Category Archives: collaboration

Classroom Field Recordings: Music to My Ears

 I’ve been away for a month, not the best way to try to restart this blog, this year! Sorry I was quite wonderfully distracted for the last month, but I’m focused now! 😀

Last week, I was really pleased and proud of the hard work done by the students in my physics classes. They were tackling some tough kinematics problems in small groups, with little direct help from me. I was so happy that, on a whim, I started to record some of these sessions. This will give other teachers a sense of what my classes sound like. To me, it’s music to my ears! Students puzzling together over a new situation/problem, and figuring out the correct solution together. It reminds me of how climbers approach a new problem and work it out together. 🙂

1st Projectile Problem:

I’ll be back soon with more substantive posts about Growth Mindset, the Importance of Student Agency in the Classroom, and a post about Classroom Ambiguity (which I’ll purposefully leave ambiguous for now)… and all of their connections to climbing!

Braking with a Reaction Time 1:

Braking with a Reaction Time 2: 


Outside The Box, October 2013

I run a monthly school-wide puzzle contest that I call Outside The Box. October’s OTB challenge was the first of the school year, and I was testing the waters to see if there’s enough interest to keep it going for 2013-2014 (last year, I stopped around February, partially because of Robotics competition season and partially because of thinning participation).

Here is the challenge I posed to the school on Oct. 1st:

October’s OTB Challenge.mp4

Using (recycled) paper, create the two objects in the video. Your creations should have the same folding abilities as the ones featured.

All valid solutions will receive a prize. The size of that prize depends on the number of people who submit correct solutions.

(Apologies to Paul and Justin for removing important credit… I’m trying to make the solution ungooglable. I will include full credit when I give solutions on Nov. 1st!)

I’m happy to report that I received a collaborative solution from two S4 students today! (S4 = Grade 10/11 at my school)
Their awesome solution can be found here: October’s OTB Solution, Alev and Monica.mp4

So at least some prizes will be given this month, hopefully the first of many this year! 😀

Lazarus Post: SBG Collaboration Catalyst

Let’s dust this blog off a bit. It’s been close to 2.5 years since I’ve written here. This year (my 3rd in HS) is the first year I feel like I’ll have time to give back to my PLN in more than just ≤ 140 character snippets. Finally!

During the past two years, I’ve been meaning to write about the interesting connections between two of my passions: education and climbing, to illuminate the heathy aspects of both, in addition to adding a unique voice to both communities. This post is about increasing collaboration on SBG Objectives using inspiration from how climbers collaborate on boulder problems.

Background: I use small-group guided inquiry and an evidence-based (not test-based) SBG assessment system.

An important goal I have with SBG is for students to be working together on objectives, learning from and teaching each other. In previous years (and from what I remember from my high school experience), students are, for the most part, silo-ed and focusing on their own work. This is a disservice to them and their (our) future. Problems in society are only becoming increasingly complex and their solutions will likely be cross-discipline involving many different people with specialized knowledge working together (see: global warming).

To increase collaboration between my students I’ve implemented a Peer-Teaching mechanism this year. If students take advantage of this mechanism they will gain increasing control over the weighting of their course assessments (adding a bit of a gamification feel to the year). Full details are as follows:

Peer-Teaching Information

Summary: If you are teaching other physics students concepts, you may be eligible to improve your course grade.


  1. The teaching student must have mastered an objective.
  2. The learning student must have already attempted the same objective, or a very related objective if in another class (i.e. a grade 12 student teaching a grade 11 student).
  3. Both students must show evidence of earnest collaboration on the objective.
  4. The learning student must then obtain mastery on this objective.


  1. The learning student obtains mastery on the objective (and can now teach other students)!
  2.  The teaching student is allow to bank one percentage weighting credit for that objective’s unit.

Anytime during the year (and by moratorium week, at the latest) each percentage weighting credit may be used to move one total grade percentage point weight from any assignment to any other assignment within a unit. (i.e. within the Kinematics Unit, moving one percentage point weight from Unit Objectives [originally 6%] to Daily Inquiry Activities [originally 4%], so that your Unit Objectives are now worth 5% and your Daily Inquiry Activities are worth 5%. Grade percentage point weight breakdowns for each unit can be found in your grade spreadsheet.

Secondary goals of this mechanism are to reduce procrastination on objectives, remove any possible stigma from the students that quickly master ideas (instead seeing them as potential helpers), remove any possible stigma from the students that take longer to master ideas (instead now being win-win opportunities), and increase cross-class and cross-grade collaboration. There is also hopefully a self-sustaining cycle of teaching, where the newly taught student can now teach other students who are struggling with the same idea they previously were.

Going from confusion to obvious success is wonderful. Doing it within the context and support of a community can be game-changing.

For the climbers in the audience, you probably pick up on the influence from working on bouldering problems. These sessions are often marked by climbers of many different skill levels working together on a range of problem difficulties. Virtually everyone in the gym can be thought of as a teacher as well as someone who is learning. Success at all levels (beginning to advanced) is boisterously celebrated and climbers who learn new skills are excited to teach others. This is a major reason why I love climbing and climbers.

We’ll see how this goes this year and what improvements will be necessary. In the spirit of this post, don’t hesitate in sharing your thoughts and support! (It’s good to be back! :D)