“I want my students to be able to communicate effectively … with each other and the big world around them.”

Hello and welcome back to another installment of Teacher of SIS, where peers nominate other teachers highlighting their practices.This week we are pleased to have Clayton Dowty, teacher of english and drama here at our Bayside campus! She was nominated for integrating movement in order to increase student engagement.

Here are her responses to the questions regarding her lesson.

What did you want your students to know or understand?

Well, obviously I want to teach them reading and writing and speaking and listening skills but what that really boils down to is communication. I want my students to be able to communicate effectively with both each other and the big world around them.

What skills did you want your students to gain?

I want them to have very strong oral skills, very strong writing skills and very strong reading skills. I want them to be able to dissect language. I want them to be able to know how language is used  both to edify and to manipulate. And I want them to be able to use those skills for their own reading writing and speaking.

How did you teach this lesson in the past?

I used to do a lot more writing-based activities where the kids would write in their journals individually and then would share with each other – and that was pretty much it. But since I have introduced kinetic learning into the classroom I have a lot more engagement. The kids are out of their seats, they are engaging in creative tasks and constantly moving around and finding other people. With the brain breaks, they are able to have a moment without the intense focus of writing and when they come back to writing and come back speaking they are twice as engaged. So, I’ve managed to just triple the amount of student engagement … now they are much more apt to really want to do the activities in the lesson and not just do them because I told them to.

How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson? 

Well.. the tricky part was how to use these concepts within the context of an English class in order to teach the skills need in English class. Essentially, what I did was to use some of the garden variety strategies that I learned in some of my training over the summer and I infused them with the skills that we needed to cover and teach in English  – so rather than having the kids get up and move arbitrarily to play games, they get up in order to complete a task.





“I wanted to foster a new mindset…multiple entry points and avenues to explore”

Welcome to Teacher of SIS, where peers nominate teachers highlighting their practices.

This week we are pleased to have Nadia Erlednson, a Kinder teacher who works at Mountainside campus.

Here are her responses to the questions regarding her lesson.

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

I really wanted to change the mindset my students had towards mathematics.

Most students, me being one of those for many years, thought math was about solving a single problem by getting one definitive answer.

I wanted to foster a new OPEN mindset about mathematics with my students, where they had multiple entry points and avenues to explore to reach the answer.

This is so important, as every student approaches the problem differently.

Furthermore, this new mindset would foster “patient” mathematics, where students can be introduced to an idea, apply, learn, modify, and keep iterating until they reach their understanding.

2. What skills did you want your students to gain? 

Mathematically, the ability to count and use numbers between 1-10.

More importantly, I wanted them to create their understanding of the problem and what it meant to them within the task of counting.

The Common Core does this and it is what I am passionate about; solving problems in various ways with mathematical skills.

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

I feel I have always taught math a little open-ended, but I did not use Digital provocations with this lesson.

Their use has enhanced this lesson tremendously, as before it was a lot of direct instruction where I told them what to do.

Whereas, now, they are able to see the question and try to make meaning of it within the task on their own.

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

It all starts with my old entrenched beliefs I had about math ( a tear rolling down her cheek).

I was never taught to think of math in an open-ended manner. For me, it was really just something in separate boxes. Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1…


Well in high school I took AP Calculus. However, I was a low student in a high class. I tried really hard, but I never had a complete grasp of derivatives and integrals. At the end of the year, you pay to take the test, but my teacher (I still remember this vividly) said,

You can save your money, just don’t take the test

Unfortunately, a lot of adults have similar traumatic stories where they have solidified the idea that they are not a “math person.”

I was awakened to a new reality when I went to a workshop on Inquiry and Mathematics. It changed my life…I cried, actually, there was a group of us on the floor just balling, as we all had these crazy stories of why we had such fixed ideas about math.

This opened me up to a whole new view of math and how it can be taught.

The key takeaway was to keep the task OPEN ended. This allows for multiple entry points and students can create their own understandings within the task they are given. Essentially, individualize instructions and learning.

This opens up so many possibilities.

For example, I am collaborating with a 5th-grade teacher and we give both of our classes the same task. We meet every week and discuss their responses, which are fascinating! Similarities, differences, but all because students were given multiple entry points to the task.

I am passionate about spreading this OPEN-ENDED way of teaching math to both students and teacher, as it will bring a whole new understanding of math and of learning.

Please reach out if you have any questions about Open-ended (inquiry-based) math!


101qs.com        Digital provocations where you can find pre-made questions to introduce in your lessons. Great for “I see, I think, I wonder.”

Nrich.maths.org       Digital provocations and open-ended tasks.

How to schedule meetings in O365…without emails

Hello, everyone.

How many emails do you think you write in order to schedule a meeting? The average is EIGHT.

30 seconds to a minute per email for each meeting can eat into your precious planning time.

