December 4, 2018

The 12 Days of Gratitude

Gratitude word cloud on white background



  1. Define GRATITUDE in a WORD doc
  2. Look up definitions and examples of/for GRATITUDE online
  3. Add to your definition
  4. Share at your tables
  5. Write a tweet or a comment on the Gratitude blog post
    1. Include #12DaysofGratitude and @wawhsroom121 in your Tweet

Here are the prompts for each of the 12 days:

Day 1: Be Thankful.  Thankful for waking up, getting out of bed and starting a new day….just being able to breathe.  What are you thankful for about WHS?

Day 2: Be happy.   Be happy with who you are.   Look in the mirror and your reflection.  Make sure you are the best YOU. Like that person in the mirror….no, LOVE that person in the mirror.  You are unique, put on this earth for a purpose. Be happy with you. What makes you happy today?

Day 3: Be generous to someone.   Generosity isn’t giving away money.  It can be something very simple as helping someone solve a problem, listening to a friend vent, supporting someone in need with a kind word. What act of generosity have you done recently or how will you show generosity to someone today?

Day 4:  Today is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Go to #HumanRightsDay or #Standup4HumanRights and read some tweets. Find one that represents how you feel about this day and retweet it (if you are signed in) with a comment. Make sure to add appropriate hashtags and our classroom account @wawhsroom121 OR copy the tweet and add it to the comments below with an explanation of why you choose it.

Day 5: Reflect often. It is important to reflect on how gratitude actually appears in your life. Ask Yourself “What have I received from others?”

Day 6:  Reflect often. It is important to reflect on how gratitude actually appears in your life. Ask Yourself  “What have I given to others?”

Day 7: Use your senses.  Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. What have you noticed recently about the world around you that you are grateful for?

Day 8: Focus on What You Have Rather Than What You Don’t Have. There is always going to be someone out there who is smarter, better looking, has more money, more successful, but if you focus on the negatives of what you don’t have, you are missing the true celebration of the abundance that you DO have.  What is one abundance in your life today?

Day 9: Celebrate good health.  What is good health? A day where you have slept well, are pain-free and have lots of energy.  Treat your body well; it’s the only one you have. Meditate for five minutes, relax and take deep breathes and focus your energies on the positives in your life. What about your health are you grateful for today?

Day 10:  Give Love.  If you are full of gratitude you are also full of love.  Love is free to give, so give out some love today. Hug a friend, call or text someone you know is lonely or depressed.  Laugh with your classmates. How will you remember to give love today?

Day 11: Use reminders. To help you sustain the habit of gratitude use a variety of strategies like
We put things on our refrigerators as reminders – that dental appointment, the date and time of Auntie’s arrival, etc. We also need reminders about gratitude. Make a few signs with just the word “Gratitude” on them; print them out and place them around your room and your school locker with what you’re grateful for.

Put a Trinket in Your Pocket
Lots of people carry “worry stones.” These are smooth, indented stones that one can hold and rub a thumb on when they are worried. Why not have a gratitude stone? You can reach in your pocket several times a day, and there it is, reminding you to make a statement of gratitude.

Pay it Forward
As you remind yourself of the things for which you are grateful, ask yourself if there is something you can do for someone else as an outward expression of the good you have in your life. It doesn’t matter if it is something as small as opening the door for an elder or letting someone cut in front of you in a line-up.

Express Gratitude to Others
Each day, think of someone to whom you can and should say thank you. It may be a random call to your grandmother or text a family member that has moved away. Tell people that you appreciate them – you will have made their day.

Keep a Journal
Throughout your day, as you think of things you are grateful for, jot them down. At the end of your day, read through that list.  

What strategy will you work on now to help you learn to be grateful?

Day 12: Be at peace.    This is your reward for practicing 11 days of gratitude! Gratitude revives your brain, it rewires you to celebrate everything you have in your life and will give you emotional happiness.  Let go of all your “stuff”, get out of your own way and make a change for 2019 by focusing on gratitude. What do you wish for in 2019?

