…be aware and don’t overlook the obvious because there is a message you send out

This week the LI team had the pleasure of speaking to Alice Cheung, a grade 2 teacher at Parkside.

She recently revamped the workspaces in her room to give her students more agency and enhance their learning.

Alice had been thinking about this change for a while, but finally took the plunge (being a risk taker) and decided to make the change.

Let’s get into her responses.

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

I wanted my students to be aware of what type of learner they are choosing to be.

This starts with them understanding their needs as a learner and making a decision which bests supports that.

For example, if you learn better in a quiet space, then maybe a communal space is not the best place to complete your work.

Now in order for this to happen, I needed to open up my classroom and allow for different seating arrangements and spaces.

Although the change was meant to enhance the students’ learning, it also gave me a deeper insight into how each student learns best and allowed me to address any needs they might have.

I would never have known this if my classroom set-up stayed the same with just tables.

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

There were three main skills I wanted them to gain through this process.

Frist, cooperation. Students would have to choose a learning space and if it was taken, they would have to use their cooperation skills to work it out.

Second, communication. This incorporates both audio and non-audio forms.

For example, if they were sitting in a group, they need to be aware of their body positions and identify which position would allow them to listen and talk to their peers.

Additionally, different forms of communication for different scenarios. Sitting at a desk by yourself or sitting in a group will require different forms of communication.

Lastly, self-management. This is crucial when students have to make a decision when sharing spaces. From materials to where to work, each student has to be aware and manage how to work in the new spaces.

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

My old room was very teacher-centric.

It sent a message where the teacher would write on the board. Material would be taught with a projector, and document camera.

Additionally, the front of the room is where the teacher put things for students to read and find.

The crazy thing is I never said any of this, but this is the message I was sending.

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

Well, I always admired teachers who let kids choose their own seats or workplaces, typically in older years.

So I thought how could I incorporate this same idea into grade 2.

I actually tried this gradually in previous years where groups could choose, but it never worked out.

Then I attended a workshop at EARCOS named Positive Learning Environments and it was the tipping point for me.

Instead of staying in my comfort zone I pushed through and decided to go all in and say YES!

The workshop provided pictures and the inspiration necessary for me to have the courage to implement these changes in my class.

It was the like the first domino in a line which finally fell, thus causing the others to fall as well.

Now that I think about it, this is similar to how I decided to change my approach to teaching math.

I had heard a lot on blogs and social media, but I did not make “The Decision” to change until a consultant (math) came in and showed the staff how we could do it!

The key I am seeing is both the workshop and consultant helped me overcome my uncertainties and take a chance.

Both started out mainly as curiosity, but the process in each made me reflect and analyze WHY I was teaching the way I was.

The presenter (EARCOS) started out with a simple question, which actually helps me decided to take the chance.

What message does your classroom send?

For me I realized my room was telling my students the teacher has a spot, students have a spot, and we all learn in one space (front of the room).

This made me think how I could step out of the “Ms. Cheung” role and see it from the students perspective.

(The dominoes start to fall…)

This lead me to think about the equity between the teacher and student, which led me to the conclusion

I don’t think there should be a front of the room

(Next one…)

Then, I started to think how we could leverage every space in the room, not just the front of the room.

I was so excited and sent a message to some colleagues on a Saturday and asked them if we could meet once we got back from the conference. I was so excited to start!

It took a couple of conversation, but I decided to start small.

First, I decided to open up the middle of my room (dominated by two large tables) and make it more a communal and interactive space.

This made me re-think the use of traditional furniture and how they are used. For example, I took the legs off the periodic tables and placed them on the ground so four students could easily fit around the table (this also saved a lot of room).

What was the result?

Well, there were two benefits right away.

One, everything became communal, thus allowing learning to happen in all areas of the room.

Two, children were given agency and able to choose the learning space which best suited their learning.

(The dominoes keep falling…)

Next, I invited students to come up to the front of the room (previously all filled with my work) and engage with a “Wonderwall.”