Today, the LI team created a video that walks you through the process of scheduling a meeting within O365 where you do not have to exchange a single email.

Take a look and email us (Alex, Rob, or me) if you have any questions.

How to set up your calendars through Outlook

The first thing you’ll need to do is subscribe to the school calendars – Here are the links.

Days 17-18 http://www.sis-shekou.org/calendar/calendar_400.ics

Academic Calendar 17/18: http://www.sis-shekou.org/calendar/calendar_389.ics

Curriculum 17/18: http://www.sis-shekou.org/calendar/calendar_375.ics

ECC 17/18: http://www.sis-shekou.org/calendar/calendar_371.ics

ES 17/18: http://www.sis-shekou.org/calendar/calendar_366.ics

Secondary 17/18: http://www.sis-shekou.org/calendar/calendar_393.ics

Parent Curriculum Events 17/18 (Curriculum calendar but only parent events): http://www.sis-shekou.org/calendar/calendar_401.ics

ATAC 17-18 http://www.sis-shekou.org/calendar/calendar_368.ics

Next, go to outlook and access the calendar app through the “app launcher”.

Begin adding (copying and pasting) the various calendars with the “From Internet” option.





That’s it! you will begin to see your calendars in the left-hand column.


This way of adding the work calendars also adds them to the Calendars app on your Mac. And if you like to keep your personal and exchange calendars separate, it does that too.



Learning Path to becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE)

I have always found it interesting how corporations have been trying to push their product or idea into the education scene. In today’s age, this would refer to up and coming tech firms as well as the already well established. Companies like, Google, Microsoft, and Apple, have a product that will allow your staff and students to create, showcase, document, and organized work production. All three companies all also have an education series that allows educators to pursue to become an expert, innovator, or distinguishable with their product. Out of the three, Microsoft is late to the game when it comes to offering such programs. But just because they are new to the game, doesn’t mean that what they have to offer is a “has been,” educator program. What Microsoft has to offer is very refreshing, and I hope you take in consideration to hear what I have to say about it.

My journey into becoming a Microsoft Certified Expert (MIE), was somewhat manageable, a challenge set by our very own Director of Learning Innovation.


When I first logged into Microsoft Education system, I have to admit, it was a little intimidating, especially how to navigate and find what intrigues you. Right away the front page recommends courses that you can pick and choose that apply to your practice. But! Here is where I am going to tell you to find the Learning Paths section and select Microsoft calls, 21 Century Learning Design(21CLD). What intrigued me about this path was the real world skills that we want our students to build within and outside the classroom. Those skills are collaboration, skilled communication, knowledge construction, self-regulation, real-world problem solving, and using ICT for learning.

What you will find once you take a course is how Microsoft codes essential skill to it’s the simplest form. For example, it explores the broader meaning of collaboration and breaks down collaboration into five essential questions. “What are the big ideas in collaboration.”? “What does working together mean?” “What does shared-responsibility mean?” “What does making substantive decisions mean?” and “What does working interdependently mean?”

So what does this all mean, once you go through this course you will take a 8 question quiz that you have to pass with 80% to receive credit. But that’s, the least of why you should do this. You should do this course because it completely matches up to the Expected Student Learning Results (ESLR’s) or the four C’s (Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking). Not only does it match up but it gives clarity on how to create situations for students to experience these skills. And, to put the icing on the cake, Microsoft does a fine job providing resources around 21CLD. Resources include rubrics, lessons, and coding of skills for educators to apply in their teachings.


Becoming a Microsoft Certified Expert (MIE) is easy. But I suggest taking the course on 21 Century Learning Design as it applies to your practice right away.

Dismantling the Disconnect

There are many different pedagogical approaches for early childhood teaching, but they almost all have one thing in common: the child is the key contributor to what is taught and learned. This approach to student-centered teaching is essential for a child to build community within their classroom and to allow students to construct their knowledge. Often, and unfortunately, there is a disconnect that can occur as soon as these students transition into Kindergarten.

Luckily, we have SIS teachers who are willing to blur the lines between Early Childhood and Kindergarten.

Typically, a student’s experience once they leave the exploratory learning environment they enjoy in the early years is abrupt; an end to choice in learning. Nadia Erlendson and her kindergarten team have put a stop to that. Every morning, students are provided two options to start off their day. The students may go to the playground, where there is a teacher supervisor, or they may go straight to the classroom to begin creative play building.

This flexible schedule isn’t something new in the educational world, but Nadia and her team realized it was necessary for young learners at SIS. Initially, students gathered in the morning to have circle time, starting the day by comprehending the weather and what day of the week it was. Nadia noticed that some students were intentionally coming late to class, so she tested the waters by giving students an open play time in the morning once a week, to see if the heartbeat of the class would change. Slowly, she added an extra day of free purposeful play time over the course of a few weeks. She noticed that the pulse of the class was beginning to change; students quickly became more independent, critically thinking when problems came up, and, most importantly, started to become agents of their learning. This finally gave the Kindergarten team a chance to assess the students on their own terms.  Ironically many, if not all, students were meeting age appropriate standards and benchmark from what the teachers gathered.

