Setting them Free

“Why do we have to do this?”  
“When will this be useful in my life?”
“I don’t even understand?”

I hear this these phrases in my classroom from time to time.  Especially come spring and the students can see the end of the school year.  Motivating them becomes a challenge, and I’m always in search of new ways to help students persevere.

I have used Genius Hour in my  classroom this year and have chosen to put students in control of their own learning paths.  It allows them to chose their topic of study, and allows me to turn the phrases back on them.

Why did you choose to do this?
How will this be useful in your life?
Could you explain and help other understand what you’ve learned?

This week I will be learning more about Minecraft, Video Making, Song Writing, Baking, and Computers (etc). Stay tuned for student-authored blog posts and learn along with us.


Mathletics as Feedback

Here at PDCS we have made Mathletics a part of our Math Program.  The website subscription is full of useful resources for both teachers and students.  They can work through activities, videos and games that align with the Ontario Curriculum.  It is proving to be an effective way to ensure all students are understanding the material taught in class.

The most common way we are utilizing this program is pairing Mathletics activities with the lessons instructed in class.  Mathletics activities deliver 10 questions for students to practice the selected skill, or topic.  Students need to complete each question and when they submit their answer they will receive instant feedback (right or wrong).  If they are struggling, or need a quick reminder there is a help tutorials (question mark beside each question) that will walk them through an examples.

Mathletics is very useful way to gauge student understanding.  Students & teachers are provided a score out of 100 for each activity completed.  Colour medals are awarded  to help identify a student success; blue(not attempted), red(less than 50%), silver (50 – 85%) and gold (mastery is greater than 85%).  Students can attempt activities multiple times to work on mastering a skill.  Also, Reports can be generated and shared to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Reviewing results and reports we can identify  students that require extra support, or students can ask for assistance if they are struggling through an activity.  I will be providing a math support once a week during break for students who need help, or that are falling behind.

REMEMBER TO STAY UP TO DATE ON ALL ACTIVITIES! Make sure to check Edmodo for alerts and suggestions related to Mathletics.

A Class of Many Passions

This year I have tried taking a different approach with student blogging.  Typically, I direct what posts should be about, and require them to complete a set number of posts a month.  It has worked well, and the blogs develop very quickly (but all end up looking very similar).  

This year I have tried taking an approach to help develop creativity and critically thinking.  I am using more  Project Based Learning (#PBL) and sets of #geniushour to develop original voices  (Hence, the change in my blogging approach).

This year I directed students to find  a passion, or an intriguing topic to help create their blog.  Students are still learning about how to create a blog, what makes a good post, and how to be respectful blogging citizens = positive Digital Footprints.

Have a look at our class blogs (left hand side links) and watch them develop as students learn more about their passions (and blogging:)

Sharing #edugood

For the next year (the next 365 days – 2days past) I will be sharing a photo about the #edugood I experience.  The idea is credited to Krissy Venosdale who started this project to “see the good…and focus on the good in our schools.”


I know this will be a wonderful adventure and a great way to document all the great learning I see everyday.”

Now for what I’ll be sharing- I think I’ll just see what happens and snap as we go.  If you would like to join me on this journey please visit Krissy’s List of Suggestions

Take a picture and share it with others – as everyone always says, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  I have chosen to share my images using the hashtag #edugood and using my twitter handle @dustin7carson  Follow along with me, and feel free to join  and share the good that surrounds you!

Also, please feel free to share any good learning experiences with me with & comment….SAY CHEESE:)

Let Me Introduce Myself!

In education every year we are challenged with new learning opportunities.  The learning goes beyond the subjects, and it is a chance to interact and learn about others.  It is one of the reasons why I love my job so much!  I really enjoy how each year I get the chance to work with a new group and learn about each individual.

That’s where I actually came up with the name of my blog.  I feel in education it is important to LEARN-WITH each other.  Each person adds a unique contribution to the classroom, and we can learn a lot from others.

Please visit My About Me Page to learn more about my school (last year) and a bit about me.  Also, you can follow me on Twitter at @learnfromcarson.  I use twitter for education and my tweets are about my learning, and the learning that is taking place in my classrooms.

If you have a specific comment or question you can visit the Contact Me Page and send me a direct email.  Or please feel free to leave a comment here and introduce yourself – I’d love to learn about you too!

Student Showcase

One of the things I enjoy most about student blogs is the constant state of development (always improving). Some may not see the value in publishing writing before it’s polished, but I find watching the growth helps the reader connect with the voice of the blog.  Over time blogs start to take on and showcase the personality of the writer.Sun Burnt Tree - HDR

It truly is a rewarding experience to encourage students to find their voice, and when a blog starts to shine, it’s great to look back and see how far they’ve come. Please take the time to visit the following blogs and learn along with us.

The following blogs are bursting with personality, so take a peak and learn more about these writers;

These blogs are starting to find their voice, be sure to visit and share your feedback to encourage them on their journey;Here are some examples blogs that are starting to shine…

Also, take the time to visit all the student blogs listed in the sidebar.  We are just starting our journey, so take a peak and come back soon to see the rapid growth.

Photo Attribution – 


CONGRATS … for Earning your Blog

We have been busy learning about how to interact safely with social networking sites and how to create a positive digital footprint. Paper Blogging Students have been participating in a Paper Blogging World to share posts and learn how to provide quality comments for each other.

