Scaffolding is great for precise individual and group instruction. It is an amazing instructional methodology for teachers to implement in their practice. Below, I have summarized the steps to scaffold.

  1. Excavating – Teacher systemically questions to discover what students know
  2. Modelling – Teacher models what to do and/or how to do it.
  3. Collaborating – Teacher works interactively with students on a tasks to achieve a solution. Teacher contributes ideas, responds to suggestions and invites comments.
  4. Guiding – Teacher observes, listens and monitors students as they work, asks questions designed to help better understand the material & make connections.
  5. Convince Me – Teacher actively seeks evidence, encourages students to be more precise & specific. A teacher continues to encourage students to explain & provide data/explanation for their response.
  6. Focusing – Teacher focuses on specific concept/skill/strategy that students need to improve.
  7. Probing – Teacher evaluates students understanding using specific question/task designed to elicit a range of strategies and presses for clarification.
  8. Orienting – Teacher establishes context by invoking relevant prior knowledge and experience.
  9. Reviewing – Teacher recounts of what was learnt, share ideas and strategies. This typically occurs at the end of the lesson; key ideas are articulated and recorded.
  10. Extending – Teacher uses open-ended questions to explore; extent student’s understanding & provide context for further learning.
  11. Apprenticing – Teacher offers students opportunity to operate in a student-as-teacher capacity.

3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do


In this article, John McCarthy suggests three paths that teachers should take to differentiate instruction (DI). McCarthy asserts the nucleus to successful DI is the relationship between teachers and students. The teacher’s role is to connect students to the content, process, and product. Students will respond based upon readiness, interests, and learner profile.


Differentiating Content – Content refers to the skills, concepts, and knowledge students need to learn. Differentiating content means using various methods to deliver content and using various methods to organize/learn content. For example, using videos to explain mathematical equations and providing different techniques to solve mathematical equations. The purpose is to use different instructional strategies to reach diverse learners, and allow students to discover which methods are more effective for them.

Differentiating Process – Process refers to how students make sense of the content. Students need time to reflect and absorb the content. Reflecting is a powerful tool to allow students to absorb the material. This is where the students will self-assess the content, and recognize what they understand and what they don’t understand. At this point, teachers should check for understanding – something simple is thumbs up (understand), thumbs down (don’t understand), thumbs in the middle (sort of understand). According to McCarthy, teachers should have one to two processing experiences every 30 minutes of instruction. A few strategies McCarthy suggests are think-pair-share, journalling, discussions – anything that allows the student to reflect on the learning.

Differentiating Product – Product is the evidence of learning. The product should align with learning outcomes. Teachers need to give students options to how they want to demonstrate their learning. For example, for a novel study project, I gave my students three choices to demonstrate their learning. The three choices were a poem, book cover, or narrative story. Also, students had an option to choose something different as long as they discussed it with me.

In the end, to successfully employee these strategies, teachers need to know their students. Click here to read the entire article.

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science

A Mind for Numbers

A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley provides an array of techniques and strategies for learning math and science, although the techniques can be applied to other subjects. The book provides diverse methods and informative applications to help readers construct mechanisms that lead to successful learning – these mechanisms can be applied to any subject or concept not only math and science. The key quality of this book is it doesn’t provide an “one size fits all” approach to learning but rather recognizes the diverse needs of learners, and therefore provides the reader with a myriad of strategies. Also, the test preparation checklist (p.239) and ten rules of good studying (p.257) are great tools for students and teachers. I will summarize the main points from the book, and points that I found important.

  • Oakley provides two main modes of thinking, focused and diffused. She illustrates the importance of each mode for learning and problem solving. Oakley suggests that readers learn how to use the different modes and when and how to shift between the two modes  of thinking.
    • Focus mode – learner’s attention is fixated on the concept (activates the pre-frontal cortex).
    • Diffuse mode – learner reflects on the concepts or takes a break from learning. When you take a break from learning, you unconsciously switch to the diffuse mode (diffuse thinking is widespread throughout the brain).
  • Focused mode is concerned with analyzing and interpreting whereas the diffused mode is concerned with the ‘bigger picture’. Oakley attests that learning occurs when you shift between the two modes of thinking.
  • To learn new ideas, we must use focused thinking initially then switch to diffuse thinking.
  • Oakley claims that major discoveries and innovations happened during the diffused mode of thinking.
  • The two crucial memory systems are working memory and long-term memory. Working memory pertains to the material your are directly processing (Oakley suggests processing four ideas at a time). Long-term memory is the hard-drive of the brain. It holds large amounts of information that is accessible.
  • It’s important to connect new concepts between the working memory and long-term memory; it builds multiple and new neural connections. This is critical for creativity and problem solving.
  • Another strategy Oakley suggests to improve learning is recall new knowledge to get it imprinted in your long-term memory.
  • Oakley compares the process of chucking and time-on-task. She reveals that creating connections with information is more effective than rereading, over learning, and rote memorization. Therefore, learning and reading must be active rather than passive. In addition, she asserts that learning strategies of pausing and reflecting are more effective than cramming and stressful learning.
  • Three steps to chuck material are (1) simply focus on the information you want to chuck, (2) understand basic material you want to chuck, and (3) gain context to see how and when to chuck.
  • Visuospatial memory is important to learning. The learner should create analogies, visual images and narratives to cultivate the visuospatial memory.
  • A technique Oakley suggests to use is the memory palace technique. To create a memory palace, the learner should contextualize and integrate concepts into familiar memories. This will strengthen their visuospatial memory.
  • Two strategies to gain deeper meaning and understanding hidden meaning are (1) simplifying and personifying the object of study and (2) contextual transferring new concepts to previously learned concepts.

At the end of each chapter, Oakley provides the reader with question to deepen their learning (the questions also serve to apply the techniques she’s teaching in the book). I will provide a few that I found informative.

  • Describe an image you could use to help you remember an important equation.
  • Pick any listing of four or more key ideas or concepts from any of your classes. Describe how you would encode those ideas as memorable images and tell where you would deposit them in your memory palace.
  • Explain the memory palace technique in a way that your grandmother could understand.
  • Take a piece of paper and doodle to create a visual or verbal metaphor for a concept you are trying to understand.
  • Write a paragraph that describes how some concepts you are studying could be visualized in a play.

A Mind for Numbers is a great read for educators and students. Oakley has provided me with numerous techniques I will implement in the classroom. Great book!

How to Find Your Passion


“Passion exists at the intersection of three or more things you’re really curious about” – Steve Kotler.

This would be a great activity for students to discover what they are passionate about. Teachers need to cultivate student’s curiosity and help develop their passions. A great project to assist students to explore their passion is Genius Hour. I did Genius Hour this year with my students, and they loved it.  It allowed students to explore subjects/topics of interest and passion (I had one student do a presentation on the Big Bang – it was amazing!). In the future, to augment my Genius Hour project I will use this as an introductory lesson or anticipatory set to incite enthusiasm. Teachers need to help students to become learner-driven by guiding students to discover their passion and purpose in life.