Something else was visibly noticeable. The students that would repeatedly show up late began coming on time, and all students were attentive for the entire school day.



This adjustment to the Kindergarten schedule was the spark that helped illuminate the need for continuing to explore how we can modify the school day to suit the needs of our students better. We look forward to following along next year to see what can arise from allowing students and staff to work together, to learn together, and to connect to move forward.


Building Bridges through Chinese

Doris King is a Chinese teacher at #sisrocks. She specifically teaches students from grades one to five who come from a household where Chinese is the first language. Typically, the traditional approach to learning the Chinese language is to memorize characters. This is especially true when it comes to learning how to write each character stroke correctly. Doris realized that there was a disconnect between how students were learning in their English-speaking homerooms and how she had been teaching Chinese to her native speaking students.

Doris wanted to transform her Chinese heritage class to make the language more accessible by creating more personal and deeper connections within the class, at home, and far away from her classroom. For Chinese heritage students, the goals are to instill the value of learning Chinese and also to illustrate progression. With that in mind, Doris began by encouraging her students to write and share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences through their personal blogs. Their first blogging task was to write about a time they experienced a challenge with a positive mindset. Once these pieces were posted to their blogs, students were asked to send their URL to a parent and a friend to receive feedback. The responses from their parents and peers were astounding. Parents told their children that they never knew they could express themselves that way. They were so proud of their child’s writing and were excited for them to share more.

Doris was pleased with the results but wanted her students to dig deeper. She took inspiration from colleagues at SIS, Ceci Gomez-Galvez and Nathan Lill. Doris used the mentor text that both Ceci and Nathan used for their Big DEAL event that has happened for four years now, based on “This I Believe,” from CBS’s Radio Network program, journalist Edward R. Murrow. In this instance, students had to scribe their works all in Chinese then use their speaking skills to showcase their deeper inner thoughts about what they believe.

The Chinese language program is still striving to have students digging deeper in their understanding and use of the Chinese language. Cross-campus connections, such as the “This I Believe” podcasts, are a great way for colleagues to encourage and challenge one another to try new strategies in their classrooms, often with incredible results.

For all resources check out the links below:

Doris King’s Chinese Heritage Students Links

Ceci Gomez-Galvez & Nathan Lill’s Podcasts

IB Art on iBooks

Most instructors would agree that the importance of students taking ownership of their own learning and creative growth is paramount to ensuring their success. With something as demanding as the diploma program, and IB Art, in particular, it is critical for students to understand that, like most journeys, this course is a continual process that ebbs and flows in proportion to their own exploration and creative drive. That said, as teachers, we are also here to coach students and help them achieve. This is why my former colleague and I decided to piece together this guide. In it, students will find practical information and details about process portfolios, the comparative study, and the final exhibition – all key assessments required to complete the IB visual art diploma program. Again, @MrsYungArt  and I found that the best way to do this was through an interactive companion. Our most recent update, for example, delivers new curriculum standard tables, an updated design, and student exemplars – all of which would not be possible through traditional means. Ultimately, our hope that the information and practices included will be used in a range of contexts and ultimately inspire students to gain a better grasp of IB and the concepts that guided our thinking.

Download here


Microsoft in Education: My Learning Pathway

Last week, I began one the learning pathways offered through the Microsoft’s Innovative Educator (MIE) Program. The pathways, unlike the individual courses, are bundled to provide a professional development pathway. I chose Teaching with Technology, a four-parter that centered around Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and finding “the appropriate technologies to match (y)our teaching activities and aims”. At its core, and as someone who’s been part of the #sisrocks community, the message, was a familiar one.

Gardner reminds us that “Technology [cannot] dictate educational goals. A pencil can be used to write Shakespearean sonnets or copy homework. The Internet can be used to engender enlightenment or hatred” In other words, before we can embrace any new technology, we must have a firm grasp of what our educational goals are and how, in this case, technology can help us achieve them.









As I moved through the learning pathway, this message kept resurfacing both in the structure of the course and it’s resources, all of which were clearly embedded into each module. Similar to the SAMR model, the courses adhered to a bigger hierarchy, in this case Microsoft’s E-transformation stages.






Additionally, all of the courses ended with a summary and a quiz one had to pass in order to proceed to the next course. The nice thing is that you can take the quizzes as many times as you need. There are also badges and a points system to help you styay on track and advance through the program. All in all, the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Program is similar to the other certification programs such as ADE and Google programs for teachers, in that it is a great way to take your career to the next level.

If you would like to know more or have any questions on how to get started stop by the genius bar on either campus or hit me up on twitter