The Project Deets

Coming up with the project outline took a fair amount of time and thinking. A big part of this unit is argumentation; however, the students have just come off of a unit where they wrote feature articles. I am concerned about two major writing units being back to back. As such, this outline is trying to make the most out of which standards we need to cover, honoring student choice, and trying to keep motivation high as we move into the last five weeks of the year. Right now, this is my current thinking:


How Do We Make the Better Choice?

Looking at different environmental issues, we have found that there is no perfect or best solution when all factors are considered. What is good for one group, often is at the expense of another.

Your task:

After researching environmental issues and their impact on people and the economy, you will analyze the pros and cons on different solutions/alternatives to the problem. Then, you will select what a better choice (solution/alternative) could be and argue for that choice.


The breakdown:

  • use at least 5 sources in support of your claim
    • Clearly listed on Noodletools
  • Cost/Benefit breakdown of two or more approaches to the issue. Make sure you look at how it will impact:
    • yourself
    • businesses/economy
    • People in other places
  • Thesis (claim) clearly stated
  • Link to Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and explanation of the link
  • Outline clearly listing your:
    • Thesis statement (claim)
    • Reasons (evidence)
    • Explanation (reasoning)
  • An argumentative paragraph that includes:
    • A thesis statement (claim)
    • Well-organized reasons (evidence) with:
      • Explanation (reasoning)
      • Transitions connecting ideas
    • A conclusion
  • A presentation of some sort.  Examples may include, but are not limited to:
    • poster of your thinking, including cost/benefit analysis
    • TED talk
    • campaign
    • Video
    • Commercial
    • PPT style presentation
    • Infographic arguing for your thesis
    • Create a protoype (if the proposed “better choice” is based on constructing the solution)


There is still concern around the mandatory argumentative paragraph. Is both an outline and paragraph (which inevitably will turn into an essay) necessary? Can we get away with just an outline and really focusing on crafting strong Thesis statements? What is most important for students to be able to do? For me, it’s to analyze how our actions impact ourselves and others, and to take a look at how small change can have lasting, far-reaching impact. Unfortunately, argumentative essay isn’t coming up high on my list. Right now I’m thinking of trying the paragraph with one class, and then not with the other class to see if it makes a difference in thinking, showing of learning, or movement towards a “better choice.”

What Am I Getting Myself Into?

Full disclosure: I’d like this bit of thinking to be deep, powerful, witty, and yet I’m sure it will be loads of rambling and overall a hot mess. I have decided to enter into an inquiry along with my students as I develop a unit that I hope to be impactful. Year after year, I’ve grown weary with reports on plastic bags destroying the oceans; and projects explaining or even arguing for the cleaning up of the Pacific Garbage Patch. Sustainability, to me, has become a buzz word that is losing its impact. I know how important it is for students to learn about how their choices have impact and that sustainable alternatives need to be explored; I’m just tired of clinical approach to a problem that is quite personal for millions of people around the world.

So, here I am thinking “Oh man, why oh why did I say I’d do this project with them?” I’m developing on the go and don’t even have a complete picture of how all of this will work. I want to give my students as much room to take this in whatever direction they can. This means things aren’t fully developed in my mind. Every day I ask students to show their thinking, push their limits, dig deeper in their work and then when it applies to me I’m realizing finally how my students feel. “What do I choose?” or “Am I on the right track?” “How do I approach this?”

I wanted initially to show an example-perhaps even one someone else had done and then rely on that. The compelling question driving us forward is:

  • How do we make better choices?

Students have learned about the food industry, plastic industry, impact of advertising, and water usage. Each kiddo seems to be going off in different directions around areas of interest and I’m pushing them. .  .I’m pushing them to not only understand the environmental issue, but also to look at alternative solutions and analyze the pros and cons of each one on themselves, businesses, and the greater world population. Surprisingly, they’re into it, they’re thinking of things I haven’t, in ways I haven’t considered. Which leads me back to my project. It was after conversing with the kiddos that I knew I couldn’t use someone else’s example. If this is so important for them to explore, it’s also important for me to be thinking about, modeling, and then putting into practice in my life. And so I created a list of possibilities.

  • going vegetarian
  • riding my bike instead of using didi regularly
  • taking shorter showers
  • making a firm commitment to sourcing only second hand clothing (I do mostly for myself but not for my girls)
  • researching fashion brands that are more sustainable
  • looking at the amount of plastic in my home (sigh…it all comes back to plastic)
  • alternatives to the never ending supply of dish soap we go through
  • sourcing toilet paper that doesn’t come in plastic

Of course with each of the possible changes above, there would be research attached: what is the cost, benefit of putting this into action? At the moment, two or three are jumping out at me. I want to argue for a change I know I can do and keep up. I do not want this to be something I do simply as an example. Instead, I want this to be a life change for me that I can continue to add on to.

So, I am officially committed. Who knows where this will go. Who knows if I will be successful, or at the end of it all, talking to my students about how I tried and ended up not accomplishing my goal. Stay tuned…

Adjustment to Personal Goal 2018-19

Initially, my personal goal for the year was focused around:

  • Feedback on student work focuses on supporting students’ thinking and self-directed problem-solving.

After receiving the Tripod results, I was surprised (but pleasantly so!) to see that my students thought I already was doing a great job in this area. As such, I spent my time reviewing the data and looking for patterns that could help me determine a focus for the year.

What came up over and over again was anything using the word “summarize”. This was not completely surprising to me. Too many times, class runs right to the last minute and I’m frantically trying to get students to write their home learning in their planners. I focus so much on that, that I haven’t consistently summarized, or consolidated, the day’s learning. I spoke with my students about the result and they verbalized confusion around the word “summarize”. Many students said a summary is something that happens after they read and article or a book and then they tell what it was about. Through discussion, clarification on how summarize can be used in other scenarios was had.

