Tag Archives: 2014

Building the habit of learning

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Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Dirk Knight via Compfight

Most of us would agree that good habits are good to have. We are encouraged to eat well, drink lots of water, exercise, and pay attention to our relationships. We are also encouraged to make these habits a daily routine. Eat 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, drink 8 glasses of water per day, eat dinner with your family every day, get your body moving every day. This last habit is a hard one for me. I usually rationalize my lack of commitment to exercise as an issue of time. I just don’t have time for it everyday. The truth is that I’d rather read than run, write than workout, garden than go to the gym, and learn than lift weights.

Recently though, my husband shared his new learning around building the daily habit of exercise. It seems that many fitness gurus are advocating a 15 minute daily workout as a sustainable approach to life-long fitness. 15 minutes. Any 15 minutes in the day. Hardly seems worth it. I mean, a 15 minute workout can’t generate the sweat and pain needed to feel like gains are being made, right? Ah, but there’s the rub. This plan is for sustainability–for building the habit of exercising. Start with 15 minutes every day and build from there.

There is so much to like about the 15 minute plan. It can happen almost anywhere, at anytime. It’s personal. It can be low-tech or high tech. It can happen multiple times in a day. It grows self-confidence. It affords choice and variety. It offers potential opportunities for extension and expansion. The more I considered the 15 minute plan, the more I understood its value as a way to build the habit of daily exercise. And then, I made the connection to how this approach could work for building a daily habit of learning.

Many of my colleagues lament that they do not have the time to engage in professional learning. I get that. Like packing up and going to the gym, professional learning can feel like an event and end up consuming a whole Saturday morning. The beautiful thing about social media is that it offers us the opportunity to get some learning on our own terms.

Here are some ways to use social media to help you build your daily habit of learning:


Wading in—Twitter is often compared to fast-flowing river that can be tough to navigate. You might decide to take 15 minutes a day to read some tweets and follow a few people, or check out a link or two.

#slowchatED—Originated by David Theriault who describes #slowchatED as “an experiment in a new type or style of educational Twitter chat.  #slowchatED is just like a normal teacher chat except that it takes place from Monday through Saturday. Only one question per day is asked using the #slowchatED. You can jump in whenever you want so you don’t have to be locked into a certain day or time. Follow the link to read more about the #slowchatED concept.

SparkchatScott Capro, the man behind #BFC530 or The Breakfast Club Chat, says “The Breakfast Club 530 is a family of educators who gather M-F 5:30am EST/7:30pm AEST. We call #BFC530 a sparkchat* 15 minutes, 1 question. Our mission as a community is to have every voice get a voice. Each member should post to the question, then engage with another member. Inspiration comes through engagement. Our mission as a chat is to empower! To provide a safe place for your first chat experience, first feeling of connection… then, your first experience co-moderating the chat with us!

Weekly chats—There are weekly chats that cater to specific grades like #1stchat. Check out @Cybraryman1 ‘s page of educational hashtags.

Google + Educator Communities/Facebook Educator Groups: Twitter may not be your platform of choice. That’s fine. If you are more at ease navigating Facebook, search Suggested Groups for a group that ties into your teaching/learning. Google + also hosts a wide range of educator communities from Crafting Digital Writing to Mine Craft in Education.

Your Smartphone: By adding apps like Zite or Feedly to your smartphone, you can easily fit in 15 minutes of reading from content that interests you.

Your email: No smartphone? Pull interesting content into your email for quick access. There are many email newsletters that you can have come directly to your email. Interested in literacy, then check out Choice Literacy’s newsletter. More interested in general educational trends and conversations, then have a look at Edutopia’s offering.

Once you have chosen your platform for learning, set your timer for 15 minutes, and go for it! Who knows where this good habit will take you!


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What Growth Mindset Looks Like

I saw this post This much I know about…what a Growth Mindset culture looks like for real last week in my Twitterfeed. Since I get incredible value from posts that share student thinking, I realized that I needed to share out some of my students’ thinking as well. And since we had spent the whole semester weaving growth mindset into all of our learning, johntomsett’s post hit close to home.

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Summary Learning      June 24, 2104

From February to today I can proudly say I came a long way. I wasn’t a strong learner  back then, until you introduced “Growth Mindset” to us, the class. Growth Mindset made me look at learning a whole different way. I started making goals for myself and setting time frames when I wanted to complete them. I appreciate on how you made me look at different perspectives on the work that i do; just note in this class but my other courses, thank you.         🙂

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The Transformative Power of Reading and Talking Literature

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Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Antoine Robiez via Compfight

Why stories?

If we ever need to be reminded about the importance of stories in our lives, the month of March does the job with World Read Aloud Day on the 5th, World Storytelling Day on the 20th, and Canada Reads 2014 from March 3 – 6.

And we do need reminding.

Take Stephen Lewis, Canadian philanthropist and activist, who acknowledges during Canada Reads 2014 that he has not been a reader of fiction, but through his participation in Canada Reads he claims “I am determined to start serious reading…[the conversation about books] engages you in the literature.” (7:00 mark)

I needed reminding too.

For too long, I have been reading professional education texts by the likes of Dweck, Hattie, Katz, Kittle, Boushey and Moser, Routman, Allington-you get the idea.  As a new literacy coach, the gaps in my knowledge about K-6 literacy, in particular, were unavoidable; I was after all a high school English teacher. But one needs to respond to challenges, right? One way I cope with the queasiness that high levels of risk creates in me is to work really hard.

Head down and go.

The thing about learning is that it is all-absorbing. It’s not  that I didn’t have time for literature (both fiction and creative non-fiction); it’s that I only had time for reading that supported my learning. It’s a matter of perceived value.

Don’t get me wrong, I did read–there were all the incredible primary stories that reminded me of the absolute joy that illustrators offer, Giraffe and Bird  (what attitude expressed on the page!!) being one of my favourites . And the middle school stories that grab your heart and punch & hug & hold onto you like Wonder does.  And the YA stories that push the dark corners of possibility closer to the centre of our consciousness-magic, fantasy, science fiction, crime, war, and love-there’s wonder here, but there’s pain too: The Fault in Our StarsThe  Hunger GamesAmy & Roger’s Epic DetourThe Maze RunnerLittle BrotherFor the Win, Into the Wild. And lastly, I did read the odd adult story like State of Wonder and Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. 

But, with my return to the classroom and to reading with and along side my students, I am once again immersed in those conversations about life that emerge from the perspective of literature. This is so satisfying. Stories, after all, are the lens through which I have grappled with all of life’s complexities, and helping my students create that lens for themselves is a goal to be sure. So, the students of Room 121 have begun thinking about stories or ways of knowing. We are reading biographies or autobiographies of one sort or another at the moment. Our list of titles includes The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianA Beautiful MindMetallicaJ.K. RowlingInto Thin AirAmelia EarhartA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusSteve Jobs: The Man who Thought DifferentHer Last Death: A MemoirSix Months in SudanSteven Tyler A Long Way Gone.

I love the diversity of these titles and I love that in each case the reader can think about the story as a legitimate way to understand his or her life.

But, but, but…..what titles can you suggest for us?

And, and, and…..check back to see what we are thinking about our reading.


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