The key was I made it at their level, which made it easy to ask questions and show their thinking visible.

Overall the whole experience of changing my room has been great and the biggest impact has been on the students!

They love the new space and it has opened up a lot of different learning possibilities.


(BONUS Advice)

Like I said, I did not intend to send out a message to my students that everything was centered around the teacher.

Thus, be aware and don’t overlook the obvious because there is a message you send out, even without you intending to be.


Fiona Zinn – EARCOS Workshop Leader

Article: Putting Structure within the Space

John Burns -Satisfying a Need in your classroom

Ms. Cheung

“What it does is allow students to begin making connections”








Happy Tuesday #sisrocks!  This week we are highlighting Rosana Walsh from our Bayside campus. Rosana was nominated for all the knowledge, energy, and support she brings to creating a more inclusive environment for her students. 

What did you want your students to know or understand?

The lessons that I am thinking about are tied to our first unit in seventh grade, which is modern identity.  Students have a choice of two novels, one is called among the hidden, which is really about identity because its about a child who shouldn’t be there. And what it does is allow students to begin making connections into things like the one child policy in China. There’s a lot of inferences you can get out of the story: Why is this child treated like this…? The other book is called Flying Solo and it is about a class that runs itself on a day when it is not supposed to when the substitute doesn’t show up – What’s interesting is that as the story unfolds all the personalities come out. I wanted these kids to know that they could get the same  kind of understanding from these two very different books about how we can identify character traits and personalities and how they develop – and often it has a lot to do with studying our backgrounds. – what do we bring. One of the big words for modern identity is perspective.

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

Really what I wanted them to know is that we are unique and often people see us from different perspectives.  Its a unit that builds empathy.

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

If I go back to the books that we are focused on right now.  In previous years, they’ve read the bookend have done reading responses but we’ve had a shift in student demographics so we now have students coming into seventh grade who are various reading levels – they may be seventh grade level in their own languages. Now we are looking at books that are dual languages, which is why Flying Solo was introduced last year. And to teach it differently, we had teachers take chapter and read so that now students have an audio piece to go along with the text.  

4. How did you problem-sol come up with this new method for this lesson? 

In terms of problem solving, we keep finding different solutions for student who need a lot more support … for example, this year we began using curiosity catalysts, which are really just visuals that matched the title of each chapter but they’re really fun and they are an excellent prompt fo getting the kids to discuss what they see in that image. Whats significant about it? How do you think its attached to this story? This allows kids to warm up to the chapter before we, as a class, read loud.  It’s a shared, interactive, talk through of the chapter. 

We were able to learn far more about our students and create stronger bonds…

This week we had the pleasure of speaking to the Grade 4 team about the School Without Walls project (SWW).

What is SWW?

SWW = traversing the Shenzhen metro, visiting the wet market, buying lunch on a budget, a spaghetti design challenge, movies, late night dodge…all infused with the ESLRs.

Or in more simple terms, it is when kids get to have fun without their parents…and learn how to build trust, teamwork, collaboration, and build community through a non-traditional classroom experience.

Lastly, it is a prep to help students prepare for the Grade 5 overnight trip.

Without further ado, here are their answers.

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

We wanted them to understand two main things.

First, you are able to work with other people in new ways. It is possible and we actually created activities where they did not work with their friends.

This allowed students to get to know each other in different ways – field trip to wet market, design challenges, athletic games – in activities where you don’t  have the time or opportunity to hit in the academic classroom.

Second, to push past their comfort zone. Again, we put students in positions to make new connections. For some of them, it was their first overnight experience.

A bonus we did not see, was that all of us (Ts) were able to learn far more about our students and create stronger bonds with them.

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


Collaboration – Learn to collaborate with new people to solve various challenges, whether academic, athletic, or social.

Communication – Communicate effectively to learn more about others and facilitate the problem-solving process.

Critical thinking – Analyze and synthesize information to make a plan and carry it out. For example, how to eat on a budget or how to get from point A to point B using the metro (first time for many of them).

