Classroom Learning – Feb. 9 – 13, 2015

This month has been flying by as its been full of short weeks filled with a lot of activity! My students have been hard at work but we also made some time for celebrating the work and learning we have been doing.

Language Arts

We are well into our read aloud Wendell The World’s Worst Wizard. We have learned about the differences between gnomes, elves and trolls as well as wizards and witches. The students have been reflecting on their connections, inferences and predictions as well as other criteria as we move forward into this story. They have each chosen either a specific character from this book or a type of character and started brainstorming their profiles so that they can create depth for their character when we begin their narrative writing pieces next week.

This week we discussed juicy adjectives and descriptive words. Students researched a variety of words and then applied those to their peers in our Friendship Adjectives Hearts:

Each student left a descriptive adjective about themselves and their peers on their heart.

Each student left a descriptive adjective about themselves and their peers on their heart.

Students have also started their book clubs! I have never seen more excitement and enthusiasm for reading in all of my years of teaching so watching them jump for joy when books where distributed was wonderful! I credit this in part to the fact that they all chose their own books based on interest and abilities. They all decided within their groups as to how much they will read before providing reflections. Each group also created a collaborative Google Doc which they will record their questions, comments and information to share with me and the classroom.

Here are some photos from their meetings:

Reading!

Reading!

We use a variety of tools and resources. We read, converse and record our learning.

We use a variety of tools and resources. We read, converse and record our learning.

Mathematics

We are nearing the second loop of feedback for the student’s Resort Reports. I have asked that they each work on them this weekend whenever possible so I can provide them with additional audio feedback. They will be given more time next week to listen to feedback and apply to complete their work. I have loved using the add on Kaizena for the audio feedback!

Science

We completed a brief experiment together on growing crystals and students were able to observe their findings from last week’s  solutions.

Verifying our hypothesis and updating our observations.

Verifying our hypothesis and updating our observations.

Social Studies

The student’s jot notes and research skills are moving forward as they continue to research the two regions of the Arctic and the Great Lakes LowLands. I assigned each student a google doc for jot notes and one for a bibliography. They are loving using the add on Easybib to create their works cited. They are using both text and online resources and have learned how to cite each resource. They then also created two separate Google Presentations focused on each region of Canada and will compile their research into a personal presentation with a focus on guiding questions.

Starting our region research, creating our jot notes and answering our guiding questions!

Starting our region research, creating our jot notes and answering our guiding questions!

Students are required to use a variety of text and online resources for region research.

Students are required to use a variety of text and online resources for region research.

Art

Our Falling Backwards pieces have turned out amazingly! Some students are still finishing up and we will begin Dragons next week!

Some of our self portraits falling backwards...can you guess who we are?

Some of our self portraits falling backwards…can you guess who we are?

Valentine Buddies

This week we also gathered with our Grade 7B buddies to work on our collaborative art. We decided that this would be an awesome time for us to make our buddies some Valentines and they created some for us in return. We also set-up all of the treats brought in from both classes and shared while working on art together. It was so heart-warming to see them so excited in making, distributing and receiving Valentines. I truly believe one is never too old to celebrate love, kindness and friendship.

Distributing our Valentines and reading them!

Distributing our Valentines and reading them!

Our collaborative murals are coming along quite nicely!

Our collaborative murals are coming along quite nicely!

Cheers to lemonade, good friends, goodies and school!

Cheers to lemonade, good friends, goodies and school!

Skiing

We received some high praise from the ski instructors at Rabbit Hill Ski Resort on Friday. Two instructors approached myself and Mrs. Krefting at the end of the day with huge smiles on their faces and asked us if we were with the students from Greystone. We said yes, and they began to say how absolutely wonderful our students were. They said they have never had such an incredible group of kids who listened and were so respectful. They were so happy with them that they wanted to give them something and so they opened up another area for them that they normally never do. They wanted us to let our kids know just how much they were thankful to have worked with them today and they also said please bring them back anytime!

To say I am proud would be an understatement!

I tried to capture some photos of everyone skiing, however most were so far up on the hills that I was only able to capture a few in action.

Skiing at Rabbit Hill!

Skiing at Rabbit Hill!

Exhausted from a day of skiing but so very happy!

Exhausted from a day of skiing but so very happy!

We have had a great week! I can’t wait for the next!

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Classroom Learning – Feb. 2 – 13, 2015

February is a short month to begin with and we’ve added a lot of events which have also made for some short weeks. However my students know, a short week means even harder work and effort to ensure we continue learning.

Here is a brief overview of the past week’s learning and what we can anticipate coming up!

