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.


Formative Assessment using Keynote

Good questioning invites further inquiry from students. As a way to formatively assess learners, it also allows teachers to collect information to make inferences, pique curiosity and create new learning opportunities.  Additionally, when teachers make formative assessment an integral part of their lessons, they are able to benefit from a clearer picture of student understanding and then adjust and pivot to make more informed instructional decisions.

This past week Eddie Bywater approached me with an application that seemed to encapsulate this idea but done in real time and without creating the additional work that would usually dissuade a teacher from trying something new. The software is called Poll Everywhere and as an educator and learning innovation coach, I quickly saw the immediate potential a tool like this would have in transforming a teacher’s learning environment.    

In one sentence, the cool thing about this app is that once you create and invite your students the poll, the information collected is automatically embedded and refreshed directly into your keynote presentation in real time giving you immediate results.

For more information see tutorial.

SIS wins '21st Century Learning' School of the year award #21CLHK



We are delighted that Shekou International School (SIS) has been selected as the winner of the 21st Century Learning School of the Year 2014 Award. There were a large number of entries from schools in 15 countries and it is a great commendation to our staff, students and program.

The global judging panel were extremely impressed by our entry and wanted to commend the school on the highly quality of the work they saw including the documentation and the supporting video materials.

Feedback from the judging panel below:

“Very impressive. Loved that the pedagogy is leading the tech infusion. Also that social-emotional aspects of the program are being drawn upon to foster collaboration, networking and thinking. We were impressed with the diversity of learning platforms being used in this school. Consideration of the physical environment and the effect on students and teachers was a valid and important point that does not get addressed. So, we liked the unique but student-centred approach that took the other perspectives into consideration. You are very lucky to have such a talented and inspirational team of teachers in your school. ” ~ 21 Century Learning Awards

Hacking learning spaces

We’re only a month into our new learning spaces and already practical hacks are popping up everywhere.  Check it out.


@NathanLill1 has pushed long tables under the waved bench to create conferring spots for #TCRWP.

TCRWP conferring spot.


@B3CC4BU keeps some whiteboard storage permanently open as accessible shelving / display space.



@andreajarr uses the couch with castors as a focal point.



@C_Tetreault has created a “reset” map so he always has a base configuration to work from



Small, practical modifications can go a long way in influencing how we best use spaces at #SISrocks.





Pushing collaboration to the limit.

At our last professional learning day, we wanted to see if technology could be used to leverage the collective expertise of our entire staff. Check out the challenge we set below and the beautiful reflection from one of our staff members, Rebecca OBrien.

Thanks to Camille Lill, Brittany McCrea & Lisa Beeman for capturing the process.

3 Marks and a ticking clock

by Rebecca OBrien

SO.. why do I love my job? Maybe because it gives me an INSANE amount of stimulation as a human being.. and provides me an opportunity to see the world and my role in it in a new way.

So, if you permit.. Lemme write you a story of my day yesterday. [Please pardon the random, stilted way in which I tell the story…]

Today, during our “professional learning” day [no students], the head of Learning and Technology at our school, John Burns (a cool “outside the box” dude), decides to come out with this challenge (he calls it a “collaborative debate”) for the teachers that he totally made up from nothing. I call this his “brainchild”. He tweeted this after the initial presentation… (@j0hnburns)

There are 90 of us teachers total across two campuses presently sitting in the amphitheater of my school. After John introduces the debate question, “Is technology good for learning?”

A HS science teacher / ‘techie’ named Mark McElroy was delegated the job of dividing us into two groups. He confessed to us, rather than numbering us off, he asked us to  “raise your hand only if the person next to you isn’t raising their hand.” We all looked around, slightly perplexed and confused, as people started to raise their hands for no apparent reason. He said science teachers would understand this exercise, as it is compared to neurons transmitting signals in the body. I was one of them, since no one around me had raised their hands. It worked out perfectly — within ten seconds, every other person had their hand in the air, and those sitting directly next to/near them kept their hands down.

