Making Rectangles

Making Rectangles

We’ve tried some cooperative challenges over the last couple of weeks. In the most recent, teams of four students each had to make four identical rectangles from a set of sixteen different shapes. The catch was that no one was allowed to use their voice nor to make any gestures. Team members could give a piece to another person if we thought it would help them, but we could not reach over and take a shape from someone else.

All of the teams were successful at working very silently. Some managed to make four identical rectangles; some did not. But while the task was to make the rectangles following the rules, the overall goals were to: 

  • Respond to the needs of others
  • Help others to do things for themselves

I’m wondering how students felt during the activity; what helped; and how well the students feel they did at meeting these two overall goals.


owl flying

a magnificent raptor

A visitor or two dropped in on us Thursday. Not the one pictured here, but some who taught us a lot about raptors like this owl. BCIT students Sara and Terence fascinated us with their engaging presentation and interesting specimens of these magnificent birds. 

Besides the photos, video, research specimens, and great information, what really got us hooked was the way they connected with and listened to each student in the room. Their own interest in the work they are doing was palpable and helped switch on our curiosity. That and the gross-but-cool owl pellets they brought for us to dissect!

owl pellet dissection

skull extracted from an owl pellet

We are very grateful to Sara & Terence for sharing their knowledge & passion with us (and with another intermediate class too!). Sara happens to be a Division 3 alumna, and I am especially grateful to her for thinking of her old elementary school teacher and returning to help inspire the latest group of students in my classroom. Our buckets are overflowing, thank you!


Bucket filling‽

Filling or dipping?

We’ve been thinking about the importance of filling others’ buckets for a long time at our school. I’m not sure if the child in the picture here is filling a bucket or dipping from a bucket. Sometimes we don’t realise (or even think about) whether we are dipping from someone’s bucket. Yesterday we talked in class about how we could plan to do a little more bucket-filling. Some ideas some of us suggested were:

  • smile
  • invite someone to join in
  • use good manners (Say, “Please,” & “Thank you.”)
  • use polite words
  • tell a friendly joke
  • say, “Hello.”

I’m sure you have more ideas, and I’m also sure that if we make an effort to take some of these small steps, we will make our days and our relationships better.

Being friends: at once simple & difficult

Today we had a visit from some folks from the Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society. Among the aspects of their presentation that I appreciated most was how clearly they made the point that ALL of us, all of our brains, are very much alike but also unique. I think most students there would have heard and talked about a similar message before, but I’m sure all of us could do more to get to know and understand each other better.

To that end, they left us with a very practical tool in their 7 friendship tips. While the tips may have been created with certain needs in mind, they provide good advice for all of us to use in all of our friendships & to help build our communication skills. I’m wondering what thoughts or question others might have about today’s presentation, about how our brains and experiences are different, about how to practise self-regulation when we’re over-stimulated (or under-stimulated), or about friendship in general. Your replies would be welcome.

Thinking & singing about the Holidays

Before our winter break, we had a sing along, and at one point we sang the familiar favourite, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” We got to wondering, if you were the person in the song receiving all those gifts from your true love, after the 12th day, how many gifts would you have received?

image by Leo Reynolds

It’s an interesting problem. We had to spend a lot of time working on our understanding of it. We found it depended on what counted as a gift. We ended up discussing a few other questions as well. We also found that keeping track of our thinking and our solutions got tricky, and organising how we recorded our ideas made a big difference.

If you have some thoughts to contribute toward tackling this question, please feel free to add them in a comment. Happy New Year!


Every time I read this chapeter of Wonder, at least a few tears come to my eyes. I start imagining how all of the characters would be feeling and what thoughts would be going through their minds., but soon my mind moves on to remembering the dogs we had when I was growing up. One of the many things I loved about having dogs was that a dog is always happy to see you. I found it next to impossible not to feel at least a little bit better once greeted by my happy, furry, tail-wagging friend.

Dogs don’t care about the petty things people get all bent out of shape over. A dog can be the best listener, best companion and best friend to have around, especially at those times when you feel like you just really need a friend.

I think including Daisy in this story was a great move by R.J. Palacio. A person like August might really need the kind of friend that maybe only a dog can be. A friend who is completely accepting of everything about you and who doesn’t care what anyone else said to or about you. Daisy could show August that the part of himself that sometimes seems like his biggest problem is not at all the most important part of him, and maybe isn’t important at all when you come right down to it.

August’s medical condition and his various trials & tribulations make that point very clear, but I don’t think the Augusts among us are the only ones who need to hear that lesson’s message. Maybe the rest of us, the Jack Wills, the Charlottes, the Julians, the Mrs. Garcias… maybe we, each one of us, needs that reminder. We are OK. We have value. Our problems, flaws, and imperfections do as much to make us just like everyone else as they do to set us apart. Everyone else feels the same frailty that sometimes makes us feel alone, frustrated, afraid, or in need of a friend. And we all need a friend who will accept us the way we are, who lets us know that we make them happy, and who lets us us know that everything is OK. Or maybe what we need most is to be the kind of friend who helps others feel that way.