Brain Games, Brain Teasers and Riddles

Did you know that January is International Brain Teaser Month? I have always used brainteasers in my classroom. They can engage various learners despite ability or age and encourage students to think in different ways, divergently and become more proficient in seeing patterns in words, shapes and numbers. For many, it is also calming, mindful and a strategy to decompress. 

Brain Teasers are a form of puzzle that requires different thinking types depending on the task and sometimes a requirement to think in an unconventional way to solve a problem. 

“Brain teasers are puzzles, riddles, math problems, situations and more that require thought to solve. Often, brain teasers can be unconventional in ways and can have the simplest of answers. Other times brain teasers can stump the thinker and require lateral thinking.”,that%20require%20thought%20to%20solve

Interestingly, there is a lot of conflicting research about whether partaking in brain teasers and brain-based games impact learning and intelligence. A recent study from Western University, London, ON calls into question the benefit of cognitive training to improve general cognitive functioning ability to transfer the skills learned through the Brain Games to other areas of life. On the other hand, a recent study by Stephanie Jones and her team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education is building a new approach to SEL that focuses on the use of Brain Games, specifically on simple strategies adapted to many settings.

In my role as a teacher and parent, I use brain games for a variety of purposes and continue to look for research and evidence that uses a wide variety of criteria when determining any connection to learning and intelligence, especially those relating to soft skills such as problem-solving, creativity, divergent thinking, collaboration, building confidence, etc.  Consider this: 

  • Enjoyment and engagement
  • Explicit opportunity for collaboration and discussion
  • Inspiration to look at problems, ideas and numbers in different ways
  • A break and way to de-stress, calm down the brain
  • A fun challenge
  • Understand different types of learning (a great way to discuss the different kinds of thinking.
  • Social-Emotional Learning

“Brain Games build three main competencies, which the team calls “brain powers”: focus, remember, and stop and think. To maximize learning during play, teachers can be intentional and explicit about the building’s SEL skills. They can talk to students about the brainpower needed to play each game and about strategies for using that power. After the game, they can talk about what happened, “building metacognition and a shared vocabulary around the skills they are learning,” Jones says. And through a set of debriefing questions, “teachers and students can think together about how to use these skills at other times of day, connecting ‘brain powers’ to work ethic in the classroom, teamwork and relationships, and successful behaviour in school and beyond.” 

I am not the creator of these games but have compiled them into a PPT format crediting all sources. This format allows folks to grab a slide or two and add it to the daily teaching in synchronous or asynchronous classroom environments. Reach out should the link or any of the sources not work out. This is a work in progress, and I’m sharing because we are all better when we share. 

  1. Slides of Number Based Games: Daily Brain Teasers Slides.pptx
  2. Slides of Language-Based Games and Activities: Daily WORDS and WORD PUZZLES Jan 2020 public.pptx
  3. Compilation of Game Templates for Breakout Rooms Activity
  4. Sudoku- Great for partner activity in Breakout rooms: 




Stojanoski B, Lyons KM, Pearce AAA, Owen AM. Targeted training: Converging evidence against the transferable benefits of online brain training on cognitive function. Neuropsychologia. 2018 Aug;117:541-550. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.07.013. Epub 2018 Jul 25. PMID: 30009838.


Thinking about Sleep.

 “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” Irish Proverb

Around 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering just what we were doing and why. For the next 2,300 years, no one had a good answer. 

What we do know is that our body needs sleep to be healthy. Sleep is as necessary to our health as good nutrition and exercise.  We know that sleep impacts our emotional health and behaviour and can influence our choices.  As an educator, the topic of sleep has often been at the forefront. When my students (or my own kids) are NOT getting enough of it, learning is hampered. A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, can support learning, processing of information, decision making and problem-solving.