See the #12DaysofGratitude for inspiration.


January 23, 2017

DRAFT — Can you See Me? — A Multigenre Paper on Bone Gap.

Can You See Me?

A Multigenre Paper on Bone Gap by Laura Ruby


Julie Balen

Table of Contents

Dear Reader

Roza’s Abducted

Go Travel!

I’ve been kidnapped for my beauty!

Was that a ghost?

Blank Face


Explanation of Sources

Works Cited


Dear Reader 

January 25, 2017

Dear Reader,

“To know thyself” is an oft-quoted aphorism. But what does it mean to you? We can struggle with our identity, with who we are and what we are meant to do in this world, with this life we have been given. Am I just like my mom? Or my dad? Or Aunt Sally? You might think that you’ll never know. You might be frustrated because you believe that no one will ever see you. In Bone Gap, Laura Ruby explores the idea of truly “seeing” yourself and, in engaging in that process, you might just learn to really see the people around you. I also wanted to connect this idea of discovering ourselves by seeing beyond the surface to the learning I did this semester on the hero’s journey. The part that connects for me is the idea that when we leave the ordinary world we begin a journey that tests and challenges us. We may not know where the quest will take us, but we fight on because there is a wrong that must be righted. We are heroes. But heroic transformation isn’t born of muscle, competence, and desire, but of the ability to look beyond the surface to discover true identity. Ruby explores questions like: How do people actually “see” each other? Do they “see” me truly or are they deceived by only what I show them? Or do they not see me at all? I explore this idea of transformation and seeing our true selves through five genres: an eye-witness account, a travel brochure, an advice column, a poem in two voices and a meme.

The process of creating this multigenre paper is complex. First, I discovered that the better my reader’s notes are the faster I was able to plan my paper. Like all experts, when we take the time to do the front-end work preparation and planning, the work/creation/build/writing/problem gets done faster. I really enjoyed using the various tech tools in my toolbox to create the rependent, the travel brochure, and the meme. Some challenges I encountered include focusing on the thesis of the paper. There are so many good themes in Bone Gap that I kept wondering off topic and I had to really monitor my thinking. Next time, I’d like to include some video based genres like a newscast, or live interview, or a scene re-enactment. 

It is my hope, dear reader, that you learn something about the novel Bone Gap, and something about how important it is to look beyond what is easily discerned to find true identity. We learn that Finn can see better than most of us. We should consider how we too can know ourselves better. 

Julie Balen

Roza Disappears: Eyewitness account

  • 16 March 2015
  • From the section United States


Roza allegedly left Bone Gap’s Fair with an unknown man.   Image Source: Pixabay


Insert text here.


If you have information about this crime contact Illinois crime stoppers.

Go Travel!


I’ve been kidnapped for my beauty!

Jan. 22, 2017 – Letter 1 of 1

by Abigail Van Buren

Dear Abby,


insert text here





Blank Face

Learn about face blindness


Learning to truly ‘see’ ourselves is part of growing up, but growing up doesn’t guarantee that you will see yourself. You need to work at it. You need to listen to what others have to say about you. You need to notice how you are in the world. Bone Gap made me think about not only the gaps that others can disappear into and away from us, but also how we ourselves use those gaps in our lives to hide. Exploring the book through this paper also pushed me to think about crucial questions around empathy, difference, tolerance, and the ways we see the people we love. I hope this paper pushed your thinking too.

Explanation of Genres

The Eye-Witness Report

Roza does actually get abducted in the novel, but she doesn’t cry out for help because “blank face” has threatened to kill Finn if she breathes a word. Finn has witnessed her “leaving” and doesn’t realize until the last minute that she is being taken against her will. So this genre is very apt on a literal level. However, it’s also an appropriate genre because Finn can’t actually give a description of the man who took Roza. He saw him, but not really. Not in the way you and I would have seen him (You will have to read the book to know more). So, on a figurative level, the eye-witness report genre supports the thesis of “seeing” beyond the surface leads us to the truth.

