocaching events for kids. Teachers can also share ideas, programs, and activities through the Geocaching and Education Forums. Check out and share this resource with the teachers in your life.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Natural Curiosity

Out of the pages of Professionally Speaking, comes this resource from OISE/UT that uses an inquiry-based approach to learning about the environment.  It is called Natural Curiosity (curiously spelt in American spelling, despite being a Canadian website) and has been endorsed by several elementary teachers in Ontario, as well as David Suzuki.

What does this have to do with math, you ask?  Well, much like we'd like to see in our math classes, with Natural Curiosity, the kids ask the questions and the teachers guide them to potential answers.

The entire program can be downloaded for free at the website, .

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mad Minute Makes Me Mad

How One Teaching Practice Ruined Math For Students

MAD MINUTE is a teaching practice widely used in Canada.  It includes having long strips of papers with lists of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts on it.  The goal is to get as many math facts correct in one minute as you can.
Blogger Autumn Shaw, age 16, shares her reflections on the years of MAD MINUTE and how it affects her to this day:
It all started in grade 1 when I learned to add.  I’d say its what has led to crying fits, hiding in the bathroom, avoidance techniques (breaking my pencil), stomach aches and just a general hate for math.
This one minute of the day could ruin my whole day.  It was literally the worst minute of the day.  I could do all the questions, I just couldn’t do them in one minute.
Some of the kids could, and they got their Mad Minutes hung on the board, they got stickers, they got glittery pencils.  All I got was a hate for math.
Then there were the teachers that thought 2 minutes a day of Mad Minute was a good idea.  A good idea to give me twice the amount of time to learn I could not do mad minutes was not a good idea.
Of course, another reinforcer to my belief that I could not do math, never could, never will, was the extra-reinforcing practice of passing my paper to the person sitting in front of me to mark.
This was the chance to share with my classmates, I couldn’t do math, never could, never would be able to.  Some of the kids started writing, “YOU SUCK ” on my paper.  This led to me one upping them and me just writing, “I SUCK,” everyday on my math paper.
I don’t know why the teachers thought Mad Minute helped me in math.  It didn’t improve my math, at all.  It did however reinforce everyday that I was not good in math, couldn’t be the fastest in math, never was, never would be, and I was only six years old. The irony of it all was that I could do math, just not under pressure in a situation that pitted me against the clock and against my peers.
Another torturous part of MAD MINUTE, was the practice of allowing all the students who had 100% each day Monday – Thursday to be exempt from Mad Minutes on Friday.  So, if you didn’t feel like the outcast already, on Fridays, classmates watched me, glaringly obvious that they were good at math, and I wasn’t.  Never was, never would be.
Today, in grade 11 I am in the lowest math class.  Could this be because when I was six I learned I was not good in math, never was, never would be?  There is something to say for that daily reinforcement.  I look back on it and I know, Mad Minutes were not good for me.
I hope there are no teachers out there that continue with MAD MINUTE.  Its not good, not helpful and can have a lasting negative effect on a student.

Report Card Comment Writing Workshop

Here are some links to the resources used for today's Report Card Comment Writing Workshop for Six Nations' "Building Capacity From Within Our Own Ranks" PD Day.

Ben Hazzard Webinar

Monty Python Silly Job Interview

Monty Python Holy Grail Guards

MISA London

AER GAINS Descriptive Feedback Video Part One