Tag Archives: #modernlearning


“Way to be!”

“Way to be!”

How do we teach RESPONSIBILITY?

As teachers, we often complain about students who do not take responsibility for their learning. It seems difficult for them to make good choices e.g. as to where they sit and they have a bad habit of side conversations. We worry about these students and their progress.

As teachers, we work very hard to make lessons compelling and spend time scaffolding and planning. And sometimes it seems we work harder than our students! We sometimes say to ourselves at points of frustration, “Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

What if there was a way to teach responsibility?

Responsibility at Home
On parent teacher nights, I quickly learned that students who do not take ownership for their learning at school, in most cases, do not have responsibilities at home. Click here for a blueprint on the steps I use with parents and students to learn the important skill of responsibility.


Responsibility in the Classroom
Last week my students experienced an “ah ha” moment. “So, to do well in this unit, we have to do all these things. Then we will have all those things. But none of that can happen unless we come to class being all these things.”

This student was saying that the middle list (see photo,) called the “Do” list, is the success criteria. As teachers, most of us develop the success criteria at the beginning of a lesson or unit of work. That enable students to know what they need to do to be successful. I like to boil the success criteria down to a list of verbs.

Students know that if they do those things they will have certain results. We brainstorm those results in the third column.

However, what students don’t realize is how they have to show up in class in order to have success. The way they show up is their way of being and it precedes doing and having. Their way of being will allow students to do what is needed to in order to have the results. A discussion pursues and students become very present to their responsibility for their learning. They also begin to hold each other to account.

(The “Be Do Have” activity is adapted from a conversation at Landmark Worldwide.)

“Way to Be!” is a new program which includes responsibility training. I am launching these student workshops now for the fall. These workshops teach responsibility and other skills required to thrive, such as,
Critical Thinking
Complex Problem Solving
People Management
Emotional Intelligence
Coordinating with Others
Judgment and Decision Making
Cognitive Flexibility

Service Orientation

Embedded P.D. for teachers with a comprehensive handout enables you to continue the learning with your students. Click to check out the programs and program descriptions and book your workshops today.
Call Margaret at 647 881-6958

Email mb@margaretboersma.com

Yours in partnership,

Margaret Boersma

Create a empowering school climate with practical social and emotional skills. Book your “Way to Be!” programs today for the fall. Email: mb@margaretboersma.com or call 647 881-6958 to book.


Well-Being: How Do We Grow Communities of Wellness? Part 3 of 3

How Do We Grow Communities of Wellness Going Forward? How do we Address Transformation in Public Education? Well-Being Part 3 of 3

Consider a Structure for Transformation

It is a well-known fact that our school system is not structured to produce the outcomes we need in our current society. The system was formed when industries employed most workers. Assembly line workers were needed to make our economy work and people who were creative innovators could upset the economy.

But, in the 21st century, innovative, creative thinkers are what can set us apart as a
society and keep us on the cusp of an evolving world of constant change. How do we
develop innovative, creative thinkers inside the public-school system? In “The
Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us,” Daniel H. Pink states “For artists, scientists,inventors, schoolchildren, and the rest of us, intrinsic motivation—the drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging, and absorbing—is essential for high levels of creativity.” Pink is not saying that creativity is developed in isolation. However,the school system must encourage individual growth challenging students to develop their thinking and creative abilities fully. This will allow them to make the greatest contribution to a constantly changing society. It is essential that a new structure for a transformed school system is focused on developing leaders that are innovative,creative, critical thinkers. These leaders must have outstanding communication skills and be able to collaborate with others, benefiting from the synergy created.

What would it take to transform the school system?

One school at a time? One community at a time? If people are to buy into the changes, the process should be organic. The community must be totally involved. That would include businesses, parents, educators, community centers, people in religious institutions, anywhere there are people in the community.

We must come together and generate discussions through town halls, social media and everywhere people gather. When each individual experiences a sense of contribution, they also have a sense of ownership. And that is powerful! The school would be recognized as the hub of the community, the place of refuge, the gathering place for community meetings and events. A safe place for all community members to learn and grow. During weekends and all times of the day, the school would be used and a real sense of shared experiences, exploration of ideas, and creative projects would begin and be nurtured in this hub.

Who will transform the schools?