Confidence – Ability to be put into new situations and use their knowledge to adapt and figure it out. Like we said, some of them had never been on an overnight experience.

Independent Learner – Learn to do things on their own. Pack their own bag, roll out own sleeping bag, track belongings.

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

Usually, we relied heavily on a company to do most of the work. We were very Hands off.


It would be mainly focused on having fun. For example, we would have a “Lock-in, Movie night.”

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

The best things are homegrown, so that is what we did, we catered to our students’ needs and created an experience we knew they would one, enjoy, but two, gain the opportunity to learn and grow.

We wanted the focus to be more on team building and the academics (while still be fun!).

In terms of planning, we did it incrementally. We already planned on a weekly basis, so we built in time a few weeks out to chunk it out.

Luckily, we work well as a team and are able to adjust on the fly – trust each other. This actually made the activities more meaningful, as we could pivot on the fly.

Now, let us tell you it was not all rainbows and roses. There were challenges (a lot).

Someone, once said you don’t know what you do not know until you do it.

That was spot on for us, as we got a little stressed as we did not know who does what.

Do we ask parents to purchase things, what about catering…and so much more.

The biggest thing was the logistics and the scope of responsibilities widened as we got closer to the event.

Yet, it all was completed and the success was abundantly evident.

Every student left with a smile on their face, and this was after minimal sleep the night before.

In addition, we were able to see some of the students blossom due to be given an opportunity to show their strengths in a new setting.

Lastly, all the students were “indoctrinated on how overnight school trips are AWESOME.”

This will help then next year and build anticipation for their overnight Grade 5 trip!

(Everyone sighs…)

BUT…We are already thinking of improvements for next year.

First, building in concentrated time to plan. Again, the logistics of SWW took a lot more than we expected.

Second, taking student suggestions into account, giving them agency to help plan.

Third, how we can utilize Shenzhen better. Although we went to the wet market and other locations, we would like to leverage our local community.


Nom, nom catering – kids liked it

Grade 4 Team – contact them if you are planning an overnight experience.

OneNote Tips: Syncing

A OneNote Notebook is a bit like a whole website in a notebook. That’s great. It means it’s packed with a variety of content like text, photos and video but when one syncs a notebook it checking every page on a website for changes and downloading all the pages at once. That can take a while. Here are some tips to make it less painful.

If a notebook is slow to sync or appears to not be syncing at all there are three systems that could be causing the problem:

  1. Microsoft’s servers
  2. Your internet connection
  3. Your device–your iPad or laptop.

Microsoft’s Servers

Occasionally Microsoft does have problems with their servers and systems but it’s not common and there’s nothing you can do about it so we’re  going to focus on to the other systems that might be causing your syncing problems.

Your Internet Connection

  • Do you have an internet connection? Open a web browser and see if you can connect to other websites. If you can connect, how fast are they?
  • If you’re at home, is someone else in the house playing online games, streaming movies or music? In other words, are they hogging all the bandwidth? If so, ask them to pause what they’re doing and see if it helps.

Your Device

  • Quit unnecessary programs and close unnecessary apps. If you have a bunch of tabs open they are probably using your bandwidth even when you aren’t using them. If you’re in the habit of keeping a bunch of tabs open you might consider using a browser add-in like OneTab. (This tip is for laptop users running Chrome or Firefox.)
  • Restart your device. As we move around from school, to home or to restaurants our devices get “clogged up” with all the network settings. Restarting your device can help. It gives your iPad/laptop a fresh start.
  • “Close” old notebooks you’re not currently using. “Closing” notebooks doesn’t delete them. They stay in your OneDrive or your teacher’s OneDrive if it’s a class notebook. “Closing” a notebook means OneNote won’t try to sync notebooks it doesn’t need to.

One More Thing

If you’re adding content to a OneNote notebook, think about the size of what you’re adding. Text is fine but think about the size of the photos and other files you’re adding.

