Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Did I mention that I played golf? First time ever. It wasn't terrrrrible, but I'll be honest, it wasn't great. It was fun, though. Also it was blazing hot (Philippines.) and the price of the round included a caddy, so I was told exactly what club to use, how hard to swing, and where to aim. (Aim. hahah.) Anyway, I think I sprained my thumb. This was weeks ago and it still hurts to put a shirt on.

I don't mean to brag, but we have the absolute best mangoes ever here. I made a chia pudding on the weekend, added some chopped mango = the best.

Speaking of vegan-friendly (depending on your milk choice with the pudding), we went to Susi around my birthday and it was so great. Vegan, gluten-free, and organic. Even Mara enjoyed bites of our meals. (I say that like it's unusual...) We're about to live right around the corner...!

We got new toothbrushes. They're black... charcoal bristles. I'm into all the hippy-dippy natural stuff, but brushing with charcoal is not something I'm into. It seems very wrong.

I've been reading this for awhile now. It shouldn't be taking me awhile, but it is. Jeff got me this for my birthday and I'm looking forward to the change to adult again.

Also for my birthday, a day at the spa! Wonderful.

These cookies are the best I've ever made.

And I love kimchi fried rice and finally tried it on my own: so. good.

Lots of controversy (again. still.) over Ontario's new sex ed curriculum. I have to say, for the record, that I support the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum. It's important. As a teacher and as a parent. A local news company hosted a quick, simple poll: Do you support the new curriculum? Yes or No. This is astounding:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

let the kids do the teaching

Throughout our short geometry unit, we've had a big emphasis on vocabulary. After a lot of examining related words, the class wanted to make definition cards that we used to create a word wall. They all signed up for a couple of words and then used a Mix-Freeze to teach the words

After I posted all the words for the kids to see and asked them to make a T-chart. They wrote down at least five words they confidently understood and could explain in one column, with words they needed to know in the other. With a quick check as they walked out the door, I marked off all the words any kids were still confused about. Later, we looked at this list again and they "signed up" to teach one another:

I'm telling you, this is the easiest teaching ever. They decided on how they would teach the terminology, set it up, and then taught! They were taking notes, really listening to understand, and filling in the gaps before the unit progressed any further. 

I even said to the kids at the end that I felt useless in the class but was so happy to hear them communicating their understanding and taking ownership of their learning. Pretty good for final quarter craziness!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


This little lady turns one this week! Amazing. 

We've been having great light dinners lately: fruit, cheese, bread, olives, chorizo, and wine. Followed up with one of these bars and it's perfect!

Also, lots of breakfast for dinner. Jeff has been making these cornmeal pancakes with added flaxseed and they're so so good. I top mine with butter and some fresh mango - no syrup needed. I made a version of these bacon cups one night, too, and he was impressed with those! I don't know how I feel about arugula, though.

These spicy garlic noodles (with pork or, next time, tofu!) will definitely be making it into dinner rotations more regularly. SO SO SO good.

I would also like to try to make this homemade ketchup, but we don't tend to eat enough of it...

At the market we've been getting a little pot of this ice cream. Chocolate flame is our go-to: dark chocolate and jalapeno chili. It really is seriously good.

Okay. Enough about food.

I got new glasses. Getting new glasses is not easy. When you can't see well, trying to decide on what looks nice on your face is like putting on makeup in the dark. (I couldn't think of a gender-neutral comparison.) Even if there are photos of each new frame, they never do justice to the real thing - the super reflective lenses are never realistic.

I am surprisingly into this show. I keep imagining it as comic frames, which helps remind me it's about superheroes and villains, not real people.

By far my favourite baby books author: Sandra Boynton. I love singing these books to that little almost one-year-old up there.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

tuning in: communication systems

To continue our initial launch of the final unit, each of our seven grade three teachers hosted a Tuning In learning experience last Friday morning. Classes spent fifteen minutes in each room, noticing and wondering about different aspects of our Communication Systems unit. 

The kids came back buzzing about their ideas and questions, and I hope we'll host more of these next year!