The Travel Brochure

Insert explanation of how I used the travel brochure. Why it is an appropriate genre.

The Advice Column

Insert explanation of how I used the advice column. Why it is an appropriate genre.

The Poem in Two Voices

Insert explanation of how I used the poem in two voices. Why it is an appropriate genre.

The Meme

Insert explanation of how I used the meme. Why it is an appropriate genre.

Works Cited

Ruby, Laura. Bone Gap. New York: Harper Collins, 2015. Print.

Smokrovic, Boris. “Bee”. Unsplash, 17 Jan. 2017.

October 17, 2016

The Feedback Continuum

SatNav = Satellite Navigation = Feedback for building confidence: timely, detailed, provides immediate, step-by-step information on your progress.

Mapping Reading = Feedback for learning: helps you find your way by providing feedback to you only when you absolutely need it; helps you grow as an independent learner.


via The Learning Spy (David Didau)

BUT, if you DO NOT do the work, then there is no opportunity for this continuum to kick in or for it to be effective.

First rule: Come to class every day.

Second rule: Do all the work.

Leave your comment below. You can cross-post your comment to your own blog if you’d like.

Consider your tracking sheet, your notebook, your progress report comments, and the goals you set for yourself posted on your blog, and leave a comment below that discusses the value (or not) of feedback from the teacher. What happens to this continuum when students don’t do the work?

January 1, 2016

November in Thisby

The Scorpio Races captured my imagination through Stiefvater’s ability to transform the landscape and the natural elements into characters.

I have lived on an island for a long time, and I understand the unique sense of isolation that most islanders feel and that drive some away. Stiefvater draws on the isolation of the place to fuel the tension between characters. The conflict between Gabe and Puck is none other than the island of Thisby. Gabe has to get away. The island of Thisby, his home, is closing in on him. “This island […] That house you and Finn are in. People talking. The fish—goddamn fish, I’ll smell like them for the rest of my life. The horses. Everything. I can’t do it anymore” (38.69). But not every islander feels claustrophobic. Some need to stay because it’s their home, and they couldn’t bear leaving. Maybe it’s a matter of loyalty or maybe some just fit where they are. Puck will stay.

I didn’t actually realize there wasn’t much to the island until a few years ago, when I started reading magazines. It doesn’t feel it to me, but Thisby’s tiny: four thousand people on a rocky crag jutting from the sea, hours from the mainland. It’s all cliffs and horses and sheep and one-track roads winding past treeless fields to Skarmouth, the largest town on the island. The truth is, until you know any different, the island is enough.

Actually, I know different. And it’s still enough.

The island is not just the place where the characters are, but it is a force in their lives.

by matsaiko via flickr

I also lived in the northern part of Canada where the natural elements not only cause inconvenience and make life hard, but they can actually kill you. Stiefvater describes a wind that tears ‘the mist to shreds’, acts “ruthless” (6), and “rips at [Puck’s] hair, pulling it out of [her] hair band and whipping the strands across [her] face” (46). This is the November wind fierce, cold, and deadly. But Thisby is an island and the ocean that surrounds it is also fierce, cold, and deadly. The ocean is not a neutral force. It has a relationship with the characters. Sean’s connection to the ocean is obvious.

The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.

Ever present, natural elements are never to be underestimated or forgotten.

My first and deepest connection to this story was through its atmospheric writing. Stiefvater creates the setting in ways that are completely recognizable to me. I know this place. I have felt its November winds. And when I finished the book, I missed the place as much as I did the other characters.  

September 22, 2015

The Call.

va Flickr

Motivation is a slippery idea. We all aren’t motivated to do things in the same way. Heck, we’re not even motivated in the same way consistently in our own lives! One time I might be motivated to finish a task because there is an external reward, but another time I am motivated by the sense of satisfaction I get from a job well-done. Sometimes it seems that nothing can get me motivated.

How is it then that some people seem to have such high levels of motivation?

Many people think there is a connection between how much we are invested in the task, or how much we care about it, and our levels of motivation. I guess this make sense. The next question is how to find something to care about that much?

Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, believed that each of us is called to our own heroic journey. Not the running into the burning building to save the child kind of hero, but a kind of hero journey of our lives that transforms us and opens us up to our true selves. For Joseph Campbell, it’s not that we need to go out looking for ways to be a hero; we need to learn to answer the call.

Literature is full of examples of the heroic journey. Some like The Hobbit explicitly follow the pattern of the hero monomyth. Other stories only use parts of the cycle. As we work through Pay It Forward, consider how this lens, the hero’s journey, might apply.

What motivates Trevor? Did he answer the call?

June 7, 2015

I don’t want to learn alone…

One thing that I have come to value and understand at a deeper level because of [the IThink] practicum, is collaboration.  There have been times when we had to work on our own and most of us realized as the months unfolded that silos are pretty useless.  Our thinking is better when the experiences, deep thinking and reflections are shared.            —Heidi Siwak, Ontario Educator


Christopher Short via Compfight

I am your teacher. You are my students.


I dislike these roles. They act to separate, isolate, and compartmentalize us. And everyone acts as if this is the way it should be.

I want us to have a different experience.  I want us to feel the rush of each other’s insights and the weight of our collective thinking as we work together to first learn and then reflect on our newly acquired perspectives.

Imagine the possibilities!

Oh the places we will go

As I create/construct/write this post, I am conscious that I do so in the present tense even though the semester and our time together is drawing to a close. I don’t want this reflection to be an end though. I want it to be a beginning…a beginning for all of us to consider what collaboration means and what we need to do differently the next time we are in a learning environment (which for some of us may be all the time and everywhere) to move towards working together to do the learning that we could not possibly do alone.

This semester I created opportunities for collaboration by:

  • organizing seating in groups
  • encouraging you to share your thinking with each other
  • building in a peer review component for all writing/creating
  • using the question formulation technique to help us generate relevant and meaningful questions
  • having teachers model what small group discussion and collaboration can look like
  • bringing outside voices in like Mr. Chris Baird
  • doing the work with you like the poetry anthology and the re-framed blog
  • providing many exemplars of learning
  • holding a class read aloud of a common text
  • conferencing with you
  • blending our learning especially in Google Docs, but also with Mindomo
  • encouraging self-direction and reflection
  • building in metacognition

And yet, my voice dominated the space.

I don’t want to learn alone. I want to learn with you because your ideas, your questions, your challenges, your a-ha moments will not be the same as mine, and they will teach me.

Take a moment to reflect with me. What else do we need to do or to know that will move us along the collaboration continuum? What other types of support or strategies might you need to build your collaboration skills?

Collaboration Continuum


May 3, 2015

“Learning Ready” Defined.

What does it mean to be “learning ready”? And why has this notion captured my imagination completely. I have decided to curate other’s thinking that in some way connects with what I am understanding to mean “Learning Ready.”

My thinking started here…

The Fisch-Richardson conversation via The Fischbowl: What options exist for our young people today beyond high school? What is the conversation that we should be having with our teens about their lives? How has the story of high school, college/university, job changed? In 2013, Karl Fisch thinks about how he can best support his kids (and his students) in thinking about their futures. Will Richardson joins the conversation with this comment that ends with the phrase “learning ready”.

Will Richardson1/7/13, 4:57 AM

You’ve got six years…I have less than three. And I’ve been having almost the exact same thoughts and questions running through my brain as well. The stats on the kids in our districts are very similar; the vast majority go to college right after graduation. The idea that there would be any other path for kids who have the grades to go to college is unheard of. (Tess is still getting grief about not taking the PSATs as a sophomore this year.) But my kids have known for a long time that they will have options, even though they may not be as “clear” as college. And I don’t mean vocational paths (though those are fine, too.) I mean different paths to professional success and accreditation.

