Reflecting on Learning in grade 4 Physical Education

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”
John Dewey

 Grade 4 students reflected on learning from their basketball unit with ES PE teacher, Leticia Carino, by writing posts for their digital portfolios. Ms. Carino used elements from the Six Thinking Hats (DeBono) which she used with her students last year as part of the grade 3 team. Since this was the students’ first reflection for PE, Ms. Carino had students focus on using the Yellow Hat (focus on positives) and Black Hat (focus on weaknesses). Before writing their posts, the group reviewed what they had learned in the basketball unit so they could decide which skills to highlight in their reflection.

Frameworks like the Six Thinking Hats or Visible Thinking Routines (from Making Thinking Visible), used on a regular basis, can help students focus and go deeper in reflecting about their learning.

And when students share their reflections on learning on their digital portfolios, they can engage others to share in their learning journey as well via comments and discussion.

More resources on using thinking routines for reflection can be found on my page for my SIS EdCamp session on Reflecting with Visible Thinking Routines.

I’ll also be facilitating a CAP PL session Routines for Reflecting on November 25th.


Keeping our eyes on the prize

Reflection is a way of thinking about educational matters that involves the ability to make rational choices and to assume responsibility for those choices. Taking that line of thought further, teachers are encouraged to reflect so that they can hone in on better ways of meeting the needs of their students. As a problem solving strategy, reflection is linked to effective teaching. As educators we already draw upon our content knowledge and our past experiences to make decisions (big and small) about what we teach and how we plan on teaching it. When we are conscious of this, as reflective practitioners, we are able to see the many benefits and positive effects.

Some of them include:

  • Self-directed critical thinking inquiry skills
  • Contextualized knowledge about teaching and learning that can be applied in similar situations (e.g., when to change instructional strategies or lesson pacing)
  • Willingness to question, take risks in learning, and try new strategies and ideas
  • Higher‐order thinking skills and the ability to reflect on one’s own learning process
  • Both cognitive (e.g., knowing how to ask questions that help students engage and think deeply) and affective skills (e.g., valuing students as individuals capable of learning)
  • Increased ability to react, respond, assess, and revise while teaching
  • Ability to implement new activities and approaches on the spot
  • Improved self‐awareness and knowledge
  • Improved coping strategies (e.g., the ability to redirect student inappropriate behaviors rather than with a response that will escalate the situation).

From a constructivist perspective, it seems that the more attention we pay to the little scribbles we make to ourselves in the margins, or the few minutes we take after class to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, the more this introspection will become a part of our daily routines and better help our students to create meaning for themselves both in familiar and unfamiliar situations.

Here are some of the ways and tools the SIS community is already using to reflect on their practice:

#Sisrocks has come to embody what an open community looks like.
Storehouse is media rich platform that is well designed and easy to use.
Blogging platform like edublogs make great digital portfolios and journals.
Strikingly is a great medium for personal websites.
Social Media pages connect students and teachers in new ways of dialogue.


A Blogging Journey

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 6.41.27 PMWhen Liz Cho-Young began this academic year, she had a brand-new approach to how she would communicate with her students.  She hoped that her students would follow, and fundamentally change the way in which they communicated back.  It wasn’t to simply share stories and recount experiences, but rather to model to students how to put yourself out there, to contribute to topics meaningful to you and to accept feedback whether it be positive or negative.  Since she began posting in early September, she has had just over 5000 visitors, an average of 65 per day.  I sat down with her briefly to try to get an idea of how this journey is shaping up:

Why did you start blogging this year?  “I wanted to model behaviors to the kids.  We always say that teachers have to model exemplars to students.  Kids just seem to have this aversion to blogging.  I wanted them to see that it was a way to connect, not to be tortured.”

What excites you about this ongoing project?  “Students are doing a great job of mimicking the writing style and seem to be writing about topics that interest them.  They are excited when they get comments from other teachers and people from around the world.”