This is why I am often asking, “How are you? How was your sleep?”.  It is rather fun talking about dreams or sharing sleep strategies. One student shared a mindfulness technique that she uses to help her get between the first and second stage of sleep,

“I’m walking on a soft pine needle covered path in a brightly lit forest. I can sense the tingling feeling of the needless on the bottoms of my feet and through my toes.  I wiggle them. I feel the cool air on my skin. I stop and look up and see the sun beaming through the leaves and can hear the trees dancing, making that shhhhhhh…..sound  in the wind….I keep walking…

I do something similar and imagine myself running. I use run as a natural remedy for stress and anxiety, so this works well for me.

I lace up my shoes and step out in front of my house. I think of a familiar route and start slowly. I run to the end of the street and make a right. I notice the house on the corner is still for sale and the cat in the window. I cross the street and head down the zig-zag path toward the waterfront…

I usually drift off before I get to the second kilometre.

While not all used in the order you see them, these slides were a useful tool to engage students in the inquiry and discussion about sleep. Where did it lead?

    • Sleep and the impact on health
    • Sleep and our lifespan
    • How much sleep do we get in our lifetime?
    • What is Melatonin, and why do we need it?
    • What happens to us when we don’t sleep?
    • What factors contribute to a good night’s sleep?
    • Do income and demographics influence our sleep? Why?
    • How do poverty and hunger impact sleep?

Link to the SLIDE DECK:–f9GKM0LL6UrlCBLpTK7LScNtfic/copy



Alone Together.

My #2020OneWord is “Alone Together.” Ok, I know it’s two words, but I just can’t get it out of my mind and do not have one word to describe this feeling.
I feel more connected with my online community than I have in a long time. On the contrary, I feel much more isolated from my school community (who aren’t necessarily using online tools) since I’ve been working from home. So, I am Alone, “Together” with you.

In October, I was required to isolate myself after being in close contact with a colleague who “tested positive’. Two days later, one of my immediate family members was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. From that point on, I have been working in a full-time remote teaching position from home. I am entirely isolated now. The only time I leave my house is to go for a run or take Stewie (our Australian Shepherd) for a walk. Otherwise, I’m Alone, “Together” with many of you.
I’m grateful t have such a geographically diverse online community. Many of you out there inspire me to be better, think more deeply, care more passionately, and teach more vigorously. When I’m struggling, I know that I am NOT alone.
Full disclosure: I am finding the alone part not so bad. As an introvert and someone with social anxiety, I often find the day to day social aspect quite overwhelming and tiring. Of course, I still meet up with colleagues (online), but the time spent is more structured. I wonder if there are others out there who feel more productive in this scenario? What about our students?




“The Daily” ~ Daily exercise for the brain, body, heart and spirit.

Every morning starts a new page in your story. Make it a great one today – Doe Zantamata.

I want to contribute something positive to all educators who are truly doing everything they can to support students and communities during such a difficult time. Enriching and engaging themselves and their students can take so much more effort and energy than it ever has. We all need to find ways to inspire ourselves and others to love life, love learning and see the beauty in our world. Every. Single. Day. The above quote reminds me that no matter how hard the days may seem or how long, there are always ways to feed ourselves with new knowledge, ideas and wisdom. Small or big ideas, deep or surface learning, minutes or hours – it is truly one step, one idea, one thought, one discussion at a time. Doing nothing is not an option.



I am an Enrichment Teacher in Hamilton, Ontario, with the job of supporting hundreds of students, teachers and families across the district. But, I am also a global educator who wishes to contribute to others’ wellness beyond my own life, school, and city.

In uncertain, worrisome and social distancing times, I hope that the following project and daily puzzles, quotes, stories, articles and resources may boost the brain and enrich your day. 

I suggest that ALL students and learners (whether at home or in-school) consider using a journal. These are unprecedented times and history in the making. For this reason (and many other great reasons), I will ask my students (and own children) to pick a “Daily” (or two, or three) every sing day and add to their journal. Soon, a habit (staying engaged, staying joyful, being self-directed, enriching your life) will be formed. 

