Blog, Grade 6 LTO, Teacher as Professional

Differentiation in the Classroom Using Hapara Workspace

Hapara workspace is a technology tool that works wonders in terms of providing opportunities for differentiation in the classroom. Hapara workspaces are online collaborative learning environments where students can work at their own pace through a wide variety of learning tasks. Students are able to review learning goals, access resources, complete individual learning tasks, collaborate with peers, check their learning, submit evidence of learning, and receive feedback. Below, I have highlighted some of the awesome functions of Hapara workspaces that address the principles of differentiated instruction.

A Hapara Workspace for a grade 6 planet inquiry project.

1.Differences in how students learn have a significant impact on achievement

One of the great features of the Hapara workspace is the column for “Learning Goals,” where the teacher can clearly communicate learning goals and curriculum expectations related to the workspace. After using Hapara workspaces for a couple different science inquiry projects so far this year, I’ve found that it really allows the teacher to present a variety of resources (in different formats), which the students can then navigate and explore to find the information that is most useful and relevant to their learning. As the workspace is so student-directed, it also frees up the teacher to spend more one-on-one and small group time conferencing with those students who need more guidance. This ensures that each student receives the support necessary to achieve success!

2. Learning begins from a student’s point of readiness.

In Hapara workspaces, you can create groups of learners. This is an amazing function, as you can create groups of students based on level of readiness/needs. Each student will have access to materials that are released to his or her group, as well as materials released individually and to the whole class. The workspace allows the teacher to add documents, video tutorials, and other resource links depending on the student’s level of readiness. For example, if one group of students want to present their learning using Prezi but have never used it before, the teacher can easily add links to their Hapara workspaces that will give an overview of Prezi (e.g. video tutorials, screencast, etc.).

3. A safe, non-threatening and respectful learning environment is vital to student achievement.

As each student is working on their own individual workspace, they are able to access differentiated material and work at their own pace through the learning tasks. I have found that this reduces stress for students who worry about being last to finish their work, or who have anxiety about the level that they are working at for course content. Students are also able to immediately access their workspace and don’t need instruction from the teacher to get started on their work. Hapara workspaces set students up for access by allowing them to go above and beyond: the teacher can easily incorporate extension activities and extra challenges for early finishers.

4. High expectations of success by all are matched by tasks that provide a high degree of challenge for the individual.

The Hapara workspace system allows the teacher to assign different tasks to different students (or to different groups of students). This enables the teacher to challenge each individual student based on his or her level of readiness. For example, if students are working on a Hapara workspace about the Sun, the teacher could link different versions of the same article based on the reading level of the student (Newsela is a great resource for this).

5. Essential concepts can be effectively presented in a variety of forms.

Hapara workspace allows many different types of resources to be curated in one spot. For example, I am able to upload files to Hapara workspace from my computer or Google Drive. I can provide links to websites or resources for students to use. When uploading a Google Doc, Google Slides, Google Form, Google Drawing, etc., there are options to upload as “view only” OR to upload as a “copy per student” (so that when each student clicks on the file, it opens their own copy). The file is saved in the student’s Google Drive. You can also add files as “copy per group,” which allows students to work together collaboratively on a task. The best part is that Hapara organizes all my students’ work in my Google Drive, so I don’t have to collect anything- it’s all right there, ready for me to assess!

For a video overview of these concepts, I highly recommend checking out this video. The narrator does a great job of highlighting some of Hapara’s many features that simplify differentiation in the classroom!





Summer Numeracy Program

Area and perimeter

Activity #1: Tables configurations

Our third and final week at numeracy camp focused on area and perimeter, which we introduced using the picture book Spaghetti and Meatballs for All! A Mathematical Story by Marilyn Burns. It is an engaging story that describes a family reunion, where the arrangement of the tables and chairs is constantly changing as more and more people arrive. The story cleverly delves into the concepts of area and perimeter in an everyday situation such as a family meal.