How do you decide on what topics to write about?  “My focus is around education, a PD that makes me think, something that happens during the school day, or something that happens in life that is relevant.  I want the students to hear my real voice.”

What have you learned as a teacher through this process?  “As a teacher it’s a great self-reflective practice.  We ask the students to do this, but it’s a very personally validating exercise.  It engages on a whole new level.  I’ve been teaching for 10 years and it feels like I’ve started teaching all over again with a brand new tool.  I really wish I had more time to do it.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 6.59.34 PM What has been most frustrating during this process?  “So far I haven’t gotten the parent response that I was hoping for.  I’m still looking for a way to get exposure to parents of high school students.”

Any advice for newbies to the blogoshpere?  “This might sound silly, but I guess I just did it.  I was inspired by my COETAIL course and I just did it to see how it would go.  I think you just need to start and see where it takes you.”

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“In my mind, I tell my kids everything I mean to say, all these lofty imperatives that I genuinely believe are true: Be amazing.  Believe in yourself.  Go get’em.  Relish opportunities.  Believe. Love. Forgive. Live. Do.  I imagine that the students who write me from beyond the walls of my classroom have heard me say these in-between the lines of my pink, green, purple, never-red-if-I-could-help-it ink marks on their papers.  But… to how many others have I forever ruined the colors pink, green, and purple on top of the red…?” – from Beautiful Mess

Resources for Sharing through Blogs at SIS

Blogging in Edo by Mike Licht on

Blogging in Edo by Mike Licht on

Just as Twitter has become a medium for communication within and beyond the SIS community through #sisrocks, the use of blogs through Share @ SIS is gaining momentum as a platform for students, teachers and administrators to share information, accomplishments, activities and reflections.

One of our recent Learning Bytes sessions focused on customizing blogs based on the creator’s purpose and audience. Creating and maintaining a blog is an on-going process and Edublogs (the platform for our SIS blogs) provides resources to support bloggers from  basic blog layout to more advanced functions. Visit my eCoach blog to see additional resources for the Customizing Your Blog session.

Breaking Down the Walls, Little by Little

Nicki Ruthai presented on our second day of professional learning here at SIS. She has been using Kidblog in her classroom for several years and has found it to be a powerful tool for her students. Here is what she as to say about it.

“I use Kidblog to show case learning in my classroom and as an ePortfolio. What is special about Kidblog is how I am able to connect with other classrooms around the world. It so happens a lot of the schools that I have connected my class with are actually executing some of same exact units and concepts.

“This didn’t happen over night, I used Twitter as well as the hashtag #comments4kids to have students from other schools comment on my learners’ work. My students are actively engaged in their blogs and are always excited to read and view the number of comments they have on their posts. It’s a process, whatever platform you are using, Macbook Pro, PC, or mobile device it is important to set precedents when blogging. I also taught my students how to comment on other students work, whether in my class or another school around the world. I really feel it can be used at all grade levels, it really has made each of my students work personal and authentic. ”

If you have any questions about, feel free to connect with Nicki Ruthai or just visit her Kidblog or class twitter account to view the powers at hand.


Blogging for Transparency

It’s amazing how our lower elementary grade levels here at SIS are making their literacy come to life. Really, it’s such a simple tool, but its effectiveness is beyond anything else and to some extent it has redefined the readers & writers workshop model. By clicking on the image below, a short clip will reveal how many families and friends are contributing to our student’s literacy units here at SIS.

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Personal Management ESLR

Not only is SIS a institution of academics, it also instills expected student learning results (ESLRs). There are five ESLRs that students are to demonstrate effectively through out the year.

  • Communicate effectively
  • Demonstrate personal management
  • Work collaboratively
  • Be a complex thinker
  • Demonstrate global citizenship.

In the clip below, you will find a wonderful demonstration of how grade two students expresses their comprehension of elearning personal management.

 Footage, directed and captured by grade two students.



3rd Grade Countries

3rd grade students @ SIS were given a simple assignment to get facts on their home country and compare it to the current country they live in, China. Click on the picture below to see the learners in actions.