Share this with your students, use it in your own lessons, or use it for yourself.  The content will be updated daily (for ease of use, links will be on the side-bar of this blog).

Celebrating Women – Jane Jacobs, urbanist and activist.

October is International Women’s Month. I am going to try to feature one woman per day – someone who has impacted my life, my thinking and my path. Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) has influenced my thinking about cities for many years. She was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a community-based approach to city building. Have you heard of Jane’s Walk? People around the world are sharing information and history about cities and neighbourhoods through Jane Walks. Check out: 
“Jacobs saw cities as integrated systems that had their own logic and dynamism which would change over time according to how they were used. With an eye for detail, she wrote eloquently about sidewalks, parks, retail design and self-organization. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies and mixed uses. Jacobs helped derail the car-centered approach to urban planning in both New York and Toronto, invigorating neighborhood activism by helping stop the expansion of expressways and roads. She lived in Greenwich Village for decades, then moved to Toronto in 1968 where she continued her work and writing on urbanism, economies and social issues until her death in April 2006. –
I have a love for cities. I am grateful that my family (kids, life partner) love to travel as much as I do. I find it incredibly interesting to see how different countries worldwide invest in their cities and neighbourhoods. We rarely stay in hotels, and in fact, some of our favourite visits have been in hostels or shared homes. And It is why we open our home to international visitors (and students). The pandemic, while it has been very hard, has given us a chance to explore our own city more (always running).  A favourite talk (I’ve shown my students a few times) is from Kent Larson, who looks at how cities are changing and reinforces the idea that cities are ultimately about people. As noted in Ted, “Humanity’s future is the future of cities.
Before I sign off, I do need to share TVO’s Life Sized City at
In a couple of weeks, Hamilton, Ontario (my city) will be featured (and guess who might appear in the episode?).  Note, the above picture is not Hamilton. 🙂

Networking in a Pandemic (key to survival)

Networking -key to survival through a Pandemic (or ever).

Today, I was inspired by Doug Peterson (doug-off the record) in his post “The value of a network”. I resonated (sooooo much) with this entire blog post.  Being part of this vast community has been what has held me together through all of this. Being able to ask questions, share resources, seek help/support, or simply just vent has meant everything to me.

It has been 6 months since schools were first shut down, along with most business and industry. Teaching and Learning during a pandemic has been a challenge  – but not all bad (in the context of education). I mean, in a really big way, as an industry, many folks have found solace, comfort, support and community though online tools, especially networking.

Many of us in this digital network of “peeps” have been advocating the use of 21st Century tools for years. Wifi in schools was a big initiative back in 2003 (or so). Then using tools like Skype and Google to teach students about “live documents’. And through it all, we advocated how these tools and techniques might actually provided more opportunity for students (and educators) who may not have succeeded otherwise. I was one of those educators who relied on specific tools to get through the day.

And now (15 years later), many folks, I’d argue,  including school leaders are discovering different (not always better) ways of doing things (what we’ve been advocating for years).  Online meetings are not new, just new to many folks in public education – but, I bet this may become normal (just today, I had two teachers reach out to me via our online conferencing tool). In the past it would have meant emails or driving to a school or a visit. Remote teaching and conferencing through digital tools is not new, just new in public education. Twitter groups and chats – not new. But, lately, it seems like folks are diving into this community and discovering the magic of sharing outside the walls of a school or district.

Now, do I think that our system was prepared for a full online shift? Absolutely not. I do believe, however,  that this adversity may lead people to explore different ways of doing things which might eventually lead to a more dynamic, equitable and flexible teaching and learning environment.

Back to Twitter. It has been almost 12 years since I’ve been using Twitter as a learning and sharing tool and about 10 years of teaching online courses. During these years, I have found many friends and colleagues (from across the world) who are like minded in their / our drive to improve education structures with the intent to build a more inclusive and innovative system.