Maybe it is up to entrepreneurs who have such a passion for education that they become experts and thought leaders…thought leaders who are action oriented. Brave thought leaders who are visionaries willing and open to create organically, asking thought-provoking questions, fielding conversations, making sure there is buy-in from every level in a community. There could be educational thought leaders who educate and train, facilitate, coach and mentor. They will use these modes to inspire transformation. Most of all, they will listen and be open to consider the views, opinions and ideas of others and bring them back to the community for next steps. And they must be supported by a community of experienced educational thought-leaders at the national and/or global level.

Utilizing the Unemployed Teachers

Recently an education specialist, Iyad Abualrub from University of Oslo, Norway,
contacted me. He has a vision to support the thousands of wonderfully gifted teachers graduating from the Faculty of Education who can’t get jobs as teachers. What if they received training in an area of education in which they are passionate i.e. communication skills, team-building, facilitating, creativity training? What if they were supported in gaining experience in their niche? They could be paired with experienced educational thought leaders and go about the globe listening, facilitating and instigating change from the ground up. These bright, young leaders could be entrepreneurs making a tremendous difference in education. Right now, our graduates are a huge resource not being tapped.

Another resource is recently retired teachers who still have a burning passion to make a difference, have a growth mindset and have decades of experience to draw on. You might be interested in listening to this TEDTalk about the untapped masters doing what they feel called to do. Iyad Abualrub and I would like to instigate a conversation with other educational leaders. We are seeking leaders who have a desire to support graduates in using their skills and passions to support the educational transformation,which is so overdue.

I invite you to contact me at mb@margaretboersma.com if this is of interest to you.



Happy Reader Activity

Fun Ways to Get Students Reading

Do you want a fresh start? Here, the students are reading a difficult passage. But every reader is engaged and supported. Create your own rubric with reading, oral expression and drama expectations when doing the Happy Readers Activity below.

Happy Readers Activity 1-9 & Drama Activity 9-20 

      1. Hand out the passage (this works well if you want them to memorize or know the passage well e.g. for an assembly, a play or facts. I like using a passage from the Frog and Toad series as there are two characters and this is a partner activity.)
      2. Start by having each student reading the passage silently. (For readers who find  this step challenging, ask them to look for the words they know and get as much meaning from the text as possible.)
      3. After a few minutes, read the passage to the students as they follow along.
      4. Partner them off and have them take turns reading short sections to each other. Once they have read the passage one time, ask them to start again at the top.
      5. Have partners walk around the room taking turns reading.
      6. Have them emphasize the meaning with intonation and punctuation in their voices.
      7. Have partner A walk in front of B and take turns reading the passage (work on projection.) Then B in front of A.
      8. Have partners switch reading parts frequently.
      9. Partners stand apart from each other (could have a line of A’s standing opposite a line of B’s. They will project and be physically animated to be heard, which is great for expressing meaning.)
      10. Have partners decide on their particular parts. E.g. who is Frog and who is Toad.
      11. Have them read their lines only looking into their partner’s eyes (and maintain the meaning.)
      12. Have everyone do up their shoes and undo their shoes while saying their lines. (this gets them away from the passage/script and makes the tone and flow more natural.)
      13. Have everyone do jumping jacks or another vigorous action while saying their lines. (notice what happens to their tone, expression, eye contact.)
      14. Each pair creates actions that bring out the meaning of the text, while saying their lines.
      15. Arrange furniture in the classroom to create a set (other props may be used or must be mimed.)
      16. Partners make final decisions to bring the passage to life.
      17. Encourage students to put their scripts away and rehearse their parts once more.
      18. Share with the class.
      19. Have the class give feedback according to the rubric. I like to use Stars and Wishes e.g. What did you like about the piece (referring to specific rubric items) and what would you wish could be different.
      20. Rework the piece and present again.

Transform your school with a couple of simple but powerful strategies! Email: mb@margaretboersma.com or call 647 881-6958 today for student or teacher workshops.


With Hope in Her Heart and Grounded in Faith- Margaret Boersma’s P3

With Hope in Her Heart and Grounded in Faith- Margaret Boersma’s P3

By: Noa Daniel

Original Radio Broadcast here.