We read the book aloud to our Mathletes, discussing the differences in seating plans as we followed the storyline. We then used the SMART board to explore the area and perimeter of the different configurations of tables and chairs. For each “seating plan,” we documented the strategies used to find the area and perimeter. After investigating multiple options, the students were able to see the logic in Mrs.Comfort’s original seating plan in the story.  This hands-on activity was interesting for the whole group, and our Mathletes particularly enjoyed discussing their favourite meal for family get-togethers!



You can find a lesson plan based on this book by Cheryl Rectanus for grades 5/6 here (Math Solutions Professional Development Newsletter). It describes the lesson that Cheryl carried out after reading Spaghetti and Meatballs for All! aloud to the class, and gives some great ideas for prompts and questions that could be asked to deepen the students’ learning.

Activity #2: Area and perimeter art

As an extension to our discussion of area and perimeter, we tasked our Mathletes with creating a piece of artwork out of squares and rectangles on grid paper. We guided them in thinking about the following questions:

  • What is the area of the spaces you used?
  • What is the perimeter of your creation?
  • Which strategy did you use to calculate area and perimeter?

The final products were colourful and creative (see below), and they prompted some great math talk among learners about area and perimeter!

Burns, M.,  & Tilley, D. (2008). Spaghetti and Meatballs for All! New York, NY: Scholastic Paperbacks.

Summer Numeracy Program

Boats that float!

During the last week of math camp, we challenged our Mathletes to use the construction and math skills that they had been practicing to individually and economically build a boat that would float. The parameters of the challenge were simple:


  • Using the materials from the list below, design and construct the least expensive boat possible that will float and carry plastic people on it.


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Steps of boat construction:

  1. Design and sketch your boat
  2. Decide which materials you will need
  3. Estimate how much you will need of each material
  4. Calculate the approximate cost of your boat materials
  5. Construct boat and adjust cost estimate according to materials actually used

As this was the third week of Math Camp and the students had completed various STEM-based challenges already, they were becoming more efficient at planning, designing and carrying out the process of construction. The added challenge of calculating the cost of their boat was a great differentiation tool, which engaged the older students in particular to minimize their use of resources through unique design. The boat challenge was completed individually, which revealed each Mathlete’s strengths and areas of opportunity more clearly. For example, some students initially constructed ‘rafts’ (i.e. no mast, sail, hull). While this was an economical option, we challenged them to adjust their design so it more closely resembled a boat.

Throughout the various steps of their boat construction, students faced many hurdles with regards to design, use of materials, calculation of cost, etc. Yet, the most striking observation from this task was the resiliency and grit demonstrated by our Mathletes as they adopted the ‘Keep Moving Forward‘ mindset and persevered with the task. There was a large variety in the finished products, and many students added colour, decorations and a personal touch that demonstrated immense pride in their boats.

They were very keen to test their creations, so we decided to spend time as a large group  floating their boats. One by one, each student placed their boat in the water (they all floated!) and added plastic people figurines until it sank. As a connection to our previous work on patterning, they added people according to the Fibonacci sequence (i.e. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8…) and we recorded how many people each boat held.  While some students were initially hesitant to test their boats to the point of sinking, the fun atmosphere and support of their classmates encouraged them to give it a go! We discussed the strengths of their designs and the purpose of minimizing cost (i.e. minimizing use of non-renewable resources). It was a fantastic celebration of their hard work, and each Mathlete received a ‘Boat Building Award’ in recognition of their success!


Grade 6 Practicum

Grade 6 Farewell

This afternoon, I was lucky enough to attend the farewell ceremony for the grade 6 class that I taught during my year 1 practicum. It was a touching collection of speeches, award presentations, and reminiscing for the students, teachers, and family members in the room.  Not only was it special to see the beaming faces of all the graduates, it was particularly moving to hear the student address, during which two class representatives shared their happy memories and words of appreciation for the many people that touched their lives.

