CONVERGENT TOOLS: Dot Voting/Dots & Super Dots & The Matrix

DOT VOTING/Dots & Super Dots

This is a useful tool when you have a large group of people, the whole class perhaps. Review all the ideas generated, possibly on the whiteboard or numerous pieces of chart paper.

  • Give each student a number of dot stickers. Everyone should have the same number of dots.
  • Have everyone place a dot beside a great idea.
  • Look for clusters with the most dots or “Hits.” The clusters with the most “Hits” are the options that should be worked on first.
  • Try narrowing the criteria even for the dot voting. For example, which idea would cost the least, be the easiest to build or implement, etc.
  • Another option is to give out dots but also one SUPER DOT, so students can converge on what they feel is the very best idea of all. Powerful critical thinking!


A matrix creates a systematic way to evaluate many solutions against selected
criteria. Use a simple rating system to show how well each idea satisfies each criterion
( scale of 1 – 3, or what about emojis!!) Once the matrix is completed and each idea
rated, you get a sense of how the ideas stack up against each other.


Adapted by Melissa Reist


Canadian Geographic – Classroom Contests

The beginning of the school year also means the beginning of Can Geo Education’s contests. This year, get your class excited about geography by signing up for one (or all) of our free contests!

Canadian Geographic Challenge
The Canadian Geographic Challenge is Canada’s national geography bee. It’s a great way to highlight how fun and diverse geography is. Sign up any grade 4-10 class this fall.

Classroom Energy Diet Challenge
Teach your students about energy using this fun and engaging program. Available to all K-12 classrooms.

Canada’s Coolest School Trip
This year, one lucky grade 8/secondaire 2 class will embark on an all-expenses-paid trip to number of Parks Canada places.

Visit to find out where the lucky winners will be heading and register in September.

Finland schools: Subjects are out and ‘topics’ are in as country reforms its education system

Except from The Independent:


…Pasi Silander, the city’s development manager, explained: “What we need now is a different kind of education to prepare people for working life.

“Young people use quite advanced computers. In the past the banks had lots of  bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed.

“We therefore have to make the changes in education that are necessary for industry and modern society.”

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

There are other changes too, not least to the traditional format that sees rows of pupils sitting passively in front of their teacher, listening to lessons or waiting to be questioned. Instead there will be a more collaborative approach, with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.

Ms Kyllonen has been advocating a “co-teaching” approach to lesson planning, with input from more than one subject specialist. Teachers who embrace this new system can receive a small top-up in salary.

About 70 per cent of the city’s high school teachers have now been trained in adopting the new approach, according to Mr Silander.

Meanwhile, the pre-school sector is also embracing change through an innovative project, the Playful Learning Centre, which is engaged in discussions with the computer games industry about how it could help introduce a more “playful” learning approach to younger children.

Ms Jaatinen describes what is going on as “joyful learning”. She wants more collaboration and communication between pupils to allow them to develop their creative thinking skills.


Read more

Ontario teachers, what do you think of these changes?

GRIT! What kids need to succeed.

This was one of the first things we read in my grade 8 classroom. It’s a great introduction to the learning skills.

There are two parts to this lesson for the first week of school. I like to start with the Globe & Mail Article:

Why Kids need to fail to succeed.

1. Ask kids what they think about the title. Start a discussion on that concept.  Have you ever failed at something? What did you do?

2. Have kids read and highlight the article: Crash, Burn, Achieve – why kids need to fail

The article is a challenging read, but we broke it down into it’s core messages

  1. Grit = Resistance, persistence, perseverance, stick-to-itiveness, and passion. IQ matters a lot in terms of what your freshman GPA is, but graduating from college has much more to do with character strengths like persistence, perseverance and grit. It’s that ability to deal with setbacks, because in college you’re always going to have setbacks – whether it’s not being able to pay a tuition bill, or not getting along with your roommate, or failing a class.

    • In chess, no matter how good you are, you lose about half your games. And even when you win, you’re making terrible mistakes all the time. So you have to figure out a strategy for dealing with failure.
      1. QUIT: So there are kids who, when they try to play chess and start to fail, they just decide, “Oh, I don’t really care about chess. I’m losing too much.”
      2. GET DOWN:  And there are those who beat themselves up about it. Neither group does all that well.
      3. GRIT: But a third group, which Ms. Spiegel tries to develop, is made up of kids who take their failures very seriously but divorce themselves from it a little bit; they say, “Okay, let me actually analyze the mistakes that I made: What can I do differently next time? ”
  1. If you want to develop kids’ self-esteem, the best way to do it is to praise everything they do and make excuses for their failures. But if you want to develop their character, you do almost the opposite: You let them fail and don’t hide their failures from them or from anybody else – not to make them feel lousy about themselves, but to give them the tools to succeed next time.

Next, follow up with Angela Lee Duquett’s Ted Talk on Grit.

The Key to Success? Grit

I would follow up on this video with a free write: a time when you’ve failed, when things have been too easy, etc…

Take the Quiz

Do you have Grit?

Set Goals

After this is done, I would lead into goal setting: for the week, month, year, 5 years, 10 years!  Tell them not to set goals that they THINK they will achieve, but goals in which they WANT to achieve, even if they think it’s too hard.  Perhaps that will be my next post, on goal setting.

Stay tuned!

Using Cards in the Classroom

If you have a deck of cards, you have a wonderful tool for organizing and grouping your classroom.

Organized Seating/Groupings

You can assign students a card (students keep it in their desk or tape it to the top of their desk) and use this for choosing a seating plan. I like to give girls either HEARTS or DIAMONDS and boys CLUBS or SPADES.  In fact, you can be even more selective and assign “easy” girls hearts and “easy” boys spades – by easy, I mean low behavioral issues.

This works well for seating in twos:

  • hearts (easy girls) and diamonds (girl)
  • hearts (easy girls)  and clubs (boy)
  • spades (easy boy) and diamonds (girl)
  • spades (easy boy) and clubs (boy)
  • but never clubs + clubs, diamonds + diamonds, or clubs + diamonds

Or in groups of fours, you can now let them pick their own foursomes by saying, “You must have 1 of each suit in your group”.

When behaviour is less of an issue, you can spin a wheel on your whiteboard to see which to suits get paired up for an activity, or which suit gets to go first for an activity.

Random Groupings

You can start your day off by picking a card. Use this card for:

  • order of lining up at the door (Ace to King)
  • presenting projects
  • use of the computer lab
  • exchanging home reading
  • etc…


There are tons of ways to use cards in math, but one quick game is for integers in the intermediate grades (7/8).  Students get in pairs, each person gets 10 cards.  Red cards are negative integers and black cards are positive integers. Students flip the cards over at the same time and either add or multiply the numbers together.

  • win = +1
  • tie = 0
  • loss = -1

When time runs out, students will calculate their sum using integers. For example, 7 wins and 3 losses: (+7) + (- 3) = (+4)

Daily Physical Activity (DPA)

There are many ways to use cards for DPA. One way is:

  1. Select an activity for each suit: Hearts = Jumping Jacks, Diamonds =skipping, Spades = lunges, Clubs = Side bends (you can switch up the activities each day).
  2. Students are in 4 groups (each corner of the room).One person from each group will take turns grabbing a card.  The group will do the activity of the card. For example, Jack of Hearts, the group would do 10 jumping jacks.
  3. The groups try to collect as many points as possible. The group that does the most exercises in allotted time frame, wins!
  4. BONUS:
    • 2 bonus points for a pair
    • 3 bonus points for triplets
    • 5 points for a flush or a straight.
    • 10 points for a full house
    • 20 points for a straight flush