Sketchnoting Journey


Today is the first time I will be trying to sketch note. I honestly don’t know what sketchnoting means (yet). I wonder if this is something I may be good at? I like to doodle but I’m not very good at drawing. My students and I often make fun of my drawings when I try to illustrate things on the board for them.

Let’s see what this is all about.

Hmm, I thought I would enjoy sketching more. I felt rushed to get the information down so I didn’t have the opportunity to make it look “pretty”. I’m going to try using sketchnote again but with less information to document and more time available to work on it. I think I may like it more.


Collaboration in Progress!

What learning did I see happening?

Today I had the opportunity to observe a math lesson guided by a series of open ended questions. The lesson was given by my good friend and colleague, Julie, and assisted by the lovely, Faye. I wasn’t sure what lens I would be observing the lesson through. I expected to see a math lesson where students showed their knowledge of multiplication. I expected the students to show their answers through pictures, words and numbers. Since I am a Judaic Studies teacher, I knew that looking at the lesson through a math lens would not necessarily be useful for me. I decided to look at how the students were able to collaborate with each other.


I observed four groups, two students per group, and each group was chosen at random. I had the advantage of knowing these students very well as I was their teacher last year when they were in grade two. In a way, I already had a sense of what I might expect as I began observing each group. I tried my best to keep my biases aside. In the first group that I observed, each of them read the question they were given separately. Then they began, separately, writing down the answer. They finished the first question in just a couple of minutes without even speaking to each other. With the second question in hand, they began to read it separately but soon realized that this question was much more complex, so they read it again, together. They decided to develop a system to work together. One boy was the “idea giver” and the other was the “writer”. They did switch roles a few times as each of them had something to add to the others’ role. So towards the end, they were truly collaborating. Success!

The next group I noticed that from the very beginning, they worked together beautifully. They explained to each other exactly what were doing throughout the process. Neither took more of a leadership role than the other, and worked positively the entire time. Such a delight it was to see these two working and respecting each other. The next group were two boys who never quite got into a groove. One was clearly the boss and everything his partner did was not good enough. He was constantly putting his partner down and eventually just began doing his own work and not collaborating at all. When I asked them at the end how they think they worked together, their responses showed that they were frustrated with each other. One of the boys commented, “My partner wouldn’t let me do any of the work and kept crossing out my numbers when I made a mistake.” Julie mentioned that these two had been paired up based on math skill level alone. The last group I observed was a fascinating pair. One team member immediately took the lead as quite possibly they knew that their partner wouldn’t necessarily want the lead, and would actually appreciate having their partner take the lead. What a leader this student was! This student explained what they were doing the entire time so that their partner was not left out. The partner commented to me, “We worked it out together, Morah Batya! It was really good.” Both members were content and happy!

Making Globally Connected Jewish Students

It is very important for students to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, traits, where they come from, their traditions and culture, etc, as all of these items build their identities. It is also important that these same students are exposed to the global community so that they are able to see how other people live around the world.  Once students make global connections, they are able to see the diverse cultures and traditions that exist. When we connect with these communities, it will give the students the opportunity to compare and contrast others’ traditions, etc, with those of our own.

For my “Professional Growth Plan” this year, my grade five students will have the opportunity to learn how to interact with students from different cultures all around the world. As Jews in particular, being globally connected is important as it shows us that we are part of a much bigger community, and that there are Jewish people living all over the world, speaking different languages, eating different foods, celebrating holidays a bit differently. It allows the students to feel validated and realize they are not alone in the world. In addition, it gives our students the understanding that we Canadians ought to feel fortunate that we have the freedom to practice Judaism.

To date, I have completed the first few steps in the process…

My grade 5 Judaic Studies class has been using the book “Friends Across the Sea” to learn about different Jewish communities around the world.

Students were assigned to interview a grandparent to learn about their migration path to Canada, how their families were affected by the Holocaust, and how their families assimilated into Canadian culture. This showed the students that even though our families came from all around the world, (mostly Eastern Europe and Morocco), we come together, as one Jewish community, here in Ottawa.

Grade five has prepared a list of questions for  Mystery Skype calls. We began by splitting the classes into two groups. Each group decided on the location they would “pretend” to be at for the mock Mystery call. They practiced in separate rooms to be ready for the call. Then we made a Skype call from separate classes, each with a teacher supervising. It took about 30 minutes for the groups to guess each others locations once we figured out all of the technology pieces.