While listening in wonder to the mature insights and heartfelt sentiments expressed by these grade sixes, I was reminded of the impact, both big and small, that teachers have on their students each and every day. With this great power comes immense responsibility, and I hope that in my future career in teaching, I am able to create a healthy and safe learning community where my students feel accepted and free to be their own unique (and awesome!) selves, much like I observed at my practicum placement. Congratulations to all the graduates of 2016!


Grade 6 Farewell

Grade 6 Practicum

DIY: Teacher survival kit

Searching for a creative year-end gift for that awesome teacher in your (or your child’s) life? Look no further! I was inspired by the ‘Teacher Survival Kit‘ post on a blog called Tried & True (great for crafty things!). This spring, I decided to adapt the tutorial presented on that blog post to create a unique gift for my associate teacher (AT) at the end of my practicum.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 1.20.45 PM

After collecting everything I wanted to include, I made my own version of Vanessa Brady’s Teacher Survival Kit printable, designed specifically for my AT. The kit itself was a plastic container with dividers that I found at Dollarama (typically used for nails, nuts, bolts, etc.). Most of the other items in the kit can be purchased at a dollar store as well. I arranged the items for easy access and visibility, and attached the printable to the front of the kit using clear packing tape.

The inside of the finished product can be viewed below, and afterwards I thought of a few things that might be good to add:

  • Plastic Cutlery– For when the students’ forget their own;
  • Wet Wipes–  For messy situations; and
  • Chocolates– To maintain some level of sanity (although I was worried about them melting since my AT is in a portable).

I think this is a simple, practical and relatively inexpensive gift idea that can be personalized for the intended recipient quite easily! It will get lots of use in any classroom, and comes with just the right touch of humour. Happy crafting!

IMG_1082 IMG_1083



Grade 6 Practicum, Science Shorts

Scientists in school

This week I had the pleasure of participating in a visit from Scientists in School (SiS), which is a Canadian science education charity that brings science workshops to K-8 students.

As the grade sixes are working on their biodiversity unit, their workshop focused on the science of classifying organisms. The facilitator briefly reviewed the process of classifying organisms before allowing the students to dive right in to the three stations, which were composed of unicellular and multicellular (invertebrates and vertebrates) organisms. The starfish and sea anemone were clear favourites at the invertebrate station, and the vertebrate station boasted a wide range of creatures, including a sea lamprey, bat, chicken, pig, painted turtle, snake, and many more. The students also had fun learning how to use microscopes to check out various unicellular organisms, and tried their hand at sketching what they saw.

It was a well-organized and engaging workshop that had every student smiling throughout the afternoon. The facilitators provided all the materials including gloves and a booklet for each student, so all the students had to bring was a pencil! It was a great example of hands-on, experiential learning that brought the biodiversity unit to life for the students. Even the reluctant learners demonstrated a new-found enthusiasm for the subject matter.

The Scientists in School website states that their mission is to “ignite scientific curiosity in children so that they question intelligently…” From my observations during this workshop, they are definitely succeeding in reaching elementary school students and helping them to learn through discovery. I would highly recommend this program to science teachers, and I hope I get to host it in my own classroom one day!


Inclusive Classrooms

Student as Learner

PED 3142 Inclusive Classrooms was a course that examined how learning takes place in an inclusive classroom setting, and how programming should be developed to best support exceptional learners. By addressing the learning objectives below, we identified potential shortfalls of certain educational activities and explored exemplary teaching strategies and classroom practices (Sheldrick, “Course Overview”).

My approach to teacher education is to “dive into deep learning,” where new learning is based on action and problem solving, and enabled by leveraging digital technology.

Learning objectives:

  • Develop an understanding of the complexity of learning both as an individual and group process;

  • Begin to identify and articulate your own assumptions about learning and the implicit/explicit theories which guide your understanding;

  • Be able to discuss theories of learning and development from a critical perspective- this means that you will question the “why” underlying any educational activity;

  • Ultimately appreciate the necessary relation between educational theory and classroom practice;

  • Be able to apply your understanding of learning theory to program for students with exceptionalities;

  • Feel confident about presenting your instructional preferences publicly as this is a valued indicator of professionalism.