  • Re-size photos in apps like Preview or Photos before you add them. It will speed up syncing and the images will still look good on screens.
  • Rather than putting pdf’s or other docs in the notebook, put them in OneDrive and add a link to the notebook. That way people only have to download the file when they need it.
  • If you’re in a class trying to sync your notebook with 20+ other people, it’s going to be slow. Move somewhere so you’re using a different wireless access point. As a student you might sync your notebooks when you first get to school. That way they’ll be up to date and ready to go when you get to class.

I wanted to plant this seed with them at this early stage

This week we had the pleasure of talking to Patrick Magnus, an ELL instructor for the French Bilingual Program.

He created an amazing authentic learning project which combined literacy, mathematics, gamification, and entrepreneurism and solved a huge need for tired teachers in the morning.

Without further ado here are his responses.

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

The main idea I wanted the students to understand was that money is a finite resource and it must be managed properly.

The process of learning how to accept, track, and buy supplies is powerful for them to have when they become young adults and I wanted to at least plant this seed with them at this early stage.

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

There were two main goals.

For literacy, it was the acquisition and authentic use of vocabulary involved in the basic business and finance.

Additionally, I wanted them to be able to use dialogue in text and use proper punctuation within it.

For mathematics, I wanted them to be able to read, analyze, and use graphs to measure growth and then communicate their findings.

A basic skill, but very powerful for their future.

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

To be honest, this is the first time I have taught it (overachiever) …

Yet there are already things I would like to change for the future. For example, we waited until the scripts for the commercials were perfect, but this took a lot of time.

However, when we shot the commercials, the scripts didn’t match the message we wanted.

Thus, we had to start over.

Huge learning!

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

I actually started with the WIDA teacher resource.

It gave me the following:


Like I mentioned above, I wanted the students to gain a mastery over financial terms, so that is where I started.

This got me thinking about how I could actually bring this to life.

So I created a provocation in the form of a narrative (connection to the previous lesson) about the script of the “Two Cats’ Business” which mixed the vocab from the current unit in a story which described getting a loan from a “shadowy figure” as their business was not making money.

The goal was for the students to think of how they could help the Two Cats’ so they could make a profit and pay off the loan.

Of course, the end prize was the “The Glasses of Coolville” (who made anyone who wore them 100% cool).

I found they actually had a lot of difficulty with it in the beginning, so I reached out to the Grade 4 team to see how I might “gamify” the vocab.

This led me to Classcraft, where I made challenges based on vocab exercises.

The students really liked the “Boss battle” which assessed their knowledge of vocab, but they had the opportunity to collaborate and learn other ways to study the vocab. This helped them gain confidence.

Next, I did some gentle nudging and asked how they could use this vocab in the real world (Patrick raises his hand with a fake mug to his mouth)

Thus “The Activator” and “The Cool Coffee FBP” delivery businesses were born.

The students took on all the roles of both creating and running a coffee delivery business where they did everything – logo creation, writing commercial scripts, recording commercials, marketing, management, and customer fulfillment.

Business is booming, and the students are in the black (profit).

Patrick said he would have liked them already breaking down the charts and graphs, but this will come at the end of the delivery phase, as there are so many other things to be done to “run the business” right now.

Lacking some energy in the morning?

Reach out to the Grade 4-5 FBP classes if you need a “cup of joe” to add a pep in your step!



WIDA – Reading charts

Common Core Standards

One way we can make our community more inclusive is to turn that idea upside down and help get rid of the labels.

Hello #SISRocks ! This week on Teachers of SIS, we are pleased to have Learning Support Specialists Erin Madonna and Vivian Wu. Erin and Vivian walked me through their roles, the targeted support they provode to students and the consultative coaching they offer to teachers. Read the full interview below.









Can you talk about what you want us (as teachers but also the wider community) to know and understand about what you do ?

(Erin) When you think about our positions our jobs…the reason that we are here is because our community is trying to become more inclusive of diversity … so we are trying to meet the needs of diverse learners. Additionally, when you think of what learning support is it gets a little muddy. We often think of students who struggle. But learning support really is more about meeting the needs of students who have identified learning needs versus students who are just six months delayed or are struggling in a certain area … because students just struggle in that area.