Language Arts

Student reading groups have been created and they have collaboratively chosen a book they will all read and reflect upon together. Reading time will be provided in class in addition to our daily Drop Everything And Read Time as I truly believe we need to provide our students with not only time for directed reading but also time for reading books of choice to build their love of books. We will be co-creating assessment criteria this week for their reading groups and get started! They have been so excited to begin and seeing this makes me realize that they love to read!

They have also been doing an incredible job updating their GoodReads and also sharing, reviewing and recommending books they have read. Keep it up guys!

We have started reading Wendell The World’s Worst Wizard together, which is a very detailed, descriptive Fantasy/Science Fiction/ Adventure book. This is a harder transition for students who are used to the more general Fiction reads and so we have  reviewed the characters and their roles as well as the settings of each section together to gather understandings. It is essential for students to connect to concepts in books in order to comprehend so its been quite interesting to hear their take on this story so far.

Our narrative writing pieces will start this week based off of Wendell. The students will brainstorm their characters and create brain cloud maps with descriptive details of their character. They will then create a draft outline of their story. This will all be in their Language Arts folder in Google Docs.

Mathematics

We hope to finish our Resort Report this week or early next week. This includes all of the student’s multiplication equation work in their duotangs as well as their reflections. Their entire completed project will be in their Google Docs accounts and also posted to their blogs along with their reflection on their learning and understandings of multiplication. I am so very proud of their work so far and some have even begun multiplying 4 digits by 4 digits using the strategy they feel comfortable with. However, any additional review of those facts at home would be immensely helpful! We will tie in this learning with Division which starts following the completion of this project.

Science

We’ve had a blast mixing and creating liquids and solids. The students engaged in multiple hands-on experiments last week and documented their findings in their Science folders.

Here are a few photos from last week:

Mixing liquids to observe what happens.

Mixing liquids to observe what happens.

They were excited to document the changes.

They were excited to document the changes.

Working together and discussing hypothesis of whether liquid and solid combinations will dissolve.

Working together and discussing hypothesis of whether liquid and solid combinations will dissolve.

We'll reevaluate our findings of the solutions this week.

We’ll reevaluate our findings of the solutions this week.

This week we will be working on an a project experiment called Fill’er Up where students will have to create a device, mechanism or find a way to move liquids across a solid.

Social Studies

We completed our See, Think, Wonders about both the Arctic and the Great Lakes Lowlands regions and these can be located in their Google Docs Social Studies folder. They were fascinated by Niagara Falls as well as the sizes of the Great Lakes. Each student then created two separate Google Presentation documents with each slide titled with a focus question, which they will have to answer with their research:

Examples:

  • How does the land shape life in the Arctic?
  • What are the challenges of developing natural resources in the Arctic?
  • How are Inuit ways of life traditional and modern?
  • How does climate influence quality of life?
  • Why does this region have the largest population in Canada?
  • What makes this region unique?

This week students will be shown how to effectively conduct research using the internet, how to cite their sources and we will review copyright practices and plagiarism. They will also be provided with written texts from which they will be required to pull information and re-word in their own words to ensure they are able to find the information they are looking for but also to create their own understandings of it. Their individual and completed presentations will then be posted on to their blogs.

Art

Art is one of our favourite subjects. We get to be creative, wacky and representative of ourselves. We have been working on a drawn piece called ‘Falling Backwards’. Students had to trace their hands and feet, in which ever perspective they chose,draw themselves, and then decide what would scare them the most if they were to fall backwards into something. They then outlined their drawing with a Sharpie and learned how to use watercolour paint to create texture. Their results are awesome and I can’t wait to showcase them with you once they are completed. Here are a few pictures of their work in progress:

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IMG_0941Stay tuned for more from LC5B!

 

LC5 Made The Front Page!

Our learning community’s partnership and visit with our local Spruce Grove Public Library to introduce our students to their brand new Innovation Lab was featured in the Spruce Grove Examiner this week.

Here is the article written by reporter Karen Haynes:

Ella Morrison didn’t seem shy as she belted out the lyrics to her favourite songs during a tour of the Spruce Grove Library’s Innovation Lab on Jan. 16. Morrison was using the library’s GarageBand technology to record her voice. - Karen Haynes, Reporter/Examiner

Ella Morrison didn’t seem shy as she belted out the lyrics to her favourite songs during a tour of the Spruce Grove Library’s Innovation Lab on Jan. 16. Morrison was using the library’s GarageBand technology to record her voice. – Karen Haynes, Reporter/Examiner

The Spruce Grove Public Library’s (SGPL) Innovation Lab is open for business and students from Greystone Centennial Middle School know first hand just how cool this library addition really is.