In order to describe my own personal understanding of the inclusive classroom, I have used a dedicated section of my teaching blog as a platform to document my teaching experiences throughout my CSL and Practicum Placement in a grade 6 classroom. I have also created specific posts that discuss the importance of creating a healthy, safe and supportive learning community and embracing conflict in the classroom.

In an effort to integrate the various classroom practices and strategies that I observed and employed throughout my teaching experiences thus far, I have developed a video that summarizes course concepts and presents photos and recollections of how I drew on these concepts to create an inclusive classroom community (Sheldrick, “Course Notes”).

I created this video using Book Creator, which is an iPad app that was commonly used by exceptional learners in my practicum placement. I decided to add the auditory component to the book pages (and then save as a video) to simulate what my exceptional learners often did to complete and submit their assessments. It is one example of the differentiation that I observed and practiced during practicum to foster an inclusive classroom for all learners. It was very rewarding to be able to apply course concepts to my teaching during practicum, and I was able to identify many of the classroom strategies and potentially helpful approaches that I could implement in the future to support exceptional students in an inclusive setting.


Autism Speaks Canada. “What is autism.” Autism Speaks Canada. Global Cloud, 2016. Web. 21 April 2016.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013)Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12 . 

Sheldrick W. “Course Notes.” University of Ottawa. PED3142E, Ottawa, ON. Winter. 2016. Lectures.

Sheldrick W. “Course Overview.” University of Ottawa. PED3142E, Ottawa, ON. 12 Jan. 2016. Handout.

Creating Healthy, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments

Applying principles to teaching

Throughout the course PED 3139 Creating Healthy, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, we explored strategies and practices to build intentional learning communities that foster positive behaviour. This was accomplished by addressing the learning objectives listed below, which were used as a framework for the course (Orders, “Course Overview”).

Learning objectives:

  • Co-create authentic learning communities
  • Recognize the connection between healthy communities and effective learning
  • Critically examine mainstream practices of punishment and discipline
  • Explore the philosophy and practice of restorative justice
  • Become confident in the use of classroom circles
  • Learn techniques for responding to harm
  • Discuss how to uphold the dignity of all members of the classroom community
  • Engage with the idea of the democratic classroom
  • Explore opportunities that arise through conflict and controversy
  • Think through how to connect your classroom with broader communities

Given this learning experience, I felt that it was important to approach my Community Service Learning (CSL) and Practicum placement with an overarching inquiry question in mind that unifies the themes of the course. Based on the course outline and above-stated learning objectives, I developed the following inquiry question:

“As a teacher, how do you create a healthy, safe, and supportive learning community that promotes growth and positive relationships?”

Creative Representation: Applying the Principles to My Teaching

With this inquiry question in mind, I was tasked with demonstrating how the course concepts were (or will be) incorporated into my own teaching. Since each weekly course topic addressed a different aspect of my inquiry question,  I wanted my representation to incorporate all of the elements I would take into consideration when building an intentional learning community for my students. I thus decided to use an untitled ink on paper drawing by Brian Jungen (below), a contemporary Canadian artist with First Nations ancestry, as a representation of my learning journey through PED 3139, my CSL placement, and Practicum. To me, this drawing communicates the importance of diversity, opportunity, and synergy. It also speaks to the unifying idea of a circle, which promotes balance, change, wholeness, and connectedness in First Nations cultures (Manitoba Education and Youth, 2003).

An image of the drawing is shown below, and the full ThingLink interactive media platform can be accessed here. The scope and sequence of how I experienced (or envision) each part contributing to my teaching is detailed below, although they each play an equal role and work in tandem to answer my inquiry question.



1. Awakening community

  • Tribes trail map: the process of fostering a Tribes learning community is in line with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School (2014b), and represents a holistic approach to promoting the well-being of all students.
  • Restorative practices to resolve conflict and build relationships: while the viewing of this video sparked strong responses within our class, I included it as a reminder that you never know the current or past struggles that learners or colleagues may  be facing. It is thus important to take the time to know your learners and become familiar with their potential triggers.