But here’s the thing: are our schools preparing kids to forge their own path? To be “entrepreneurial learners” as John Seely Brown calls them, kids who are “Constantly looking around them, all the time, for new ways and new resources to learn new things”? Because if college is only one path, the other ones are forged by self-direction, organization, wonder, creation, sharing, inquiry…all those things that you and I need in order to be successful learners in our lives. Kids who don’t go to college to get a degree need to be able to design their own learning since they won’t get a course list and syllabus handed to them. They need to have skills and literacies that will allow them to learn what they need to learn, create art (as Seth Godin says) with that learning, share that learning, and “earn their influence” (as Stephen Downes says). We teaching them how to do that?

So, there’s always been that “third path” somewhere between getting a job and going to college, but now, I think it’s going to start to scale in some interesting ways. That’s why I really don’t care if my kids are “college ready” when they leave high school as long as they are “learning ready,” able to put together their own path to success.


  • To answer your question, no. At least not my school and most of the schools I’ve been to or heard of. On the other hand, I don’t really know how to do that myself, or how to help 14-18 year olds (at my school, anyway) get interested and engaged in that pursuit. So I certainly don’t pretend to have the “answers.”

    And I agree about being “learning ready,” I’m just not sure how to get from here to there.

From Seth Godin’s Blog of December 2010

The world’s worst boss

That would be you.

Even if you’re not self-employed, your boss is you. You manage your career, your day, your responses. You manage how you sell your services and your education and the way you talk to yourself.

Odds are, you’re doing it poorly.

If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much of your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.

I’m amazed at how often people choose to fail when they go out on their own or when they end up in one of those rare jobs that encourages one to set an agenda and manage themselves. Faced with the freedom to excel, they falter and hesitate and stall and ultimately punt.

We are surprised when someone self-directed arrives on the scene. Someone who figures out a way to work from home and then turns that into a two-year journey, laptop in hand, as they explore the world while doing their job. We are shocked that someone uses evenings and weekends to get a second education or start a useful new side business. And we’re envious when we encounter someone who has managed to bootstrap themselves into happiness, as if that’s rare or even uncalled for.

There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It’s hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.


From David Prices’ post via MindShift March 23, 2015

This post moves towards a more concrete definition, or at least part of a definition, of what learning ready is. It provides a checklist of six “Do its”-motivators for learning socially-that schools need to integrate into their learning environments:

  1. Do it yourself
  2. Do it now
  3. Do it with friends
  4. Do it for fun
  5. Do unto others
  6. Do it for the world to see

Yet schools who have opened their learning environments and integrated [the six learning] motivations into their learning programs are not only enhancing engagement–they are preparing their students for the adaptive, entrepreneurial future that awaits them. In short, they have realized that the best way to prepare young people for the world beyond school is to immerse them in the world beyond school, as often as possible. (my emphasis)

March 29, 2015

Blurring the lines: Modelling the Re:framed Blog

The idea that classroom learning needs to be authentic and relevant to students, that it needs to connect to their out of school lives, that it needs to be meaningful is a nice thought. The trouble with this thinking is that many students don’t get it, want it, understand it. What happens outside of school stays outside of school, and that includes everything from personal devices to passions. We need to figure out how to blur the lines.

Some of my classes are engaged in blogging this semester and although we are slow out of the gates, I have high hopes for our progress.

I am taking a page from David Theriault who introduced me to the Re: Framed Blogging Project, where students design blogs around their personal interests and once a week post a blog entry that re:frames some aspect of their school learning.

So in one course where we think a lot about ethics, values, dilemmas and worldviews, a student who has created a blog around her love of music might re:frame a post around the idea of bands selling their music to corporations to be used for advertising purposes, which gives her the opportunity to think about the paradigm of short-term vs long-term through a personally relevant lens.

In another class, we have been exploring Joseph Campbell’s hero journey monomyth and Carl Jung’s archetypal theory. Students might choose to re:frame a post around this content. Some students just competed at the Regional First Robotics Competition, and I bet that the journey from building the robot to being awarded the top seeded rookie team took the team through many of the classic stages of the hero’s journey.

I love this idea of re:framing the content because it will help all of us break down the barriers of what we think learning is, of what the value is of any particular content, and of what our connection to the process is.

