Inquiry Warm-Up

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Originally posted on Martens in the Middle:
Today students got fully immersed in questions about our learning community that were generated last week — questions to do with the use of space, the amount windows, and the air quality. Division…

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Fluency Write

Today students wrote non-stop for 20 minutes in response to the following prompts.



Which Button Would You Choose

Second draft to follow after the “Letter Home” writing project finishes.

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Co-Creating Criteria for Personal Writing

My first post this year on my class blog…

Martens in the Middle

We’ve looked at BC’s Performance Standards for Personal Writing

We’ve looked at Lori Rog’s student rubric of the Six Traits for Writing

And now that we’ve written several personal memoirs (first & second drafts) and have polished one of them (third draft), it was time for our class to create some criteria that we felt was our own.

We read each others’ polished personal memoirs and looked for characteristics of strong writing. Then at their table students brainstormed the characteristics/elements/attributes of strong personal writing — each one got its own post-it note.

The post-it notes were grouped based on what they had in common.

Tonight I typed them up in this chart.
Criteria for Writing – Oct 2014.docx

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Stories of Change

Here are my sketch notes from the NOII Symposium.  [Aside: find the typos:)]

NOII Symposium - Stories of Change SketchnotePDF of Innovative Learning Environments – OECD presentation

Innovative Learning Environments - OECD presentationPDF of Stories of Change

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Anxious Behaviour At School

On April 28th I attended a morning session led by Lynn Miller for the staff at Prince of Wales Secondary.  Below is a photo (and pdf) of my sketch notes from that morning.

Anxious Behaviour WS - Lynn Miller

HS Curriculum for teaching:

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Learning Intentions in Intermediate Science


Hope things are going well…I’m sure you’re super busy now we’ve already reached mid-term.  For my inquiry in my class I’m working on sharing my learning intentions with my students in writing.  I’d also like to work on it in the area of science.  We are trying to answer the question, “Are we (students and teachers in div 6) healthy people? We are looking at the healthy living curriculum AND human body systems together to gather evidence about our own habits and also to learn how, for example, a healthy diet helps our digestive system, and how, physical activity keeps our systems healthy.  Do you have any ideas about sharing the learning intentions in a fun and creative way?  It just seems a bit boring to me to just tell them what we’re learning, have you come across any strategies that work??  My group is grade 5s so maybe a bit younger than what you are used to….


My Response:

You betcha!! Thinking along the lines of:

    • “What does it mean to be healthy?”
    • “How do we stay alive?”
    • “What do we need to stay alive?”
    • “How do know something is alive?”

Your grade 5 unit is reappears in science 8 with students going deeper in their learning.
Here’s the unit plans I used in 2010-2011 before moving into the district teacher position:

Here’s a glimpse a few years into the past:

I can think of several ways I would adapt/modify/delete for my future grade 8s (including more of an inquiry focus, some big/essential questions to guide it) and for your grade 5s (especially in reducing the depth of Knows & Dos).  Here are Word versions of the  body Systems Unit Plan and the Cells Unit Planning KUD.

BTW: You might want to consider bringing in pill bugs (aka sow bugs) for kids to use for inquiry into characteristics of living things.  This allows students to observe & wonder with minimal teacher direction–> what happens when, what you wonder, how do they respond to stimuli, how & why do they move, etc.  Llewelyn describes it in detail in his book Inquire Within (see reference below).

I can see how the smaller questions you are thinking of can support your big question of “Are we healthy people?” which by the way, needs you to first answer the question “What does it mean to be healthy?” which leads to “What does it take to be healthy?”

  • what our body needs to be healthy? (food, rest, shelter, physical activity, mental activity, etc.)
  • how each it is beneficial?
  • stressors on our bodies (missing what it needs or exposure to “things” that are harmful/draining).

I am just brainstorming away here so don’t take this definitive — just a bunch of ideas/hunches of where I would start

You might want to check out these inquiry cards and the rest of this site.  Also, here are two resources from Smarter Science that you are free to use under Creative Commons licence –> Process Skill rubric.pdf and 2-1_CDN_EN_Initiate_and_Plan_L2.pdf.

BTW: You need to get a copy of Inquire Within by Douglas Llewellyn which is a fantastic book for teaching gr.3-8 science through inquiry (currently book clubbing it with 12 VSB teachers). It’s worth the $50.  And then get a copy of Make Just One Change: Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions by Dan Rothstein & Luz Santana.

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Student Generated Questions in SS8

A colleague of mine used the following Question Focus to prompt student generated end of year questions in her Social Studies 8 class using the QFT.