These days, I follow a lot of people. Some I follow directly and others I follow on Twitter lists, private and public. Ontario Educators should know about the lists since they’re my resource for Friday mornings.  -Doug

These past 6 months have allowed me to renew my relationship with Twitter and participate in online discussions relating to both my profession as a special education teacher as well as my own community (Hamilton, Ontario). I learn so much from my community and have been so blown away by the amount of sharing and supporting, not just from experienced teachers, but from those new to the field.

As Doug reminds us,

The connections made and their value supports the notion that learning never ends. It’s almost criminal when people join Twitter because they were required to because of some course and then drop it when the course is over.

It is hard to name everyone, but I wanted to highlight a few folks who have gone out of their way to connect people during this unusual time in all our lives. The share, reflect and fight for innovation, equity and safe schools and communities:
David Truss is an educator and school leader from Coquitlam BC. More than anyone, I’ve enjoyed his daily blog posts, podcasts and reflections. I wish I was better at commenting. He is truly a connector and not only shares stories and ideas from his own life as an educator, but he is always amplifying and highlighting the ideas and contributions of others.
Jason Lay @jlay02: Keeps me up to date with Ontario News, resources and discussions. He ever hesitates to included others in discussion, including me (and I really should respond more). His most recent share: “A series of short tutorials to walk you through the steps of creating a new course using the @CanvasLMS Series includes: Creating a New Canvas Shell Configuring Basic Course Settings Creating Content Pages Setting a Course Home Page @PowerLrn








Lisa Noble @nobleknits2 – What can I say? Another teacher who is not only sharing classroom tools and ideas, but genuinely wants to support folks outside the classroom. It is Lisa that led me to start my “Covid19” knitting project. I’m about half way through. One line per day. 
I am fairly certain that this post will only be read by me (haha) and that is ok. Having a place to share and post my own ideas and resources will give me some motivation during a very strange and bizarre time in my (our) life.
I hope to post something at least once per week. Something to share and support others and something to keep me focused and motivated as well!

BlackLivesMatter. No Time for Silence.


The current events in the United States and around the world can feel unsettling and confusing. The topic of white privilege and systemic racism has me reflecting on my own practice and what I can do to advocate for change.  As an educator, I can influence the curriculum I teacher, the perspective which I address in my lessons and how I treat my students. One thing I cannot do is stay silent. 

Students, even in an at-home learning environment due to the Pandemic may have questions. What are the protests about? Why are people saying #BlackLivesMatter? Protests are generally used to advocate for change. What change is being advocated for? Why is there violence?

Brief History. Black Lives Matter (BLM for short) is an international activist group. They originated in the African-American community. They are against violence and systemic racism toward black people. The movement began in 2013 with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. They became famous for their street demonstrations, following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The earlier sparked riots and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. The latter sparked protests all over the United States. Since the Ferguson protests, participants of Black Lives Matter have demonstrated against other African-Americans’ deaths, like Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Source:

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an international activist movement, originating in the African-American community, that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people. BLM regularly holds protests speaking out against police killings of black people, and broader issues such as racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system. While some may argue that all lives matter, it does not feel like we are applying that belief to our African-American neighbours, friends, and community members.

Teacher and Parent Resources:

Google Drive folder with MANY teaching resources on #AntiRacism and materials from #BLM. This is curated by a variety of teachers for students K-12 and beyond.

Resources Related to Anti-Black Racism (source:

  • United Nations Website: International Decade for People of African Descent. This site features resources and materials that include historical information, relevant UN documents and videos that may be age-appropriate for upper elementary grades.
  • ETFO’s 365 Black Canadian Curriculum. This curriculum is part of a compilation of equity resources for elementary educators that support Black Canadian history in Ontario schools on a daily basis.
  • ETFO’s Black Canadian Calendar. The individuals represented on the calendar offer a glimpse into the historical and contemporary political and societal realities faced by Black Canadians. It is both a celebration and acknowledgement of a fraction of the contributions and impact Black Canadians have had to help shape Canada to be the nation it is today.
  • Black History Month – February. Black History Month exists to remind us all of the rich contributions within our society from people of African and Caribbean decent, and of their ongoing struggle for equity and social justice. ETFO encourages the focus on Black history all year as an integral part of learning about Canadian history and current issues. The web page features resources, events and helpful websites in support of teaching and learning about African Canadian issues.

