Creating High Performance Learning Environments

In a world with increasing amounts of technology and distractions for students, we need to up our game as teachers. We have to figure out ways to keep their attention while making sure that they learn the knowledge necessary to keep up with the world around them. Below I will analyze three videos that illustrate different teaching styles that attempt to address the skills that students need in order to develop.

 Roller Coaster Physics: STEM in Action

In each of the video clips the students were really engaged in the activity and demonstrated their complete understanding of Physics. This video represented the proper level of expectations for both academics and behavior as well as the norm and procedures that were put in place by the teacher. It was very refreshing to see how well the classroom operated especially with the difficulty level of the activities that involved high levels of thinking and transferring their skills to more hands on approaches. In each of the video sections, all students were completely engaged with the activity as well as one another.

Throughout the students’ discussions on potential and kinetic energy, they also consistently used 21st century skills to achieve their overall goal: create a roller coaster. Students collaborated as a team and let their skills determine what role they would play. They all worked together to problem solve the best strategies to create the roller coaster that they were working to build. Students also used ICT and Technology to help in creating their roller coasters and in creating a series of videos to film their final outcome.

The norms and procedures that were in place in this class were evident through the way the students addressed one another, spoke to the teacher, and stayed focused throughout their roller coaster lessons. At all times, students spoke about what they were aiming to accomplish and how they were planning to accomplish goals using terminology specific to the lesson, which leads me to believe that one of the teacher’s norms includes discussing a topic using terminology appropriate for the lesson.

3rd Grade Chinese–Math Class

It’s tricky to address the academic expectations in this video. The teacher uses engaging call and response techniques – especially inclusive of actions and singing – that clearly captures the students’ attention.

However, from the naked eye, it doesn’t seem that much precedence is being put on their independent thought. It appears that the majority of the math skills represented here are learned through rote memorization. After reading, Explainer: what makes Chinese maths lessons so good?, there seems to be a lot of pressure put on Chinese students specifically for the academic achievements in math (2014).

Though the students are learning mathematics through song, to me it seems that the focus is too heavily placed on math and memorizing facts. Students aren’t actually engaging with the content beyond repeating what is being said. There is something to say for it though, as Chinese students’ math scores blow American student’s math scores out of the water (Bidwell 2013). I think we would have to delve deeper into their instruction to know what is working for Chinese students. From this video and the article, it seems that pressure is the biggest element.

 Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics

felt that this video addressed behavior expectations more thoroughly than academic. The teacher is consistently using call and response, and action and response techniques to engage students. When delving deeper into this idea of pedagogy, the teacher is attempting to stimulate different areas of the brain – specifically the hippo campus, the motor cortex, the frontal cortex – by gaining each student’s attention first through call and – response, then engaging the students’ motor cortex’s through motions and gestures.

By addressing all of these different elements of the brain while teaching content, the teacher attempts to associate feelings and motion to achieve deeper understanding. The argument is that words and concepts are associated with these feelings and leads to a better knowledge of what each different concept or word mean. We can see this in practice in Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics, where students are chanting along page numbers, what they are meant to discuss on each page, as well as the speed reading techniques that are also accompanied by gestures.


In my sixth to eighth grade classes, I hope to take different elements from the Physics and Whole Brain Teaching videos. I would much more like to incorporate the strategies used in the Roller Coaster Physics video. Students were able to have fun and take part in gaining knowledge through an activity that was interesting and informative.  For whole brain teaching completing activities while moving around and accessing different layers of the brain is an excellent way to get students out of their seats, having fun, and moving or dancing around.



Bidwell, A. (2013, December 3). American Students Fall in International Academic Tests, Chinese Lead the Pack. US News and World Report. Retrieved July 19, 2016 from

Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education. (2014) Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from July 19, 2016 from


A Layover In Tokyo

 Tôkyô, Japan

A 21 Hour Layover in Tokyo

Before heading back to Canada for the summer I chose a connecting flight to Tokyo that would give me the opportunity to visit the city for the day. I left Hong Kong at 3:00 in the afternoon HK Time and landed in Tokyo at 8:30 p.m. I took a cab to my hotel, enjoyed a nice epsom salt bath and had a good sleep. The next day I checked out of my hotel and went about exploring.