The physical geography of a place influences patterns of settlement, trade, and conflict as well as the formation of a society’s culture.

After generating as many questions as possible the students prioritized their questions and came up with the following list of big questions (big enough to encompass almost the entirety of the current SS8 curriculum):

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The following September she did same the exercise with a new class of SS8 students and they generated the following list of questions which they have not yet gone through and prioritized:

  • How does conflict affect a culture’s upbringing? (Evolution)
  • What does a society need from its physical geography to grow as a population?
  • Do these patterns influence each other?
  • What defines a culture?
  • What kinds of places influence power?
  • At what point of a society’s culture/development would the physical geography start to take effect?
  • Why are cities settled where they are?
  • Which places are affected mostly by their physical geography?
  • Do these patterns overlap?
  • Is the influence of physical geography usually positive or negative?
  • How does the physical geography affect the hierarchy (and representing hierarchy in clothing) in a civilization?
  • How does physical geography influence patterns, trade, and conflict?
  • Why would they have conflict?
  • How does trade start in a land?
  • How would the shape and structure change to cope with the geography its located in?
  • How does physical geography influence modern day society’s culture?
  • How can geography affect the culture?
  • Is it human nature to consume to an extent that we would settle in an alien/foreign place?
  • How does society adapt to these influences?
  • What could change the patterns of settlement or trade in a physical location?
  • How does a society’s culture form?
  • How will the physical geography influence human behaviour in that area?
  • What is conflict?
  • What influences a society’s formation?
  • Why is culture different depending on what resources are available in the area?
  • Why do some places with similar geography have different culture?
  • What kind of physical geography would help patterns of settlement and trade?
  • How does and doesn’t geography influence society?
  • How influential is the physical geography on forming a civilization and what areas of civilization does it affect most?
  • How does the location influence the pattern of settlement of any…?
  • In heavily populated urban areas does the land still have a profound affect upon peoples..?
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Formative Assessment in HS Math Class

Math TextHere are a few examples of high school mathematics teachers who have made small changes to their practice which have been positive for both the teachers and their students.
I highly recommend exploring other posts on these blogs.
On exit slips as practice (and giving less homework)
On using individual whiteboards (for individual work and group work)
On using large whiteboards: (to increase the amount of collaborative learning)
Bonus blog posts:
On showing your working in math Is Your Own Math Work Shareable?
Changing Perspectives in Math by West Van HS Math teacher (10 min video, slides)
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My first attempt at whiteboarding…without the whiteboards

Love! Love! Love this! Gotta find me some neon whiteboard markers.


I’ve got a flurry of firsts going on here! I love it.

I’ve been inspired to go beyond my normal routine lately by quite a few of the members of my PLN on Twitter. Last week I tried a ‘modeling’ discussion with my MYP Chemistry class. This week I tried whiteboarding. This was, again, inspired by the folks doing modeling and sharing ideas on #modchem. There was only one catch: I don’t have whiteboards. Yet. So what’s a guy to do?

Ask his PLN for ideas!

I did that quite a while ago and @dragan39 suggested I use neon whiteboard markers on a lab table. The funny thing is they don’t erase very well from the white board. But with a damp paper towel, they erase just fine from the lab table.

For my DP chemistry class, we’re working on Topic 1, Quantitative Chemistry. Some of my students had me…

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NOII Opportunity and Inquiry Template

In BC we have networks of schools who are pursing inquiries (and sharing them) that focus on supporting learners in the following areas:

  • Innovative Learning Environments
  • Aboriginal Enhancement Agreements
  • Healthy Schools

The following describes the opportunities for schools to join the network exploring innovation in the design of learning environments (see the bottom half of this post):

As you know, BC is an active member of the OECD international research study on Innovative Learning Environments and this year we have been identified as one of five international learning labs, partly as a result of the sustained focus on networked inquiry and leadership development connected with NOII.

Schools interested in exploring contemporary learning principles and directly becoming involved in this international work will have a chance to do so through the NOII inquiry process.

Below is an inquiry guide as well as the template for schools to use in submitting their questions.  There is also a copy of the practitioners guide to The Nature of Learning which includes a good summary of the seven key learning principles that NOII schools will need to use to inform their inquiries.

NOII – Inquiry Guide 2013-14.pdf
NOII – Inquiry Template 2013-14.docx
The Nature of Learning – Guide for Practitioners.pdf

For more information about this or the other networks contact:

Judy Halbert or Linda Kaser
#203 – 1118 Homer Street
Vancouver BC V6B 6L5

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