2. Building intentional learning communities

  • A community mosaic: this blog post details my experience in building an intentional learning community with grade sixes during my practicum.
  • Brené Brown on empathy vs. sympathy: this was my favourite video from the course, and I hope to continually use it as a powerful reminder of the importance of making a connection with students on a personal level.

3. Discipline that restores

  • Social discipline windowA basic premise of restorative practices is that people (students, teachers and staff) are happier and more likely to make positive changes when those in authority (teachers, staff and administration) do things with them, rather than to them or for them” (Costello, Wachtel and Wachtel, 2009). 
  • Restorative questions: a restorative environment is one in which students work in partnership with the teacher and other students. While the environment is controlled, it is done so in a caring and supportive way, and students are held responsible and accountable for their own learning and behaviour (Orders, “Class 4: Discipline that Restores”).
  • Brené Brown on listening to shame: this video reminds teachers to reflect on the message we are sending to students when we discipline them. As a new teacher developing my own classroom management style and practices, I will seek to always separate the deed from the doer and recognize certain negative behaviours as good people making bad decisions (Brown, 2012; Orders, “Class 4: Discipline that Restores”).
  • Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability: I have also included this preceding video by Brené Brown as it communicates the very important idea that vulnerability is not weakness; rather, it is “emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty” (Brown, 2010; Brown, 2012). As a teacher, I hope to help my students to believe that they are enough.

4. Embracing conflict in the classroom

  • Alfie Kohn on compliance to community: this is a series of Bitstrips I developed to communicate the importance of approaching conflict positively and “taking students backstage” (Kohn, 2004; Orders, “Class 5: Embracing conflict in the classroom”).

5. Responding to harm

  • Restorative practices talking circles: while I used circles in a more informal, games-based setting during my practicum, I look forward to the opportunity to incorporate restorative talking circles as a means of building trust and fostering cooperation in my own classroom.
  • Duty to report: this professional advisory outlines educators’ role in the protection of children and youth (OCT, 2015). This will be an important document to help me fully understand my ethical, moral and legal duty to report and meet the standards of the teaching profession.

6. Safe and inclusive schools

  • 5 things you didn’t know about bullying: this PREVNet infographic communicates important statistics about bullying in Canada, and highlights the importance of implementing appropriate anti-bullying programs. PREVNet (Promoting Relationships & Eliminating Violence Network) is an excellent resource that I plan to consult for tips, factsheets and other bullying prevention resources in my future teaching.
  • Crumpled paper lesson: this short activity brings to light the long-lasting effects of bullying for all those involved. I have encountered this compelling activity in classrooms before, and I plan to use it as part of a bullying prevention program in my future learning community.

7. Including LGBTQ students and teaching inclusively

  • Egale Canada Human Rights Trust: “Egale’s vision is a Canada, and ultimately a world, without homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and all other forms of oppression so that every person can achieve their full potential, free from hatred and bias.” This is an important resource for educators who are seeking to understand, identify, address, and eliminate barriers in education related to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014a).
  • The Genderbread Person: this excellent infographic contributed to my own learning about gender identity and gender expression, and I hope to use it in my future teaching practice as a guide for developing gender understanding.

8. Supporting exceptional learners and their families

  • Teacher’s gateway to special education: developed by the Ontario Teacher’s Federation, this website is a treasure trove of strategies and resources to help teachers meet the individual learning needs of their students (with particular focus on exceptional learners).
  • Compliments by Chris Ulmer: this video depicts the simple strategy of starting each day by complimenting every student. As shown in the moving video, I believe this practice would foster a positive learning environment and I plan to incorporate it into my daily routine, in a circle format if possible.

9. Theory into practice

  • New teacher induction program web resources: this PDF document outlines web resources available that address safe and healthy schools, and specifically identifies which resources new teachers should consult based on four success criteria.
  • Beyond the classroom, “Discovering Me” e-portfolios, Flexible learning environment, Genius hour, Makerspaces, Movement: these blog posts document the ways in which I implemented and applied the principles learned throughout this course to my CSL and Practicum placement using a variety of creative strategies.