First issue I had was figuring out the metro systems. I have been to Tokyo before but navigating the metro was pretty difficult and now even more so that I was alone. I started in the wrong station but with the help of a kind service worker he helped me navigate to the right metro starion which was a ten minute walk away. Thank Goodness for the MeMaps app because having no wifi in another country is pretty hard to do. Whichever city you intend to visit download the maps offline and it gives you a detailed map as well as offline interactive GPS to find your way. Pretty damn good.

So arrived at the station and thought about getting individual tickets to my destination but rethought that and just bought a Pasmo card I can freely use. I’ll most likely be coming back to Tokyo anyways. But let me tell you again the Tokyo metro is no joke. The metro maps you download or look at in the station dont strike you as so extensive until your actually on the subway. But the great thing about Tokyo is that everything is ridiculously organized and clearly labeled.

Kinda got turned around at the metro only because I didn’t check my map and realize I wanted to go to Senkakuji first. But it makes more sense to go to Shibuya first then work my way down to Tokyo tower then head back to the airport.

First stop was Shibuya to find this tempura restaurant I researched online. Tempura Tendon Tenya. It was hard to get a location on Google Maps but I used Maps Me again and did my best guessing. After walking for 5 minutes and looking across the street there it was! So happy I found it! Food was really good and pretty cheap. Read a lot of great reviews about it and I concur.

So I wanted to make it to Harajuku, been there before but wanted to go again. Was on a time crunch due to going to the wrong station in the first place and trying to understand the metro maps. So I decided to skip Harajuku and head to Zojoji temple instead. It was really beautiful, so many different temples and shrines. There were a lot of nice parka as well. Didn’t realize Tokyo tower was right next to it. 2 for 1!

Took the metro from there to the airport to cath my flight home. Really great time in Tokyo!

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Positive Classroom Climate

If you want to establish a positive classroom climate, there are several actions that you should take immediately in order to ensure a simultaneous sense of order and community among your students. When I begin the school year, I try to make the students feel welcome to their new classroom, but also emphasize respect for their teacher and classmates and the differences among us.

In an effort to make my students feel welcome and comfortable, I use these practices:

Personalizing the Classroom: I have decorations in my classroom that the students have chosen and help to design. I have different walls tailored to different aspects of the students learning. There’s a word wall, super star wall, word board, and student work area.

Individualized Teaching: While it can sometimes be difficult to do with quite a number of students, I try to have an individualized approach to teaching. Some students prefer to do mechanical center activities. Some like to work in pairs while others like to work individually.

Emotional Neutrality: If a teacher fails to practice emotional neutrality, there will be students who feel unwelcome and unhappy about being in that class. It is the responsibility of the teacher to not play favorites and never demonstrate distaste for students.

An Environment of Inclusion: The teacher should make sure students of all different shapes, sizes, and color feel included in the classroom and not discriminated against. This can be done through anti-bias education. Allow me to further elaborate my own personal experience and situation in my classroom.

I am the only non-Chinese person in my classroom as all of my co-teachers and students are homogeneous in nationality and race, so bias within my classroom is fairly limited in terms of cultural differences; however, as I’ve noticed throughout my experience with Chinese nationals, their lack of exposure to diversity often leads to unintentional racism. Therefore, I think it is important to address diversity and how to practice cultural sensitivity at a young age.

While contemplating the issue of anti-bias teaching, I have referred to Teaching Tolerance’s article titled “Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education.” Some main points of how to address anti-bias education in the classroom include:

Cultural Sensitivity:
Since most students in my classroom grow up with limited exposure to people with other cultural background, it’s important to incorporate lessons about different cultures and address differences in gender, race, religion, and nationality into our lessons.

Listening: The students should feel that their comments, contributions, and opinions are valued by their teachers and peers. The teachers and students should demonstrate active listening skills, such as nodding.

Bullying Prevention: . First, you could have workshops and lessons about bullying, the damage it can do to peers, and awareness of differences between students. Second, you could emphasize the protocol for reporting bullying to the teacher. Third, you could have the students do role play where the students act as both the bully and the bullied.

All of these techniques can go a long way in making students feel more comfortable in the class. As I’ve discovered, the class will run much smoother if you emphasize classroom norms and procedures from the very beginning of the year. The classroom should be a place of inclusion, fun, and learning and it is the role of the teacher to implement these characteristics.


Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education. (2014) Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from July 2, 2016 from