Congrats to the following students for earning their Beginner Blog Badge;

BiancaMatt, Rachel, EmilyS, Shayden, Cole, Nolan, DustinArden, Brooke, EmilyW.

The remaining students will hopefully earn their blog by the end of the week, and will be ready to Participate in the Student Blogging Challenge.

Be sure to visit the student blogs to share in our learning as we work through the different blogging challenges.

Please note our blogs are in constant state of editing and revision. We welcome positive and descriptive feedback that will help us become better bloggers.



Helping Others

We are quickly approaching our Christmas holiday and I’m sure many students are dreaming of what they will get for Christmas.  I know it’s exciting to get new things, but it’s equally exciting to help others.

I hope everyone takes some time to think of how they can give back and help others to spread some Christmas cheer!  I know PDCS students are hoping to give back to the community by collecting donations.

We are currently collecting  non-perishable items to donate to our local food bank.  Our school has set a school wide goal to collect at least 500 items.  I must say my class is working hard to meet that goal, and our class alone has brought in at least 50 items.

A SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO BLAKE who has brought in the bulk of the items.

Let’s go GRADE 7A-  KEEP ‘EM COMING AND LET’S BUILD ONTO OUR STRUCTURE.  Collection ends this Friday, so raid those cupboards and bring in what you can.

To any other classes or students who may read this post….HOW DO YOU GIVE BACK DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON?  We are always looking for new ideas on how we can help others.


Promoting Positive Behaviours

This year I’ve been searching for new ways of tracking student behaviours.  It is a requirement of Ontario Schools to report on a variety of Learning Skills and communicate how a student is conducting themselves on a daily basis.  Most of these Learning Skills relate to how a student manages and interacts with others.  It is important to keep track of day to day activities in order to keep accurate records of how a student is performing.  THIS CAN BE A CHALLENGE!

I for one have tried to use clipboards and anecdotal notes to record student behaviours, but with limited success.  I’ve had a hard time keeping daily notes organized, and was on the lookout for a site that would assist me in my daily tracking.

And that’s when I found Class Dojo – a web based account for teachers to track student behaviours.  One of my favourite features of this site is the ability to update in real time.  I am lucky to have a SmartBoard in my classroom and can project my tracking site to the students.  This helps provide instant feedback to students, and updates my tracking sheets instantly.

Student behaviours are tracked using a point system, and  I can award points for both positive or negative actions.  I like to focus in on the positive behaviours and have students compete for who can accumulate the most points.  I am finding students are making more improvements and are proud of their achievements.

The other great aspect of this site is that it is totally customizable.  You are able to set what the students are awarded for, and you can change it based on class goals.  For instant my positive and negative points are directed towards responsibility and cooperation (see screen shots), which is a focus in my classroom for term 1.

I hope to see students earn a lot of positive points, and improve their responsibility and cooperation.   When students show an improvement in these skills I will be able to change the awards for term 2.

Another great aspect of this site is the reporting option.  I am able to generate weekly/monthly reports for students and parents that show what awards the student has received.  This site will organize all the behaviours into a friendly chart that display the student’s performance.  It is really easy to see a students strengths and areas for improvements (green vs. red).

Students will be able to use these charts to check to see their progress and set goals to continually improve.  Reports can be emailed or exported in a friendly PDF format.   I have not provided  or shared reports yet, as I’m still learning more about the site options, and the easiest way to share.

Would you as a parent like a weekly or monthly report sent home with a student?  Or would you rather have reports emailed to you? Students would you like to receive a report on a weekly or monthly basis?  Would you like printed report or would you like your report shared electronically?

This is one of my holdups as I do not like to use a lot of paper, and printing weekly reports for each student would use a great deal of paper.  I’m open for suggestion, so please share a comment and help me find the best way to share behaviours with both parents, and students.

From the Teachers Desk – Reflect & Set Goals(Chapter 2)

Recently Progress Reports were sent home, and Teacher Conferences were held.  They are designed to provide students with descriptive feedback and help students reflect.

Both types of communications are important, but without student involvement they are not as effective –  A student needs to understand the feedback and be willing to set goals to improve.

I challenge all students to take the time to reflect and monitor their progress to identify their strengths and areas for improvement.  HOW ARE YOU DOING? WHAT AREAS COULD YOU IMPROVE?  Please take time to reflect and review any feedback you have received and set a SMART GOAL FOR THE SECOND PART OF THE TERM.keys-to-smart-goal-setting-mind-map

Another thing I’ve learned through my own education is that you are more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down and view it regularly.  To assist my students I have created a virtual post-it board that will allow them to publish their goals and update them throughout the year.  I have provided the link for the board below, and I am asking students to add at least one goal and review it weekly.

Let’s make this a part of our weekly routine and keep this updated.  The following are a few guidelines when adding a goal;

  • Make sure you clearly state a goal following the SMART format, including a timeline (In a week, at the end of the month I….)
  • Only include school goals (feel free to make your own board for personal goals)
  • Make sure to add your name in brackets to your post it and tag it with you name as well
  • Do not remove any post-its without teacher permission
  • And if you complete a goal – update the sticky and mark it with text as COMPLETE.

This activity is meant for my class, but I welcome all students, teachers, and parents to add goals.  This is a supportive space and we will all benefit from goal setting. LET’S START – PLEASE BOOKMARK AND REVIEW OUR SCHOOL GOAL BOARD REGULARLY!