So I think really try provide targeted support to kiddos who have identified neurological needs, behavioral, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorders, social communication delays… things along those lines …

(Vivian) From my perspective, we tend to students with diverse needs. Knowing that teachers need to tend to these students, TAs run small groups. We also work with and provide students with individualized strategies and tools so that they can be successful.

(Erin) I’m glad you brought that up because that is another important part of our role … because we have such a small team, I think a major part of our role is that consultative coaching of teachers.

What skills did you want your students to gain?

So everyone will struggle at some point. We all have things that we’re better at and things that we struggle with but when a student has an identified need (and lots of times it’s brain based) there is an cognitive obstacle that they can’t past without extra scaffolding and support or material presented in a different way.

And that will not change for that student no matter how hard they are trying. So that’s a really clear indicator that its not just a “okay, I need a little more time…” and a little extra support but more a case of real road blocks that despite herculean efforts they will not get past.

A lot of the times it comes down to executive functioning skills, so things like self organization or self regulation within the classroom

(Vivian) Some targeted interventions we put in place for students with those needs include checklists with students, self-monitoring, making sure they understand the goal of an activity, our my eyes on the speaker, basic utilization of checklists.

(Erin) We do,, with students who have social communication delays, we’ll do social stories…so we’ll do targeted intervention where we will pull the student out of classroom and we’ll sit with them and read stories that highlight pro social skills. An example might be “If I am in a classroom and I want the teacher’s attention how do I get that …” So it’ll be a story that we create for that student to help the learn those pro social behaviors.

(Vivian) Another big area that we work on is our inclusive community so that students don’t feel ashamed or that they are different.

(Erin) Something that happens a lot (with fine motor needs, for example) is … when we have kids who utilizing things like pencil grips or they get silly putty because of hyperactivity in the classroom and they something to channel that energy…., we have kids who will stop by our office and ask if they can have that too..? Its funny and different for every kids … but it’s also a good clarifying point for our community because a lot of the times because we do pull kids out of them room and have them meet with us outside of the classroom..That said, we have this concept of inclusion being this “push-in” model where they should stay in the classroom and be in the classroom all the time but the background impact of that (for the student with the differences) is that often and emotionally that injures them – “I’m that kid that Ms. Madonna is coming to see again” And we’ve had kids very clearly tell us that they don’t like that but when they come into a safe space where their peers aren’t watching them get this remedy l support that feels better. That’s not every kid – some kids aren’t phased when we come in but that “pull out” support often times is there to protect their self confidence.

Can speak about teacher responsibility and classroom culture ?

As the adults in the building, we have to really shift our thinking away from a deficit model to a strength-based approach – yes you’re building on the strengths of that individual with differences but it also can come in the form of how the class views that person. How the teacher sets up their classroom can shift the idea away from oh you’re the kid that always acts out to you have the most creative mind of any of us , can you be the one leading us in this …. Additionally, lots of times we will pull in peers who are high performing in order to mix up those groups so that the other kids can rethink their preconceived notions that Ms. Madonna only helps the bad kids or the dumb kids, etc … basically the kids who can’t. So again, as the adults, I think one way we can make our community more inclusive is to turn that idea upside down and help get rid of the labels.


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Also our inclusive posters thorughout Mountainside & Parkside campuses.

We did not want it just to be about fundraising, we wanted the unit to “stick.”

What do you get when you combine student agency, math, literacy, social studies, art, design cycle, social-emotional curriculum, cross-divisional collaboration, and parent engagement?

The Quilt Makers Gift Project! An amazing interdisciplinary learning experience for grade 1 students.

This week I had the pleasure of learning more about this amazing, impactful, and intentional project from Ria, Lisa, Linda, Shannon, and Ritu.

The project has been ongoing for the past two years, but it all started from a lesson in Geometry connecting how to make quilts using shapes. However, it has transformed into a unit which encompasses all the elements listed above and continues to grow.

Without further ado here are their responses.