Browsing folktales, fables, myths, and legends

Visualizing the message of a song

Finding the message in silent films

Finding the meaning of colour

Figuring out signs and symbols


Intro to sign language

Friday, April 24, 2015

our beautiful mess

We're starting our final unit of inquiry for the year: Communication Systems.

Before our April break, we were lucky enough to attend our PTA Cultural Show, which showcased a dozen countries with countless talented performers. To begin tuning in to the unit, we made a quick mind map based on what the noticed during the show:

I took a quick snap of the map and printed it out for the kids to categorize the ideas. We didn't even brainstorm the categories, but the kids did a phenomenal job of classifying terms using their own ideas and understandings:

We haven't done a lot, really, but set the stage for understanding when it's all done. The kids made sense of the commonality by choosing a sentence and putting it in their own words - and not just by replacing words with synonyms, but by finding the essence of the text and truly understanding. They've determined that our unit will be about the messages we share and the ways we communicate these messages.

From here, we pulled out some key vocabulary and ideas so that we could search our library for books related to Communication Systems. We checked them all out and spent some time browsing the many different books they found: everything from fables/folktales, the history of music, colours, and culture to symbols, signs, languages, and hieroglyphics. They came up with categories of personal interest and we taped sign-up sheets to the board so kids could decide what they're most interested in learning about. This was great because it gives me, as the teacher, a jumping off point with immediate engagement and sets us up for later independent inquiry. I'm sure these lists will be ever-changing!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ubud, Bali

We stayed at a great place outside the city center, so it was pretty quiet: Sri Rathi. Ubud was surprisingly touristy for an April break.
We enjoyed some great meals at a place not far away, Sari Organik.
It's not easy travelling with a baby, but people are so gracious - staff at Sari occupied Mara so Jeff and I could eat a meal together, and people on every airplane did their best to distract and entertain Mara!
I think I'd like to go back someday...

Friday, April 3, 2015

visible thinking

My professional goal this year has been to make Visible Thinking (as a form of documentation and through the use of routines) an organic part of the classroom. This has meant introducing and using pre-selected routines throughout the year: I emphasized five in the first semester and have introduced two new routines (so far) in this second semester. The reason for this is so the kids learn some ways to organize and develop their thoughts with guidance, the intention being that the routines are used independently when students are ready in a way that supports deeper thinking.

The great thing is: it's working! Some students use the See Think Wonder routine as a graphic organizer for pre-writing; some used the Think Puzzle Explore routine on a walking field trip we took to see how solar energy is transformed for use in our school; some used the Colour Symbol Image to respond to a short movie we watched in class. They use them! I could think of more instances when the kids have used these routines independently, without prompting, and that's the beauty of it. So now that they're more comfortable with a few routines and I see their thinking really starting to change - from surface level to so much deeper - offering more choice is only natural.

This semester we've been focusing on Chalk Talk, which is like a silent conversation on paper. This routine makes for a great interactive bulletin board for students outside your classroom, too! The Micro Lab Protocol is another, which promotes valuing ideas and reflecting on the thoughts of others. Focusing on collaboration and communication have become really important in our classroom culture, so it's a natural fit. More to come on how we've used this routine!

Thursday, April 2, 2015


This is the plant I'm having the most luck with - it keeps bloomin' and bloomin' and bloomin'.

It is getting hot in Manila. We also have a typhoon on the radar - beginning of April... It has been downgraded from its initial Category 5 and is expected to really slow down once it makes landfall. Crossing my fingers that the rains and winds don't interfere with our flight plans on Sunday morning!

This blog is giving me so much to think about for next year.

A friend sent me this. (In an effort to sabotage my low sugar-ness, I'm sure.) Except that my little Japanese grocer beside our condo closed, so I need to scope out a new matcha supplier in the city. I scrolled through the post thinking I'll just call out a few things I'd like to make, like the mousse. But so quickly the list became almost everything.

My latest sandwich obsession.

Does anyone else Mark Unread a jillion emails? Currently in my personal account, 15 unread. Work, 23. And those are majorly whittled down since we started holidays on Wednesday. I'd like to think of it as a bad habit, but I'd probably never remember a thing if it weren't for that option.