Lesson plans: As an extension to Re-Think, Re-Connect, Re-Imagine (White Privilege Booklet) which is available through Shop ETFO, lesson plans have been developed for the primary, junior and intermediate grades. : A variety of engaging lessons that align with the four sections of the booklet – Myself, My Classroom, My School and My Community are free to members.

Download ETFO’s Re-Think, Re-Connect, Re-Imagine resource:    PDF​ |Word​

Suggested Lesson Idea?

  1. Find a quote or poem which resonates with you about one of the Guiding Principles above.  Share the quote in the “comments” of this post
  2. Consider using ART to spread a message of peace, unity and love by using some of the ideas and themes below.


  • CHOOSE AN ABSTRACT OPTION (lines, colours, shapes, words) (see examples)
  • CHOOSE A REALISTIC OPTION (person, object, hand, etc.)





The Strength Based IEP – let it work for the Gifted Learner

The IEP for the Gifted Learner

IMG_8531As a teacher for Gifted and Enriched students, I have spent many hours working with teachers, parents and learners on developing Individual Education Plans (IEP) for Gifted and Enriched learners. The IEP has a clear purpose and its process for development is not a difficult one to grasp. Regardless of school, district, or even country,  the IEP has similar characteristics: To identify the learner’s strengths and weaknesses,  to set measurable goals and objectives, to identify the tools and resources (including people) needed, to identify the strategies needed to achieve the goals and finally, as a team, to commit. Yes, there are subtle differences in language from district to district (modification, accommodation), but the overall purpose and gist of the IEP remain the same: To set our students up for success by ensuring they are getting a fair chance at learning.

It should be easy then. However, with Gifted learners, there is much debate and discussion about the IEP.  In my school district, we use both group testing (all students in Grade Four are given the CCAT test) followed by Individual testing (WISC-IV) and students usually score within the 95th to 99th percentile on these tests in a variety of areas, including overall IQ. Only a very very small portion of children or adults would score in this range (1-2% of the population). This alone should sound the alarm bells. These students are not in the norm and SHOULD NOT be receiving the same programming as the rest. We would say no different for students who are scoring at the other end of the scale and require significant modifications in their learning. Further, just like within the general population of learners, these students are just as likely to present with a Disability.  Sometimes, the gap between the two areas is quite wide…sometimes debilitatingly so.

Strength-Based Goals:

Many students who are Gifted may not display obvious areas of “Need”. There is no use in searching for areas of weakness simply so you can put it on the form.  CREATE the goal from there overall strength.  On the other hand, many students who are identified Gifted in one area, may struggle greatly in another area or may have significant learning disabilities.  It is important that the student’s IEP sets goals that are also non-academic, such as social skills, organizational skills and personal and intrapersonal skills, which are often a struggle for Gifted learners.

Student-Driven IEP and the PORTFOLIO:

IMG_8446In another post, I shared some strategies on how to involve the students in the IEP process, Here, I emphasis the following and share examples from my own class:

1) Ask for Student Input when developing the IEP. Of course, this would depend on the age group and how you structure the questions and interviews. Around the second week of school, I handed out the IEP’s to the students and had them go through and add, edit, and comment on each of the sections.  Most of them had neither seen or heard of the “IEP” before so it took a bit of time to explain the terms (accommodations, modification, strategies, methods).

2) Meet with the students individually and go through the IEP’s with them explaining how and why this document came to be.  Help them understand their own identification and what they need to best succeed.

During the first month of school students did research on their own exceptionality. Many of the students wrote blogs about what it means to be “Gifted” or as they often see it, “Labelled”. Set aside time for students to continually develop and alter their own programs. Don’t let this be a “one-off” lesson. Build this into a weekly plan. Build it around their Learning Skills.