We were then told, in our two respective teams, the ones who had raised their hand would be “PRO” technology in education, and those who hadn’t would be “AGAINST” (or NEGatives). Then, we were explained that each team should be broken down into the following roles for the debate:

The team leaders for each ‘side’ were unexpectedly designated by John (coming from different departments in the school) and the rest of the ‘roles’ (who would do what) would be decided once the groups separated. The other group of “NEG”s left for another space, we stayed behind in the amphitheater…

The challenge? We would have 65 minutes to ‘harvest’ information/reasons and evidence for our argument, a filter to help transmit that information to the writers, a liason that should keep tabs on what everyone was doing, 3 speakers that would have to stand up and present in front of everyone the ideas of the group, 3 production members to record/document the whole process (and publish it), and 3 people working on creating the shared digital platforms (like a shared google .doc, getting everyone’s e-mail, etc.) through which we would communicate and pool our ideas …  and at the end of it all, the school’s team of tech specialists would decide the winning vote.

That was it. Just that. READY?? GO!!!

So, as the other team walked away to gather in another place, someone, somewhere pressed ‘start’ on the timer.

Tick. Tock. Tick… Tock.

My pulse quickened a bit. I thought to myself, “What can I do? Why is everyone just sitting here! LET’S GOO!!!!” I could sense that we were all feeling jittery and on edge as it was still sinking in — this was real.

The team leaders started to assert their ideas, and others asked, who wants to present? (No pressure, right?)

……….Everybody looked at one another, or down at the ground, some were shaking their head or whispering to each other “not me..”

I tentatively suggested that we decide on a common platform, I gave the idea of a padlet. There we can see each other’s ideas pop up instantaneously on the projector screen. Liz, one of our leaders, suggested a ‘live’ google doc, where we can brainstorm our ideas in real-time on a spreadsheet. But still — in many people’s mind, the question remained: Who will speak for us? (I mean, it is an oral debate.. after all.)

I started to realize though, maybe, just maybe, the speaker would actually end up having the least amount of work! In theory, the writers and harvesters had to do all the groundwork and “labor”; the speaker would simply have to articulate the ideas to the crowd.

‘Hey! .. I could do that!’ some small voice echoed from the back of my mind. (Especially if that meant not having to sit on my computer for an hour and read boring articles online arguing for some arbitrary, abstract argument that I’d already decided my opinion on.) I was always chosen to be the narrator of school plays in elementary school.. maybe this is why.

..BUT I was still scared. I mean, speak in front of the whole staff??

I looked around, back and see my jolly Wisconian PE teacher named “Knudy” (short for Mark Knudsen, @PhysEdDude). If anyone could speak, it would be him, too!  I pointed back at him smirking slyly and suggested, “Hey Mark! You should present!!” (BTW – He has a massive presence, booming voice, and light sense of humor.) He just looked back with wide eyes, silently beckoning me to stop by shaking his head. I was laughing to myself when suddenly I heard three people say my name to the side– I jerked my head in their direction and then immediately slouched further in my seat. (Karma’s something else, ain’t it?)

Still, that first idea persisted in my mind and I decided it may just be the only route; I mean, I love to talk.. and I’m proud of my abilities to articulate myself and basically, …I’m a clown. I look around as the silence starts to get awkward — still no takers. My hand just shot up as I was determined to convince myself that this would be the easy way out. I spoke questioningly aloud, “I mean, in the end you guys would have to write what I would say, right? …Ok, I’ll do it.” A slight applause went through the crowd, most likely relief. I looked back at Mark and encouraged him silently… “C’mon, let’s do this!!”