10. The ideal and the real

  • Sketchnote:  this is a compilation of ideas generated in PED 3139 about the elements we identified as necessary to feel healthy, safe and supported in a learning community (Orders, “Class 4: Discipline that Restores”). I think it is a great summary of how the principles of this course could be applied in a classroom setting, and will  help me to foster a healthy, safe and supportive learning community throughout my future teaching endeavours.


Brown B. “The power of vulnerability.” Online video clip. TED. TEDxHouston, June 2010. Web. 14 April 2016.

Brown B. “Listening to shame.” Online video clip. TED. TED2012, March 2012. Web. 14 April 2016.

Costello B, Wachtel J,  Wachtel T. (2009). The Restorative Practices Handbook. Bethlehem, PA: International Institute for Restorative Practices.

Kohn A. (2004). Challenging students…And how to have more of themPhi Delta Kappan: 1-17.

Manitoba Education and Youth. (2003). Integrating Aboriginal perspectives into curricula: a resource for curriculum developers, teachers, and administrators.

Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). (2015). Professional Advisory: Duty to Report

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010). Caring and safe schools in Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2014a). Equity and inclusive education in Ontario schools. 

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2014b). Foundations for a healthy school: promoting well-being is part of Ontario’s Achieving Excellence vision. 

Orders S. “Class 4: Discipline that Restores.” University of Ottawa. PED3139T1, Ottawa, ON. 21 Jan. 2016. Lecture.

Orders S. “Class 5: Embracing conflict in the classroom.” University of Ottawa. PED3139T1, Ottawa, ON. 26 Jan. 2016. Lecture.

Orders S. “Course Overview.” University of Ottawa. PED3139T1, Ottawa, ON. 12 Jan. 2016. Handout.

Creating Healthy, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments

Embracing conflict

My grade 6 students introduced me to the fun (and addictive) world of Bitstrips, so I challenged myself to harness my creativity and create a series of Bitstrip scenes! The Bitstrips below depict Alfie Kohn imparting some wisdom to a new teacher candidate about the value and benefit of embracing conflict in the classroom.







Kohn A. (2004). Challenging students…And how to have more of themPhi Delta Kappan: 1-17.

Orders S. “Class 5: Embracing conflict in the classroom.” University of Ottawa. PED3139T1, Ottawa, ON. 26 Jan. 2016. Lecture.

Grade 6 Practicum

Beyond the classroom

  • Social justice club (CHEO fundraiser): grade 6 students, led by the school’s social justice club, created hand-crafted items to raffle off as a Christmas fundraiser for CHEO.



Social justice club: CHEO fundraiser

  • Christmas wrapping challenge: students in grade 5 and 6 classes came together for a group Christmas wrapping challenge where they could each only use one hand to wrap a boxed present!


  • Mathletes: grade 6 students served as leaders for a school-wide, full-day math event that turned the gym into a high-energy atmosphere for learning math in creative ways.


  • Share a book day: students came together in the school foyer to share their favourite books on Family Literacy Day (January 28th).

Share a book day

  • Skating and sliding: students get active outside during winter by skating at the local rink and sliding on the school-yard hill.

Skating 2016

Sliding 2016

  • Junglesport: a unique opportunity for students to explore a climbing and ropes course structure with qualified instructors for a fun week of physical education.


  • Gr.6 retreat: as detailed in my community mosaic posting, grade 6 students participated in a retreat at Saint Bernard Parish for a half-day of community building, friendship and love!

Grade 6 retreat

  • Compassion assembly: grade 6 students led a school-wide assembly focused on the importance of compassion, featuring a moving rendition of “Lean on me” by Bill Withers.


  • Girls and boys basketball:  I was lucky to be able to join two grade 6 teachers in coaching both basketball teams at OCSB tournaments hosted by my placement school.

Girls basketball tournament