We did this every week with tea.  We tried to discuss one area of need or learning skill. What does it mean to be responsible? How much independence should students have at what age? What is fair and equal when it comes to learning? How do we advocate and ask for feedback?

4) Provide an organized system for students to view and edit their IEP’s as needed.  Of course, since some parts of this document may be highly confidential, the template would need to be altered.

5) When updating the IEP’s every term, send home the “working copy” along with the formal copy to allow the parents and families to see how much student input is valued

This IEP development strategy takes a lot of trust and relationship-building to work. Students need to feel safe and free to express their honest feelings and advocate for themselves. One student said to me after reading his IEP (prior to his input), said, “Wow, I sound like an anti-social nerd that has no friends”.

Here are a few case examples created by Beth Carey and Zoe Branigan-Pipe (although there are many many many more, since the IEP should reflect each individual child). These examples are only meant to provide a starting point to help when creating a “Gifted” IEP.

Student Profile/Achievement: Student has strong academics in all area’s (All 95% or above); in the 99th percentile of testing. Motivated to learn and always seeking out opportunities, rarely feeling challenged by the school. Proficient in reading (more than 3 grades above) and proficient in Math and Science. Strong abilities in Music and Languages.

Annual Goal: Students will use higher-order thinking skills to enrich the depth and breadth of grade-level learning expectations.

Learning expectation: Student will use divergent thinking skills during classroom learning activities, independent activities and home learning; Student will use convergent thinking skills (bringing together a range of ideas and resources to support a central topic or idea); Student will use critical thinking and questioning skills to enhance the depth of thinking

Teaching strategy: Provide opportunities for the student to learn what it means to think divergently (research/inquiry project, TedX videos..); Provide a schedule/contract for the student (allow, encourage accountability, growth); Support student’s ability to ask questions to/with peers and teachers that encourage others to think deeper about a topic, especially one that focuses on current, local and global issues; Encourage home learning opportunities (use of Khan Academy for skill mastery, use of a blog, community activism – writing and co-created blogs); Encourage and demonstrate the use of mind mapping

Assessment: Student will demonstrate a variety ways to express a skill, concept or idea that is presented to the whole class and will add 2 items in the portfolio each month (self-evaluation); During formal assessments, the student  will provide more than one answer, with justification – even when there is a question with a specific answer; Teacher will provide a comment/feedback to the student during scheduled teacher conference;  Student will bring home a portfolio for parent feedback; Allow students to share the answer orally

Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student consistently exceeds grade expectations in literacy-based subjects and has demonstrated strong verbal abilities and expression (99%tile in oral language abilities and verbal comprehension)

Annual GoalStudents will further develop higher-level oral communication skills.

Learning Expectation: Student will use real-world topics (shared through portfolio and monitored with the teacher) and current events to apply verbal/oral language tools as a way to share and demonstrate learning; Student will investigate, listen  and analyze podcasts of interest (one per month); Student will use oral language to demonstrate learning, discuss ideas and brainstorm using inquiry-based strategies

Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student excels at reading, both fiction (in particular Fantasy Genre)  and non-fiction. Tests indicate strong perceptual reasoning, processing speed and working memory.  The student will read as often as possible and enjoys discussing or debating the content.  The student demonstrates strong comprehension skills and can recall information and facts with ease.

Annual Goal: Students will develop analytical skills in reading using more challenging literature; Student will apply reading strengths to increasing writing (finding new vocabulary and structures)

Learning Expectation: Student will analyze texts by identifying many elements that give the text depth or meaning and will maintain a blog or journal of these elements;  Student will be able to draw a conclusion about the author’s work through in-depth analysis, ongoing discussions and comparisons and will maintain a blog or journal of these elements

Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student writes descriptively and uses figurative language expertly as well as above grade level vocabulary and grammar. Report card grades reflect exceptional written assessment. Gifted Assessment report indicates the student is in the very superior range in all cognitive areas.

Annual Learning Goal: Student will write in a variety of genres using a blog format and will submit at least 4 publications throughout the year to a pre-approved magazine or blog (provide a real-world opportunity); Student will pick 10 new vocabulary words per week and keep a journal of new words.

Learning Expectations: Student  will use poetry and prose to write essays, narratives, and poems and will include figurative language; Student will keep a poetry journal updated weekly; Students will communicate to a wider audience and use reflective and communication skills to respond to others in writing

Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student demonstrates strong abilities in mathematical reasoning, computation and problem-solving. The student has strong processing and working memory skills. Gifted Testing and Report Card grades are consistent in demonstrating that student exceeds above grade level in all mathematical subjects which require modification in the depth and breadth of the content.

Annual Learning Goal: Student will complete several projects related to Math (timelines and content determined in a co-created portfolio); Student will complete a self-monitored Math course (using MOOC, or COURSERA); Student will create a Math Blog that highlights interesting Math problems and discoveries that impact the world around him/her

Learning Expectations: Student will blog weekly about math-related content; Student will be self-directed in his/her math learning by seeking out problems and investigations that related to a specific area (as determined by student and teacher)

 Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student is disorganized at school and home and frequently does not turn in homework and classroom assignments. The student is easily distracted and has trouble staying on task for more than 10 minutes. The student is easily disengaged at school and often complains of being bored. The student has low processing skills and working memory and needs specific accommodations.

Annual Learning Goals Student will complete class assignments on a timeline co-created with teacher and parent; Student will maintain an organized desk, binder (could be an online shared binder) and “to-do” list, to be checked weekly by teacher

Learning Expectations: Student will use technology tools to aid with scheduling (online calendar, online portfolio such as Onenote, Evernote, Google Drive (and can share with the teacher and parent); Students self-organize and  will use to-do lists each day; Student will “check-in” with the teacher each day to guide on-task work and self-monitor how much he/she has completed; Student will keep a portfolio that includes timelines, lists and checklists and will have this monitored by the teacher; Student will use his/her device to take pictures of assignment outlines, homework board, etc

 Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student demonstrates strong leadership skills through on-going involvement in student leadership, clubs, and extracurricular activities. The student demonstrates a strong stance toward social justice including a desire to work in the political arena.

Annual Learning Goals: Student will lead at least TWO events, club or organizations throughout the school year (school-based, online or community-based); Student will maintain at a leadership blog (choice of topic)

Learning Expectations: Student will read a book about leadership development and will share the overall learning, thought and reflections of the book on his or her blog; Student will register the School as a “We Act School” and be the communication link for the school and will complete the on-line follow up focusing on local and global initiatives.

 Student Profile/Achievement: 

The student has a superb memory for facts and detailed information and has an intense focus on the area of interest.  Whatever the class is working on is of no interest to the student.  He/She seems disengaged from school and does not follow classroom routines. The student is unaware of social conventions and lacks social insight.  The Student can be disruptive in class.  Testing demonstrates student is proficient in all areas of WISC IV.  The student does not see the need to demonstrate this.

Annual Learning Goals:  the Student will demonstrate knowledge in all areas of the curriculum through a variety of self-chosen ways; Student will share knowledge of his/her interest with class and engage in conversations about his/her topic; Student will develop a working knowledge of social conventions and social insights.

Learning Expectations: Student will conference with the teacher to decide on ways to demonstrate knowledge of topics covered in class; Student will develop an organization and communication tool to share with teacher and parent; Student will share the topic of interest with class or school through oral or visual presentations, blogs, small group lessons etc.: Student will learn a good variety of social norms and how to understand specific social situations and feel comfortable in those situations

 Student Profile/Achievement: 

IPRC – Statement of Strengths and Needs indicate that areas of need include: Peer interaction, leadership, additional opportunities to negotiate her own learning outcomes; more stimulation and motivation from peers with similar abilities and interests.