So in the end, Mark and another Mark were chosen as to be my partners in crime. One boisterous and laid back, the other of the most refined British accent and put-together demeanor around. A true alliance. While the other roles were being decided and the platform being constructed, I felt useless. So I went to map out the roles on a dry erase board (that’s the ex-sign maker from Trader Joe’s in me) and put names up next to the circles.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

As they started to pool together ideas of pro’s and con’s of technology in learning, I joined with the writers and other speakers and we got a shared google .doc started to write out our script for the debate. We had to come up with an angle.. were we gonna slam the other team, or acknowledge their points and take the higher road? We were undecided, but in the end conceded to our leader Nathan that we should say this argument was over before it started. Technology exists, so whether it’s good or not is irrelevant.

I laid out the main points a the top of the document, and helped clarify we should each take one of the main points and run with it in our respective speakers. Oh wait! We were missing a writer!!

I started taking notes of everyone’s thoughts, and in the end we all constructed our own arguments. We didn’t have access to the information being gathered by everyone else until the last 10 minutes before the debate, and my writer was trying to get me to focus on some arguments I didn’t see as too powerful. I would be the introduction to our argument.

As some people tried to come up and give suggestions, I noticed how people were talking over one another, and it was like invisible threads were being weaved together as “You do this, I do this.” Delegation and cooperation was key — don’t lose focus. Any questions go to the leader. Any clarifications go to the liaisons, who at some points seemed a bit lost in the shuffle between harvesters and writers.

Finally, it was time. I didn’t want to get up from my table, and my writers were telling them to wait for me. “She needs time!” they whispered to our leader Liz; I felt shielded from the pressuring complaints and was allowed a few more precious moments for watering down my ideas. I didn’t even get time to support my main point with research that the harvesters had worked so hard to prepare!

Ok, ok.. the other team was waiting. This was it. The Marks and I lined up and sat down at a table in front of all the staff. My adrenaline was pumping, as I personally was still feeling a bit unprepared but ready for a fun fight with a smile on my face.  I clapped myself into an enthusiastic state. My writers were tweaking details on the google .doc as I carried my computer up to the podium. I was glad to know they were there with me, on the inside.

As I began reading my introduction, “What is learning?” a ringing buzzer sounded.  Everyone started to laugh and I felt the tension dissolve into the corners of the room. “Great anti-climax, haha!” I joked silently to myself. I pretended to head back to my seat, for a second, as if my speech was done, and the crowd started to applaud in jovial encore. John Burns put his hand up in the air as he chuckled to himself and fumbled to set his phone to silent again for the next 120 seconds.

As I read through my speech, concentrating on my screen, I tried to keep it simple…natural, and honest. However, halfway through reading, my brow started to crease as the internal clock in me told me time was flying. I wasn’t going to finish on time… I could feel it in my stomach as my eyes glanced at the several notes still left to explain. I also felt like I was losing my train of thought, as the arguments my writer gave me didn’t seem to fit with my original approach. So I decided to jump down my last concluding lines, not remembering which was to be said later on by our 3rd speaker, so I managed to get out the phrase “This debate is over already. Why? Technology exists, so whether —”


Just a few words before finishing the high pitch ring mingled with my words. I re-spoke even louder: “…So whether it’s good or not is a moot point!!”

An enthusiastic applause billowed up from my team and bounced off of the ceiling.  I let out a long  breath of air, “Whewwww..” and retreated back to my seat. While it was a bit abstract and philosophical, my argument was at least well-timed!

As the debate carried forward, the other team introduced arguments about how technology hurts children, and our team kept our argument in the clouds… Mark #1 did well to build off of Meaghan’s provocations, and Mark #2 smoothed out some concluding words, but the ringer interrupted them as well. All of us went slightly over time… but so did the other team.

In the end, the other team was declared a winner, but it was an awesome experiment… to see 90 people working as one live organism of thought.. using technology and pooling our strengths, abilities and creativity into a 6 minute argument spoken from three mouths.