Now the students were ready to make a Mystery Skype call with Silvia Tolisano in Florida. The students used their skills to choose their jobs, place the call,  review the rules of the call with Silvia, and ask the questions in order to guess her location. This only took about 15 minutes, however, Silvia already knew our location in Ottawa. The final step in the Mystery Skype will be to connect with another classroom somewhere in the world and try to find out each others’ locations.

Once the students and I are more comfortable using Skype, we will take my PGP to the next level. Using connections suggested to me by Silvia as well as some of my own, we will connect with other Jewish Schools around the world. We will interview them to compare and contrast our traditions at home, our schools, and our communities. In doing this, the students will hopefully see the value in connecting globally with Jewish students around the world.

In the meantime, talking about getting comfortable with Skype, Grade 2 has had the opportunity to Skype two times with a grade 1-2 class in Smiths Falls. The first call was to teach the students in Smiths Falls about Hanukkah and the second call was for the Smiths Falls school to teach grade 2 at OJCS all about Christmas. We plan to do round two come Easter and Passover.


How Will the Current Flow?

As a teacher I am constantly thinking about my lessons. How am I going to introduce a topic, what supplies will I need, how will I make it engaging for the students, and on and on. This is literally on my mind almost all waking moments of my day. Whether I’m walking through the aisles of the grocery store, making dinner at night or sitting at my son’s football practice, I am thinking about something related to my teaching. I would bet that this same thing is true for almost all teachers. Teaching is not just our jobs, it’s our life. We live it while we are in the classroom, of course, but also when I’m with my own children, my nieces and nephews, and even my children’s friends. I have a tendency to take teachable moments to help others. For example, last weekend, my son and his friends wrote a speech to say at a Bar Mitzvah party. Not only did I make sure that boys edited the speech so that it made sense, I also reminded them just before going up, to speak loudly and clearly so everyone could hear and understand them. No doubt this is also merely a parenting job, but many times other have commented that it’s the “teacher in me” that makes sure these kinds of things run smoothly.

Now for the tricky part. What happens when things go exactly the opposite way that you had planned? A lesson is bombed, the kids don’t understand what you’ve taught, it isn’t as engaging as you’d hoped? Well, we all know that it is not the end of the world. We can start over and try again. No biggie. BUT what about when you have planned a great lesson and the kids decide to take it in a completely different direction?? GO WITH IT! I love when this happens. I taught a story in Hebrew last week and made some props to help with their understanding of the story. I had a follow up activity planned but the students started asking if they could create their own props to tell the story. Luckily I have a big bin of scrap construction paper in my class so they got straight to work. The props were made and story was told. Such a simple idea, yet it engaged each student in the goal to understand the vocabulary in the story. So, after all the planning, and thinking, and creating I do all of the time, you never really know which way the current will flow and you have to be prepared to ride it wherever it takes you.


Straws and Connectors

Woah! I am finished day two of three where I am learning how to document my learning AS a learner. Still trying to wrap my head around all of the information that is being hurled my way by experts and those passionate in their roles. Silvia Tolisano is inspiring me to reach beyond my comfort zone and to realize that straws and connectors are of no use alone. They need to be put together to build something that can make learning more meaningful, more current, less linear. We are the straws, and the world wide web, and all of it’s tools are our connectors.

I was way too shy to volunteer to be a moderator, but since these amazing ladies made it look so easy, I may just volunteer next time!


Today we had the opportunity to skype with the connector maven, Jocelyn Blumgart, in the field of documenting learning. How amazing that this woman, literally on the other side of the world, was able to have a live conversation with us. Imagine how I could connect with teachers all over the world to share ideas about what we teach in the classroom without even leaving my brand new living room couch!

As I slowly creep into the 21st century, I’m hopeful that I’ll be blasted off into the 22nd, with just a little more confidence and a little less panicking. Can’t wait to see what my straws and connectors can build!

This is before I realized I better stop taking pictures and listen to Jocelyn!

Josh was my rock star! As a brand new “twitterer” he volunteered to tweet out our skype date. So brave!


Ok, for some reason this picture won’t save after I rotate it. Hmm. Help!