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

Academically, we wanted them to see a real-life application of Geometry in the real world.

Additionally, for them to understand how they can use what they know in order to take action to feel empowered to impact the world they live in.

Lastly, we wanted them to understand three central themes from a socio-emotional curriculum which are empathy, connection, and gratitude.

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

We wanted students to improve their communication skills, more specifically how to find their voice and how to express their opinions to others.

Furthermore, the ability to use the design cycle to make a plan, iterate and carry it out.

Finally, the idea to be being open-minded through the process and to foster a “can do attitude” where they believed they can make big changes.

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

In its simplest form, we taught students how to compose and decompose 2D figures, and we just started with just paper.

They would still make the quilts, but each kid contributed a square and this where it would end.

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


This spurred the question,

“How can we extend this unit?”

First, we extended the unit by connecting to a story about a woman who makes quilts for other people who really wants them. She makes one for a King, who earns a piece of the quilt each time he gives away a possession of his. By the end of the story he has no worldly possessions but is fulfilled and happy as he has a full quilt.

It was great, but then this lead to us asking more questions like,

“Who can we reach out to who might be able to make a quilt?”

Enter Ah Huang. She was a cleaner at the time we first started but also a seamstress who actually helped make the quilt.

More discussions and brainstorming sessions lead to connecting with Rosana Walsh in the Middle School. She facilitates the “Hats on Heads” project, where she went to Amman to give hats to refugee children, but also took the quilts the grade 1 students created. Rosana shared the story in Jordan, took pics with refugees, and came back and presented an age-appropriate keynote to the students on the impact of quilts they made.

It did not stop there, as an ex-SIS student who moved to HKIS, carried on the project and worked with his parents to take him to Amman to give another round of hats and quilts to the refugees.

He also took pictures and brought them back to share with grade 1 students. They actually watched the presentation of the trip about the refugees during pajama day with blankets. This was super relevant as the refugee children were in the cold, and the grade 1 students could see their quilts were being used.

This then prompted connections within Social Studies on how are we similar and different. Students learned more about Syria through games, foods, and sharing of cultures.

We wanted to highlight it was not just about giving but receiving as well. A main focus was on service, but we emphasized they could learn from the process as well. Also, tying in what it means to be a “global citizen.”

We did not want it just to be about charity or fundraising, we wanted the unit to “stick.”

This prompted us to make a change the following year where grade 1 students had to find ways to raise money for materials and sewing of the quilts.

Each student had to earn 25 RMB by completing five days of work. The money would pay for all labor and supplies. The crazy thing is many are surpassing the 25 RMB quota and actually earning much more. This showed the students were very invested in this project.

Worked ranged from playing musical instruments, bus games, making food and then selling, or selling clothes.

It has taken a lot of time and planning to make this project, but we wanted it to be intentional and give students agency through the process.

A huge part of this has been the home link, which only reinforces the importance of the project. The parents have been super supportive and are really pleased with how their children are taking part in such a meaningful project and are asking how they can do more.

Like we said, it has been a little different each year, some years a person goes to the refugee camps, while other years we look at how we can impact someone in the local community.

Additionally, we are looking at how we can incorporate art, understanding of materials and colors.

The possibilities are endless!


Any questions about service learning please visit or email anyone on the Grade 1 team.

The Quilt Maker – A book on service learning.

“The counseling program is all about empowering students to choose for themselves”








Hello #SISRocks ! This week on Teachers of SIS, we are happy to be highlighting Elementary Counselor Dallin Bywater. Dallin walked me through elements of the counseling program and how he empowers and builds confidence in our students.

Here are his responses to the questions:

What did you want your students to know or understand?

What I would really like my student to know and understand is that as a person they’re worthwhile human being who should be respected. And that … each one of them have talents and abilities whether they know about them now or not. And that they can learn more about themselves and use what they learn to benefit their life and those around them.

So part of it, I think, is about empowerment.