After my speech, I looked around during the debate and realized from the very beginning, the personalities and characters of my co-workers shone through in every moment. The outspoken sitting at the tables, me being one of them. Nathan (@NathanLill1) who is a word-smithing, poetry-slamming genius that loves green tea became the thread that weaved our thoughts into an articulate framework of ideas at the head writing/speaking table. Liz (@cho_liz) directed the harvesters into organized rows and made lists of data and background knowledge into a fitting table to buttress our lofty ideas and approach. We became a self-selected, intertwined, electric cloud of thoughts and information that wiggled it’s way into a coherent personality in the minds of our audience.. I’m sure it was fascinating (entertaining, as well) to watch, and even more mind-blowing to experience hands on.

I am definitely working at the right place, having fun and being challenged as a person. Yet another reason why #SISrocks and I’m feeling lucky to be here on a daily basis.


Rebecca (@b3cc4bu)

PS – For being at work on a National holiday, this is one of the coolest activities we could’ve done. It was a good time for all! Though definitely not out of the ordinary. (Sorry though that no one recorded the actual debate.. it was pretty hilarious.)

PPS – If you need a visual to go with, this is my groups quick short video documenting our process in preparing for the debate.

Not another iMovie

There are so many ways to have your students showcase their learning through the iPad. One particular summative project is to have your students film their learning. Miss Lauder has been having her students do this particular process, but has a twist on how it can be more relevant to your students’ learning.
“In the past I typically steered my students summative project to showcase their learning by making a quick film clip that I and / or their peers could watch in class. Whether it was myself assessing their film or peers, the learning that they captured was the same. This process soon became very bland, so I decided to infuse students’ summative assessment projects with empathy and design to get better overall showcasing of learning. 
Students were put into groups and given a biomolecule (carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, vitamins and minerals, proteins) to study. Once in their groups they researched their biomolecule and followed the rubric to finalize their film. This can easily be integrated in your classroom, where the focus is researching a topic to meet a specific standard or even a topic that the students want to learn themselves.” 

Calculating my Future

Making learning relevant in Sarah Qavi’s room. “Its really easy” 😉

What is an everyday math objective that your students must meet?
They have to apply themselves and I feel I give them enough reason and relevant content that they want to learn the current standard.
How do you differentiate instruction for your learners?
It’s really easy. I do a flip classroom, mainly  through Educreations, depending on content, I also use Khan Academy. The students watch the lesson at home, the following day they come back to class and apply their learning.  
During every math class I set up stations, they are typically the following:
Art station- art of math ~ graphical representation.  
Technology station – math and technology – i.e. Google Earth for coordinates. 
Consultation station – 1v1 facilitated with me to check for understanding
Game situation station – games, cards, board games and dice.  
Application station – time to implement their learning into a project. 
Complex thinking station – This is for students who show exemplary standard of that particular math strand we are currently working on.
How do you assess your students?
During my consultation station, I am able to assess where my students are in the current math unit. From there I can keep them or have them stay longer with me for further coaching. Those that move on, apply their learning to the application station.
How do you make this relevant and have your students autonomously apply themselves to learn specific math standards?
There are plenty of resources online to make mathematics relevant… but is it really relevant. To me that answer is no because it depends on location, meaning, in what city are you currently teaching your students? The reason is, I teach at an international school, I am exposed to traveling to many countries, eating a variety of foods and use many different currencies. I easily apply what I go through on an everyday basis and on holiday with the math standard I teach in class. This is what makes learning math relevant to my students because they too are going through the same experiences. With obvious different twist, this could be applied to any subject.
What are examples of this in your classroom?
The system of math, in particular systems of equations and inequalities. I applied this to budgeting a trip. All my students travel so this easily resinates with them.
Another example that I have students meet the standard of percents, mark ups, simple interest, compound interest and rates. The summative assessment I give my students to complete is a project called “University, managing finances.” The project is completely directed at them in regards to what university they currently see themselves attending and living on their own after they graduate high school. As mention before, project requires the students to apply percents, mark ups, simple interest, compound internets and rates. I receive a lot of positive parent feed back on this project because it’s an easy talking piece at home that both parent and child can have a constructive conversation about.
Resources:      University Project           Student’s Project