Annual Goal: Student will become more self-aware of her needs as a gifted learner

Learning Expectation/Objective: Student will strengthen social-emotional skills within a variety of context and with a variety of people: Student will participate actively in opportunities to work in groups with like-minded peers; Student will participate in explicit relationship-building opportunities using whole group circles and class meeting: Student will use blended learning tools, blogs, e-portfolio and ongoing communication with each other and with parents.



Great Educators to follow on Twitter

My class and I compiled this great list of active educators who use Twitter to share and dialogue. This is especially useful right now, during these isolation days. I am super proud to have an online network. People really are the best resource. Especially those who are willing to share and support each other. These are the folks who keep education moving forward.

Continue reading Great Educators to follow on Twitter

Offline & Offscreen Games (flexible, varied ages and abilities)

In the last month or so (Covid-19 days), I have spoken to a number of students and families who are looking for some learning activities which are flexible (kids can play with their siblings), age-appropriate and off-screen. The following games are a shortlist (I’ll add some more later) of what I have used in the classroom (enrichment program) as well as at home with my own kids.

I am a proponent of game-based learning, I have spent the past year learning how to use off-line games as a way to engage my students in social and collaborative learning activities. Each of these games can be differentiated depending on the age or ability of the learner. I love games that are naturally designed for universal learning and teaching.  Learners can go as deep and complex as they wish, or keep it simple.

Idiom Addict. A family favourite and can be played with a variety of ages. Some of the idioms are very difficult and need to be unpacked and discussed.  A great opportunity to talk about culture and vocabulary.  I enjoy using this game when working with my ESL groups. 



Dixit Board Game – This is our favourite game. I wrote about it in another post. “Dixit, a Game for Everyone” 

Board Game (highly recommended for Gifted, enriched and students with strong language, vocabulary and creative thinking skills.) Dixit is a game with very simple mechanics and rules but a lot of depth, strategy, creativity, and variety. Each player has a hand of cards with amazing artwork





Number Scrabble: This is much harder than it looks. At first, my small groups did not like this game. But as we got into it, students began to challenge one another with more complex calculations.


“Number Scrabble” (or “Math Scrabble”) is a game based on normal Scrabble, but you make equations instead of words. The letter tiles used in Scrabble are replaced with numbers and operators. 

Quiddler Card Game. This game can be individualized and played with a variety of ages and levels. I play this card game often with my ESL students. It is a family favourite. Great for vocabulary practice (all ages) “Using special cards, Quiddler draws on one’s ability to combine letters into words. The challenge is to arrange your entire hand into words. Draw and discard in turn.




The World Game: I love using this game to discuss world data. We often have our computer open to look up facts and check the information on the cards. I have played this game with children and adults and there is always a discussion and something new to learn. Learn about the continents, flags, location, capital cities & basic facts of every country in the world. A truly fun and educational game for all ages. Kids love it.





After Words: LINK In this fast-paced, vocabulary-building game, players must name a word that matches 1 of their category cards AND begins with the letter in play







Quicktionary Card Game – This is a fun game to make at home. I have had students make it, using different levels of difficulty, topics, letters, and blends. 

From: ” The game consists of 102 cards, divided into 3 types. The yellow cards give a category, for example, “a word associated with science” or “an item found in an office”. The blue cards place a limit on the word itself, for example, “has exactly one syllable” or “has more consonants than vowels”. Finally, the red cards add a specific letter or letter combination, like, “cannot contain the letter R” or “contains the letters CH”. Once 3 cards are laid out, one of each colour, the goal is to be the first person to call out a word that fits all the conditions. There are no turns, everyone plays at the same time. And I do mean everyone plays; there is no “judge”, the players as a whole determine whether or not a word is correct. In the games we played, this led to many interesting situations, like counting letters on fingers, writing down words to determine consonant to vowel ratios, and at one point, a non-player googling “foods that start with A”.