From Jan. 13 to 16, Grade 5 students from the Spruce Grove school toured the library’s Innovation Lab, testing its virtual reality program, Lego robotics, GarageBand software, 3D printer and circuitry systems.

“Libraries are not just about books anymore and they haven’t been for a long time,” said Leanne Myggland-Carter of the SGPL.

“We are a community hub — for many ages and stages in life… We have intergenerational learning going on. Kids come with their parents and grandparents, and they are helping each other. It’s a community based learning space,” she said.

Dana Ariss, a Grade 5 teacher from Greystone said the partnership between the library and the school was a prime opportunity for students to learn about the technology and resources that are available to them.

And it perfectly complemented the school’s recently completed Innovation Week, which finished right before the Christmas break.

“It was such a valuable experience for the students to see what there is. For them to have one-on-one building time, creation time and play (time), that’s where they construct their own knowledge. To give that to our students is something that is an absolute must,” Ariss said.

From Dec. 15 to 19, Greystone students participated in their fifth Innovation Week. For four days, students are challenged to question, investigate, process and create a final project in an area of deep interest to them.

“They go through the design making process. It helps students to have an understanding of themselves as learners and how to share their learning,” Ariss said.

Focusing on some of Alberta Education’s cross-curricular competencies — knowing how to learn, think critically, how to identify and solve complex problems, and how to create something innovative — students started their projects by zeroing in on what they are passionate about.

“It’s unbelievable the amount of dedication and perseverance these kids demonstrate. It’s something that is important to them,” because they take ownership of their projects, she added.

The projects included sewing, clay animation, creating special effects and make-up art for film, robotics, stop motion, caricature drawing, and others with a focus on engineering, horticulture and baking.

“The main focus is not just on the final project but also on the process: how did they get to this point; what did they learn; where did they fail; and how did they learn from the problems they faced.”

Greystone Centennial Middle School will host its sixth Innovation Week in the spring of 2015. At the end of the week, parents will be welcome to visit the school and see what the students have accomplished.

Classroom Learning – January 19 – 23, 2015

The students of LC5B have been working very hard since the start of the New Year. I can’t begin to explain just how proud I am of their spirit, dedication and care towards their learning.

Here is an overview of the happenings in our room:

Our trip to the Spruce Grove Innovation Lab:

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In Science, we have started our Classroom Chemistry unit and students have learned about the three states of matter. They have been applying their observation skills and jot note taking skills throughout our lessons. As we were discussing chemical reactions and the states of matter, one of our classmates Cassie applied this information to a very unique product that she creates with at home called Popin Cookin. This product contains a variety of powders that when mixed with water or a solution, quickly hardens and gels into a gummy-like substance and is edible. This allows the students to witness immediate chemical reactions and mixtures in an incredibly engaging and fascinating way.

Students took jot notes of what they saw, thought and wondered as Cassie led us through the experiment. As it happened, Mrs. Cameron stopped by and was quickly invited to watch and learn with us! You can read the student’s findings in their blog posts.

Here are a few pictures from our experiment:

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One of my favourite things is catching students deeply engaged in reading or in sharing their reading with others. We have full class participation in our GoodReads and some students have opted for writing down their reading to keep track. I am willing to assist them in whichever way works for them in order to build students who LOVE to read! Here are a few LC5 students caught reading this week:

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We also met with our GCMS collaborative buddy class LC7B and Mr. Heale last week for Art. Students are working on abstract murals in groups of 4-5. Each student contributes their abstract drawings and once complete all students will have the opportunity to add colour through painting on one another’s murals to create large representative pieces of our learning communities.

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To see more pictures and read more about our collaboration, please visit Mr. Heale’s blog : http://www.psdblogs.ca/dheale/2015/01/17/buddy-class/

We have a fun-filled and well-earned day of Hockey tomorrow and a full continuation of our learning on Friday. I am looking forward to connecting with you all on my next post and at our Student-Led Conferences on the 28th and 29th ( additional forms available for download under Important Notices) where the students will be showing you how, what and why they learn.

Also please take some time and read your child’s and others’ blog post reflections on their learning. They have posted their Social Studies presentations as well and would love to hear from you!

Miss D. Ariss

Our “Who Do You Think You Are?” Presentations

Students today had the opportunity to connect, collaborate and share their family’s history with their peers from Mrs. Krefting and Mr. Kolody’s class. They each had presented their findings to one another in our classroom and received both peer and teacher feedback but this afternoon they connected with peers outside of our homeroom for a different perspective.