The counseling program is all about empowering students to choose for themselves, to make healthy choices, and to make choices that they’re happy with. And if they’re not happy with them, at be least okay with and know that they can change if they’d like to and make improvements in themselves.

So, if there’s one thing I want them to understand it’s their worth as individuals an that that idea comes from them, from within and not from other people.

What skills did you want your students to gain?

Some of the skills are about leaning how to be self aware, learning to notice how they react to certain situations, learning about how they feel and knowing what makes them feel good / bad about themselves – what they’re angry about as well as what they’re passionate about.

Also, equipping students with ways to manage those emotions that we all have. Going back to the first question, all these emotions that we have are a normal part of being human. And being angry, jealous or upset is not a bad thing – It’s part of who we are. And it’s more about how we manage those emotions in a way that allows them to do things that are in line with their values.

How did you teach this lesson in the past?

For them to really learn these skills / awareness they need to see it in action – they need to see it in adults. With that, I really try to find as many contexts where the students see me managing my own feelings, having hard conversations with people but also being clear in my communication with them. Essentially reinforcing the ideas / attributes they are learning about in school.

Also, just the fact that they have a model allows them to think of what they want to be – its not us telling them that “you’re going to do this because you’re good at x…” That’s something that they’re going to come up with as they learn about themselves and gain confidence with the skills we’re teaching.

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

As I was thinking about this I didn’t really see much of it as new methods…but more so as applying things that we already know…For example, we know that children learn by seeing and doing. So, whether it be role-playing in the classroom, showing them videos that model appropriate behaviors or even better real time interactions with you, they’re seeing you treat them with respect and they see that you’re actually listening to what they saying – these are the teaching moments that register and stay with the children.

I guess it not so much new methods but really being mindful of what we know and that it is okay to say “ maybe I could have done that a little differently” so that they see it in action.

By losing the fear of failure we build a learning community where students can comfortably be themselves  

This week we had the pleasure of connecting with Charles Denson, a third-grade teacher at Parkside campus.

Charles was nominated for the academic and behavioral reflection process that he does with his students.

In the words of his peers Charles is:

“He does great reflection with his students and puts in time after class to make sure his students’ work is read and has feedback. Second, he does great work with his behavior management. He uses forms for the kids to reflect on behavior and he is consistent with keeping them on the right track. He’s a great teacher and should be recognized!”

So let’s jump right in and learn more about Charles.

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

From a behavioral or class agreements perspective, I want my kids to know and understand the importance and benefits of being thoughtful.

Our students work hard at embracing the idea that we are either winning or learning and that mistakes help us learn.

By losing the fear of failure we build a learning community where students can comfortably be themselves while learning in an enjoyable environment.

To start the year I teach a series of games that encourage risk-taking and mistake making.  We revisit these games throughout the year as an icebreaker before our weekly class meetings.

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

I wanted my students to build their independent learning skills by taking academic risks and self-monitoring their behavior & academic progress.

When class expectations are breached we go through a reflection process that includes four questions:

A) what are our expectations,

B) why do we have those expectations,

C) what will you do differently next time and

D) is there anything you would like me to know.

This process empowers the kids to take responsibility for both their actions and finding ways to keep growing as a member of our team.

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

In the past, I struggled with keeping up with student learning data.  I would struggle to remember who turned in what, how well they did, which objectives they are meeting and which objectives they need practice with.

This confusion made it more difficult for me to follow up with my students’ self-selected goals and progress.

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

In the past, I did not have a clearly defined system in place.

Through talking with collogues and combining the best ideas from numerous places, I’ve come up with an easy system to chart student progress.

I simply print a chart with my students’ names and a blank space for our learning objectives.  I mark their level of proficiency using three levels of student-friendly language:

wow, getting there, and not yet

This allows me to monitor progress, give quick feedback to students, co-teachers, and parents.

This learning objective chart also makes it easy to make partners or learning groups and to consistently follow up with student progress.

This organization helps keep the kids accountable and celebrate their victories.


Reach out to Charles at cdenson@sis.org.cn for his

Learning objective page and Student Reflection Templates.