BUT first, as with all assignments in my classes, I need to do the work too, so here is my first re:framed post.

I thought about re:framing Since You’ve Been Gone, the most recent YA novel I’ve read. There is much to consider about the way Morgan Matson portrays Emily’s family and the ever present conversation about balancing the needs of the individual and those of the family (community).

Or the list! Matson uses the device of a list to hook us into the story. Don’t we love lists–making them, reading them, tracking our lives with them.

But since this blog centres around learning and the learning process, I will re:frame Campbell’s heroic journey as a way to consider the learning process.


Heroes. They take on  danger. Stand-up to bullies. Protect us. Inspire us. They make a difference in the world. Some of us probably aspire to being heroes. Some of us just can’t help ourselves.

My husband is a hero. He has saved the day for many people. Not with the Harry Stamper kind of heroism, but with the kind that ensures that a car load of city-bound kids get to have their day of fun by rescuing their vehicle from a malfunctioning alternator. Or the kind that pulls cars out of ditches (mostly me, but others too), or that stands up for disenfranchised youth against the outcry of white privilege. It’s subtle, but he, too, doesn’t know how to fail.

Those heroic attributes-bravery, risk-taking, confidence, perseverance, self-sacrifice, determination, responsibility, personal ethics-they are also the attributes of the learner. Learners must be engaged in the process of acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will allow us to live the life we want. Joseph Campbell encourages us to find and follow our bliss:

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

The call to adventure.

Ok. So we need skills and knowledge (reading, writing, math, science etc.), and the courage to take on the adventure that is our lives. It’s what we want to do when we grow-up. It’s how we want to live our lives. It’s about how to be ‘learning ready’ when we leave high school.

Refusal of the call.

We think of learning as something that is done to us. We think of learning as showing up. We think of learning as being caught up. We think of learning as a straight line between point A and point Z. We think of learning as a series of marks or grades.

And yet something just doesn’t feel right, does it? There’s little connection between the disparate parts of my day. I don’t feel like engaging in the work. I’m not excited by anything I’m supposed to be learning. I’m tired. I’m bored. I have no passion. Is this it?

The call to adventure repeated. 

What is learning then? What does it look like? Feel like?

  • messy
  • grey
  • non-linear
  • not the same for everyone
  • slippery
  • confusing
  • risky
  • challenging
  • tingling…goose bumpy

What do I need to know? To do?

  • ask questions
  • think critically
  • collaborate
  • engage my imagination
  • consider the long view
  • get involved
  • connect
  • make time for learning
  • reflect
  • know thyself as a learner
  • what’s the plan

Leaving the traditional factory-based model of learning behind (the ‘sit and get’ learning, worksheets, chapter end questions, whole class novels, etc.) is not for the feint of heart.  What if I haven’t blogged before? Or I hate writing, period? Or I’ve never completed independent work? What if I am a slow reader? Or so shy that I can’t speak up in a group discussion? What if I have not thought critically about a text? Or participated in an inquiry?

Will I accept the challenge that learning presents for me?

The Meeting of the Mentor

It is the teacher who helps us to face the unknown learning tasks.  She teaches us skills and knowledge, and gives us feedback, advice, or guidance. However, the teacher can only go so far with us. Eventually, we must work independently to demonstrate what we know, what we have learned, and what we have yet to learn.

(Sometimes the teacher is required to give us a push to get the learning started.)

Crossing the Threshold

We have to be committed to our learning goals because they will get us to where we need to go…they will help us follow our bliss. It’s hard work, but we must agree to face the consequences of the challenges put before us — increased confidence and motivation as we produce work and receive feedback; confusion and an erosion of motivation when we don’t. This is really the moment when the learning takes off!

Assignments, Portfolios, Tests, and the Processes Involved in Learning

There is always method to the madness that presents itself to us. We might not always be able to discern it, but there is a plan at work.

learning plan

At some point, we need to shed the doubt and just go for it: trust the process, the guidance of the teacher, and the overall plan.

Are you?