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.

Friday, March 20, 2015

what have you learned most recently as a...

This is a question I posed to my class a few days ago.
It sits among evidence of our inquiry learning about Connections to the Natural World, with emphasis on energy sources and human impact on the earth.
The kids had some really interesting responses, ranging from reflections on themselves as researchers to specific content they've learned to generalizations about research itself.
For example:
I learned that the internet can be really frustrating.
There's lots of ways to research.
I learned that solar energy uses turbines, too, not just hydro.
Print resources are sometimes easier to find information in.

The great thing is that this can be adapted in so many ways!
What have you learned most recently ...
as a mathematician?
as a friend?
as a writer?
as a scientist?
at home?
from someone else?

Using this question frame, we've started examining our reading habits and interests, reflecting on what we've learned most recently as readers.
I'll post more on that soon, as there have been some really rich conversations in our room lately.

Friday, March 13, 2015

welcoming a student teacher

On Monday we have a student teacher joining our class for six weeks. The kids are pretty excited to have a second teacher (not too sure how to feel about that!) and were busily preparing some important things today to help her settle in!

Earlier in the week I asked what they think a new teacher to ISM might need. They had so many responses:

Each student signed up for a creation task.
And then they...
created a large map of the most important places she'll need to find while she's here
set up a tour to take her around
decided on some getting-to-know-you activities for Monday morning
tidied up a large desk area in the room for her, complete with a desk plate and pencil holder!
collected email addresses/phone numbers of teachers so she can get in touch with people while she's here
wrote a welcome note
made a large poster
made a brochure of all the places she should go while she's in the Philippines
wrote a list to fill her in on the learning we're knee deep in right now
created a special calendar and daily schedule so she can stay organized
collaborated to complete it all.

Looking forward to this teaching and learning journey!

Friday, March 6, 2015


These sandwiches have been my favourite dinner lately. I think we've had them about once a week.

This is absolutely beautiful.

I am most definitely a victim of this

A friend of ours gave Mara a pair of adorable little leather moccasins that her son had outgrown - so cute! I'll be looking out for this local company to get her the next size for sure.

This is the next book up. It's come highly recommended so I'm looking forward to it! Yes, that means I've finished the last one - I have to say it ended up ending the way I eventually expected. It got to a point where I said to myself, this has to be the reason they break up. In the meantime I'm rereading The Namesake because I started it again in Japan and still really like it. With 86% it might even be worth watching the movie!

I'm thinking this and this will look really cute when we move into our new place in May and our baby will have her own room. But hopefully not in a predator-prey sort of way.

I haven't been feeling well this week, and I have to say that my favourite home remedy for upset stomach is to have a beer. (Thanks to Mara's papa for that one!) It beats out ginger tea, ginger ale, apple juice, and all the Tums every time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

let the text inspire you

In class we've been talking about what we can do as readers - what ideas we're making.
One girl decided to make her own book (in Google Docs) after one from her Raz-Kids bookshelf  about immigration really resonated with her.
Two others are in their own "book club" - they borrowed the same book from the library and get together to read and discuss, sometimes even at recess.
I shared these simple projects with the class in the hopes that others will find inspiration and act on that.

This is a quote shared by Kathy Collins during our week of PD. Click to download from TpT.

Friday, February 20, 2015

why we broke up: part 2

I can't wait to understand why they broke up. I'm about halfway through and it's all sort of... theoretical? Although she ends each part (pretty much) with "and that's why we broke up," there's nothing tangible. I can't figure it out; I don't get it yet.

There has to be something that happens, is done, but there's no reference yet. I read a review that says page 335 was heart-wrenching. I'll have to wait for it?

I love young adult literature. Everything is so weighty and important and I find that hilarious and real at the same time. In a "we've all been there" sort of way. Plus, it's hard to help someone else make sense of all our thoughts, so maybe that's a big part (?) of my confusion about it all.

The art is really cool.

yokohama, japan

Along with some great PD with some like-minded schools (Collaboration for Growth), I was able to do some sightseeing in and around Yokohama - in to Tokyo and out to Kamakura. It was more than chilly, but I love Japan. The order, the cleanliness, the culture. Jeff and I are even thinking of going back again in our next October break! We've been together just one other time, a short time, also, and there's just so much to see in this tiny country.

so many flowers in frigid february

yokohama chinatown: the largest one outside of china

pre-dinner dumplings

lunar new year decorations

shinto shrine near kamakura


mt. fuji

all the sashimi!!!

residential yokohama