#FreeNeilandFerdi. It's time, Canada.

Monday, March 30, 2015


This is where our baby's at: everything doesn't belong in its place. This includes diapers, clean laundry, dirty laundry, pantry items, and more. Fun fun. She also does a good job of rolling her stroller in circles, digging up the plants, toothy-smiling, playing with the recyclables, interrupting REM sleep cycles, and other general busyness. She'll be one year in one month!!!

We're moving in May and while the unit is furnished, we got a couple new pieces to make the space our own. Who knew that Muji has the best furniture? Jeff got this "Body Fit Cushion Set" (adult bean bag chair) and I got this gem. It reclines. It has a positionable pillow. We are comfy people. We may never sit on a couch together again.

Have I mentioned these cupcakes? They're really good. But they don't stick together very well. After the second day we were basically eating them with a spoon. Which isn't really a problem, let's be honest, but I would like to figure out what to add to give them a little more stick. And no icing because I'm still trying to be off sugar. Which has somehow caused super heightened sugar cravings, six months in, and I'm most definitely struggling to deal with that.

If only we had a waffle iron.

I don't think I've ever had reason before to buy cream of tartar. This little beauty is finally that reason. (What do people actually use cream of tartar for? Aside from tea-based cakes?)

I've had a mean hunger for brownies these days. Maybe these?

Our Pinkberry has a new flavour right now: blood orange. It's delicious, but it was even more delicious when I remembered we have a tub of this in the freezer so I could make a creamsicle treat.

My reads-everything-top-speed husband might somewhat disagree with this next idea, but I'm devouring this book. Seriously. Since the weekend I have basically read as far as I have in the five months it's taking me to read I Am Malala.

We're OFF TO BALI next week!

Friday, March 27, 2015

finding out and sorting out: perimeter

Day Two
After our hands-on intro to perimeter learning, the kids had a chance to do some authentic measuring of perimeter using their own creations.

Our Unit Work right now is focusing on energy sources, so the grade three classes are creating energy efficient houses. The kids shared some of the ways they found the perimeter of their homes, which are traditional squares and rectangles: 
"Measure one side and double it. Or you could multiply it by two. Then do the same thing for the other side and add them together." 
"Add all the sides together."
"If it's a square you just multiply the first side you measured by four."
Super engaged.

Day Three
Today I told them that Mr. Phillips and I want to get a puppy for Mara (no we don't) and we have to fence in a play area for it in the backyard (we don't even have a backyard...). For the sake of creating a model, I said we had 24 cm of fence and had to use it all. They went ahead and all of them created a square or a rectangle:

So to challenge them and get them thinking outside the box (literally!) I told them that we have to leave room for the tree and the pool in the yard and drew a picture of the yard. So we actually didn't have enough space to make a large square or rectangle - they had to get creative! This was great and I love how each kid had a different way showing their understanding:

As an extra challenge, one group decided to try to use the pattern blocks to create an interesting but still more traditional space for the puppy to play.

With the right line of questioning these kids were totally successful!

The next day we launched into finding the area of the puppy's play space, which was a perfect connection and easier for the kids to conceptualize. They even came up with a strategy to accurately find the area of the irregular shapes they made by partitioning them and finding the area of each smaller space. Pretty great!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

tuning into perimeter

To help students tune into measurement, our student teacher and I challenged the kids in math class to do this:
Find an object in the classroom and figure out the distance around the outside of it.
Document the strategies you used.

That's it. Now go...

Here's what happened:
students chose how to organize information

accurate use of measurement tools

noticing how understanding fractions on a number line helps when measuring (!!!)

using prior knowledge

attending to precision

interest piqued!



misconceptions uncovered

From here, we did a bunch of talking and sharing. Next, we'll be able to define perimeter, model and teach formulaic equations, and practice precise measurement techniques. It was a great way to get the kids focused on math in a hands-on way and engaging in math conversations with little intervention. For us as teachers, it was a great little check-in to see what the kids know and how much, and where we'll need to step in to improve conceptual understanding.