September 7, 2021

Learning How to Learn




Image result for learn

Today, you’ll create a visual note on two strategies for learning and complete a questionnaire about what you have learned.


The note.


What is learning?


Learning is “a process that leads to change” (Ambrose et al, 2010, p. 3). The change in the learner may happen at the level of knowledge, attitude, or behaviour. It is a permanent change in long-term memory.

Learning occurs when we are able to:

  • Gain a mental or physical grasp of the subject.
  • Make sense of a subject, event or feeling by interpreting it into our own words or actions.
  • Use our newly acquired ability or knowledge in conjunction with skills and understanding we already possess.
  • Do something with the new knowledge or skill and take ownership of it.

Examples include: 

  • learning to ride a bike
  • learning to skate
  • learning to read the words on the page of a book
  • learning to make inferences from the actions of the character, the action, and the conflict
  • learning what numbers mean
  • learning to follow a recipe
  • learning to conduct a science experiment and draw conclusions. 

What is retrieval practice?


The act of recalling learned information from memory (with little or no support) and every time that information is retrieved, or an answer is generated, it changes the original memory to make it stronger.

Retrieval practice is a study method that encourages students to engage with the material in an active way (teaching, annotating, completing practice tests) rather than passive learning (re-reading or highlighting).

Retrieval practice makes learning effortful and challenging. Because retrieving information requires mental effort, we often think we are doing poorly if we can’t remember something. We may feel like progress is slow, but that’s when our best learning takes place.  The more difficult the retrieval practice, the better it is for long-term learning.



What is spaced practice?


Spaced practice is the exact opposite of cramming. When you cram, you study for a long, intense period of time close to an exam. When you space your learning, you take that same amount of study time, and spread it out across a much longer period of time. Doing it this way, that same amount of study time will produce more long-lasting learning. For example, five hours spread out over two weeks is better than the same five hours right before the exam.

Struggling to learn – through the act of practicing what you know and recalling information – is much more effective than re-reading, taking notes, or listening to lectures. Slower, effortful SPACED RETRIEVAL practice leads to long-term learning. In contrast, fast, easy strategies like rereading, cramming, and highlighting only lead to short-term learning.


So, two REALLY good learning strategies => SPACED RETRIEVAL PRACTICE.


After you complete your note, move on to the session questionnaire. 

You will find the questionnaire here:






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