After discussing with the students, I created a daily PPT slide that I put up as the moved to independent work. At the end of class, I then reviewed the slide as a reminder of our focus for the day. Over time, I moved away from the slide (the having to make a choice between using the whiteboard or projecting was a difficult one for me) and I started writing the target or day’s learning on the board. Above the target, I also had instructions for students when they first walk into the class. It’s a quick check for me to see who is reading the board also. Once we begin, I physically touch the target and at the end of class, I go back, touch the target and remind students of the day’s focus.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

As a teacher of literacy, I have always tried my best to have a variety of books in my classroom library. At first, it was all about genre-how can I make sure I have a fair representations of all genres so students look at the library and see all equally represented. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to make this happen. I’ve read books outside of my comfort zone and stretched myself as a reader. After genre, I started looking at making sure I have books that focus on kids who go through things most middle schoolers experience. Now though, I’m realizing that more importantly, kids need to see themselves in books.  I suppose this is one of those “no duh” comments. Of course I have heard that books should be mirrors (as well as windows) for students. The idea is that students should see themselves and their family reflected in the texts they are reading. I’ve always believed that but never really, truly saw what that meant.

This week has been one of growth for me. We’ve had the amazing experience of Baba the Storyteller sharing traditional storytelling from West Africa. Baba captivated my students and began by saying, “You don’t listen with your ears, you listen with your heart.” As he spoke, I saw a little boy in the front row captivated by his words. The smirk he usually wears turned into a knowing grin and his hand was raised constantly. The questions this little boy asked were ones specific to where in West Africa these stories came from. After a few questions, the boy in full voice announced that his father is from West Africa. Baba switched quickly to French (the boy’s home language) and once again, the boy beamed. This sixth grader saw in Baba, a mirror, a reflection of him, his family, his identity. I sat there with goose bumps in awe of the connection Baba made that was far beyond what I have with this boy who has been in my class since August. This boy’s heart was open.

Last night, my daughter came home with the book, El Deafo, given to her by Super Librarian: Bec. SLM insisted I read it immediately. El Deafo, written by Cece Bell, is a graphic novel (not short) loosely about Bell’s life growing up and living with being deaf. My daughter is classified as “severely deaf” and is an emergent reader who also happens to LOVE books. SLM wouldn’t leave me alone so I started to read. Cece survived Menangitis at 4 and lost her hearing as a result. This took place in the late 70’s and shows Cece with a phonic hearing device, complete with a huge box strapped around her neck and wires coming from her hearing aids into the box. Bell describes the process of going to the doctor, being diagnosed, and then being fitted for hearing aids in such detail that SLM’s eyes lit up as she added to the narrative. She was hooked! As I read, my eyes filled with tears as my daughter’s experience was so clearly being told. 

El Deafo by Cece Bell

After 80 pages, my six-year old had more questions and was upset that it was time to go to bed. She wanted to know why people would make fun of someone who couldn’t hear. Then, she began to tell me stories of what other students have said to her. She told me stories of the kind, brave, children who stick up for her on a daily basis. SLM went to bed smiling and happy. 5:30 am the next morning, this morning, SLM drug herself out of bed, asked for her hearing aids to be put on, and handed me the book. Another 40 pages down before 6:00 am when I needed to stop and get ready for work.

For me, all of these things have come together at the right time. My daughter hasn’t seen herself reflected in the books she brings home. The boy in my class hasn’t been able to connect on a deeper level because he hasn’t seen himself in the hallways of our school. I know I need to take another look at my library. But that look should not only be done in February when orders are due. As students enter into the classroom in August, I need to be more proactive about making sure that every student is represented in what they see around them. As the year progresses and issues arise, I need to collect the books that will help my students see they aren’t alone. This is a process and not one I expect to ever perfect or a job I expect will ever be complete.

For now, I want to thank Baba, Bec, and Cece Bell for helping kids find that mirror, for opening the hearts. We all deserve to know that even though we are unique and special, we also are not alone in our struggles or in our uniqueness.

Personal Goal 2018-19

There are so many things I want to work on as a teacher; however, upon reflection and looking at the Tripod’s: Guide to the 7 C’s,  I have decided to focus on the area of “Clarify”. Specifically looking at:

  • Feedback on student work focuses on supporting students’ thinking and self-directed problem-solving.

My belief as a teacher is that I am here to help facilitate and to be less helpful so students become more independent. I want my students to learn how to take control of their learning and feel as if they are able to drive their learning. An important step of that process is to make sure that students feel as if they are receiving meaningful feedback that they are then able to act upon.


Welcome to your Professional Learning Blog! This is a place for you to post your goals, and reflect on them throughout the year.

  • Decide on your goal, perhaps in consultation with your colleagues or principal, and create a post to share with this online professional learning community that you are now a part of! Categorise this post in Goal Setting. Set your goal by considering:
    • Self assessment and reflection based on new teacher standards  (Tripod 7C’s)
    • Previous or new observation data from peers and principals
    • Student surveys (online surveys developed and aligned with 7C’s)
  • Identify colleagues, coaches, principals etc. that will play a supporting role in achieving your goal, and invite them to view and comment on your post. Encourage them to bookmark your blog and visit regularly.
  • Throughout the year, collect and share evidence to support your progress. Categorise these posts in Reflection.
  • Encourage your colleagues to share your learning journey by engaging with your blog. In return, engage with their blog (and others across the School)
  • You may also like to share work that your students have created or your own professional achievements that may not be directly related to your goal setting. This is encouraged! Categorise these posts as Showcase.

If you need support using this platform, please don’t hesitate to contact Ed Tech, we are always happy to be of assistance!