Margaret Boersma and I were at TEDxKitchenerEd in front of the iconic sign when we asked each other to take the picture. Our grateful salutations turned to warm hellos when we realized that we had already met as panelists on ONedMentors. Margaret is a creative educational consultant, coach, teaching artist, curriculum writer, thought leader and speaker. With over 30 years experience teaching Kindergarten to Grade 8, Margaret has honed her craft. She engages learners in a process of learning that incorporates powerful personal expression, enhancing teacher-student communication synergy. Her work sets out to reach and teach the whole child through arts-based workshops and professional development.

On a recent ONedMentors, our topic was Mental Health and Wellness. Margaret spoke about a new program of hers that, like all of her work, embeds social and emotional skills.  She mentioned SmArts for Well-Being, so I asked her a bit about it (a little abruptly for the first question out of the gate- my apologies, Margaret).  She explained her interest and concern for both teacher and student well-being. In combining an understanding of how children learning best and the most recent brain research, she has developed a workshop

focusing on trust and perspective. This is the first in a series on Well-Being. She explained that, “Teacher wellness is the key to student success…We need to teach the educators first, and then the educators will teach the tools to the students.” Margaret explained some of the reasons for and results of her program. She sees the ripple effect going home to parents and echoing through the school climate. She added that, “A school-wide sense of connectedness provides a culture ripe for learning.” The chart below explains more:


Margaret pulled out her wedding box in preparation for her appearance on the Personal Playlist Podcast. It was there that she located the lyrics of her nostalgic song. She hadn’t looked in this box of keepsakes for 25 years. In it, she found the words for an old tune called The Ash Grove, but different people have added their own lyrics over the years. She first heard the tune at her sister’s wedding, so she incorporated into her wedding, as well. While it is a religious hymn, she sees it as a song reflective of universal truths. She connects this to the social emotional realities that so many people have in common, noting a shared experience of cause and effect. Straight from a church handbook, a hymn composed by Katherine Davis, sung in the video by Lebanon County Youth Chorus, here is Let All Things Now Living:

Margaret’s identity song is one I had heard before. She reflected, “ I chose this for my identity song because it wraps up what I think I’m about.  In the lyrics, in what I try to do in schools and what I have a passion to do…its my life-passion to give…what I know to be successful…not just teaching strategies but ways of life…to be able to enter into deep conversations with students and teachers alike…to bring out those aha moments. I just love the lyrics that came out of this. ” It’s a heartwarming reflection of what she most often does in schools. Not long ago, she was working with teachers and students at Hartman P.S to build the social and emotional skills of the students.  She was working with the Grade 2’s and 3’s and several of their teachers, Stewart Wallace, their music teacher, composed the music out of the student-generated learning from Margaret’s work with them. You can read more about the process here. The song resonated enough to be shared in multiple ways, including at this year’s YRDSB Quest Conference for Well Being. Here is Be Kind taken from the video at that event:

Margaret feels she has found solutions to essential problems for students and teachers. All she wants to do is give all of what she knows.  In terms of music. she loves the songs that can go faster and faster, like her description of Klezmer Jewish music that is often expressed through a circle dance called The Hora. She quotes the biblical lyrics but adds her love of the dancing element as key. “I am a dancer at heart. I have taken years of dancing lessons. Even if I’m not moving, my heart is dancing.” She has studied with the great Marcel Marceau and shared how much she loves to communicate through movement. “I actually danced a solo at my own wedding,” shared our guest, “inviting God to come into the ceremony.” She connected her pick-me up song choice to children to whom she refers as innate movers. “Most of us don’t know how to teach them in one of their primal expression forms.” Margaret can help us learn to teach through movement and provides several examples of how kinaesthetic approaches can be integrated into teaching curriculum at different grade levels. Her final song choice is a whole body experience for her and lifts her up. Here is You Are My God; Sing Unto the Lord, Trees of the Field by Jeff Hamlin

In many ways, all of Margaret’s work is grounded in faith. Beyond the religious aspects of her calling, her belief in respect, community and the possibility created through social emotional learning has supported and motivated her throughout her years of formal teaching and in the development of her practice. This shined through in all aspects of her P3. When asked what was missing from her playlist, she mentioned a song from the musical Carousel. This song, reminds her of her time in Holland where she was exploring her roots. It helped her feel less alone as she would sing, “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.” She had performed in that musical and many others, as well. Margaret’s conviction and devotion to her craft has led her to contribute her work across North America and Hong Kong. You can find her through her website and on Twitter. Here are the lyrics from Carousel that light her up: