Innovation, Learning

Weekend Reading: Rubrics, Red Lanterns, and Redesigning Math


Here is a round-up of three interesting articles to enjoy over coffee this weekend:


Grant Wiggins provides some really interesting insights into rubrics in his article How To Use A Rubric Without Stifling Creativity. Firstly, Wiggins reminds us what a rubric does:

It summarizes what a range of concrete works looks like as reflections of a complex performance goal.

He goes on to describe the process in which a rubric is best created and the importance of strong anchor papers or exemplars that illustrate the key points of a rubric. It really is a fascinating article. I have read it three or four times already and each time I am getting new things from it. We are in the process of examining the language arts scope and sequence at our school and will be thinking about the use of rubrics and exemplars in our classroom practice. This will be an article I will definitely be referring back to as I continue to synthesise my thinking on this topic.

Red Lanterns

My hero, Seth Godin, wrote recently on the Red Lantern and, with many schools beginning a new academic year, encourages us to think of employing a ‘red lantern’ philosophy in our classrooms, lecture halls, and institutions. He encourages us to “celebrate the Red Lantern winners” – essentially, applauding and encouraging those who finish last but with massive amounts of gusto, determination and drive.

He concludes his post with a challenge to educators everywhere:

How do we celebrate the Red Lantern winners instead?

What are you doing for those in your class who continually push themselves without giving up?

Redesigning Math

I am a huge advocate of the Khan Academy. What I want to work on in order to supplement my use of this phenomenal resource, is a map of PBL – Problem Based Learning – math tasks. I take my hat off to the incredible amount of work done by Geoff Krall in combing the internet and his own brain for ideas for such an approach in middle and high school math classes. His blog, Emergent Math, and the post on problem based curriculum maps is amazing and would take more than one weekend to peruse. His work goes down to a sixth grade level – an area he confesses needs the most work – so if you teach math at a younger level, like I do, you won’t find it easily transferrable but you will find it incredibly inspiring. If it leads me on a trail to PBL math maps for younger grades, you know I will share them!

Happy Weekend!

Creativity, Innovation

Ready to Make Your Mark….Again?


International Dot Day is coming up.  On or around September 15, 2013, over a million people in 79 countries have pledged to ‘make their mark’ in the spirit of courage and creativity.  Last year, I shared some resources for this day and for possible ways to connect the dots within your class, school, community and world.

Writing the phrase, ‘connecting the dots’ just now, reminds me of an inspiring leader and challenger of the status quo for the purpose of moving forward.  Will Northrop of “What If Concepts” is poised to help groups and individuals make their mark and uncover their purpose.  In working with him at my school last year, he reminded us that our students should spend more time connecting rather than collecting dots in their learning journey.  That it was important that their learning was meaningful, significant, relevant, engaging and challenging, and most of all that it helped them to connect to previous learning, their community locally and globally, and to their future learning, whatever that might look like.

I know there are teachers who are not in favor of ‘one off’ days of celebration as they prefer to integrate an understanding of the themes of these days into their program in a more holistic manner.  Whether this describes your philosophy or if you are someone ready to celebrate on the 15th, take a moment to reflect on the learning in your classroom and ask yourself, “Are my students collecting or connecting dots in my classroom?”

Happy Dot Day!

Dots made by my students last year on Dot Day.
Dots made by my students last year on Dot Day. Each dot had a diameter of approximately 70cm and was made using wax crayons, water color wash, and glitter – because everything is better with a little glitter!
Learning, Math


Today we were looking at the Khan Academy website.  The coaching dashboard allows me to see where the students are at in their learning.  It provides the following categories:

As we were looking at this, one student mentioned that they didn’t want anyone to know if they ever were in the struggling category.  The student was embarrassed to think that others would find out that they were struggling with a concept.

This reminded me of an article I had read recently, which I encourage you to read.  It brings up the idea of struggle and the cultural connotations around this word.  Depending on how you view struggle, changes the way you deal with struggles that you come across in your learning:

Obviously if struggle indicates weakness — a lack of intelligence — it makes you feel bad, and so you’re less likely to put up with it. But if struggle indicates strength — an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something — you’re more willing to accept it.

As we discussed this further, I shared with the students the idea of peer coaching.  In previous classes, I have had a “Can Help/Need Help” board where students have been welcome to add their name to either side depending on if they feel confident in sharing their knowledge with others, or if they would like a classmate to work with them.  This is just one strategy that will be used in the coming year to help further our learning.

What does struggle mean to you?