Each student paired up with one or two other students to present and learn about one another’s ancestors and family origins. Thier discussions were centered around our three guiding questions for Social Studies:

  • Why did your ancestors come to Canada?
  • Where did they settle?
  • Why did they choose to settle there?

Each student-chosen group was provided with a venn diagram document on which they took jot notes of their partner’s family history, their own family history and the differences and similarities between. Students were quickly able to pick out the most important of details and make those connections about their own families.

It was an incredible afternoon of connection and learning and I have never been more proud of LC5B!  Here are a few pictures of our learning this afternoon:

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Our next step was for students to blog a reflection to share their learning with a focus on:

  • What they learned about themselves and their family
  • What they would do differently and what surprised them
  • What they felt was the most valuable part of the process

If you’d like to read their reflections, they are posted on their blogs at http://www.psdblogs.ca/dariss, however these are a few highlights:

Who Do You Think You Are Reflections

1. Ashley

2. Ian

3. Cassie

2014 – My Year Of Change & Growth

The start of a new adventure!

The start of a new adventure!

This reflection will be framed in a different format than my usual posts. This is just how I feel I can accurately reflect on the year that has passed as it contained such force and fundamental change that I have compartmentalized most of it by time frames.

January – February 2014

I felt it…that feeling in the pit of your stomach that digs away at you. It whispers quietly at first, but it quickly becomes so loud that you have to listen: “Dana, you need a change.” I loved my school, my co-workers, my district and most of all my incredible group of students who had been my little family for three consecutive years. I remember first meeting them in January of 2012 as they were told they would have a new teacher and a brand new classroom. They had been in a combined grade one-two and extra funding had come up enough to hire a full time teacher for them. There I stood in their old room and watched as each one came up to me, introduced themselves by name and told me their favourite colour. I still remember their anxious faces and their half-smiles as I walked with them down the hall to what would become our new room. “THIS IS OURS??” they exclaimed with joy and squeals as the doors to their new home opened. I nodded yes and in that exhilarating moment, I knew in my heart that I also had found my home.

So when that whispering feeling of change started coming around, I panicked. Ignorance is bliss as they say and so I ignored it.

March – April 2014

I knew that no matter what was to come in the future, my students and I were to be separated at the end of this school year as they moved on up to grade five. I went into full “make the most of every moment” mode and these months brought us so much innovation, creativity, inquiry and excitement in learning. I did my absolute best to ignore that feeling to the point where I wasn’t doing much beyond working. I planned, I connected, I shared, I communicated, I read, I tweeted, I moderated, I presented, I travelled to conferences, I blogged and I taught and learned with my all of my heart for and with my students. These were the most exhilarating moments of teaching I have experienced (all of which have been documented in my blog and our Twitter account Miss Ariss’ Class). I poured my entire being into teaching and making every minute count. However, that feeling of change didn’t go away and it was wearing me down as the days went on. I learned that no matter how hard you want to run from the feelings that scare you, it is often those that need to be felt and addressed. I finally stopped and really evaluated what I wanted and needed:  Leadership mentors, group collaborations, constructive feedback loops for growth, opportunities for larger impacts on educational change, learning PD for my own growth and a more permanent home-base both professionally and personally

Change was happening and that feeling became so loud within that I finally started listening. Sometimes in life, things happen for reasons beyond our control but when we look back upon them, we often see the real meaning and the learning that can occur from them if we have the right attitude. As much as I loved everything about my career, I knew in my heart that my time in my little community, where I felt the safest and happiest I have ever felt, was ending. I could continue to ignore my personal and professional needs for growth and stay in my comfort zone or embrace that feeling and move forward into uncharted change. Those who know me well….know how this story will end.

May – July 2014

I can only describe these months as an absolute blur. Somewhere between full-time teaching, numerous educational conferences, presentations and travelling….I found the courage to listen to my heart. I took a huge leap of faith and accepted a new position at an incredible middle school a few hours away. Many would call me crazy for leaving a permanent teaching position, but they would not know who I am and what teaching truly means to me. Its not about positions, status, rank or authority; for me, teaching is about continuous growth and learning. To truly be an effective educator, I needed to continually embrace the difficult situations and decisions in my life and learn from them in order to grow and develop into who I am as a person which has a direct affect on my teaching, because I teach from my heart. I cannot remain in my zones of comfort and expect my levels of teaching to grow. I needed to widen my experiences in order to become the educator I need to be for every student that I have the privilege of working with.

I make this sound as if it was easy when in reality, this truly was the single most difficult decision of my life. I had built a safety net and it was never harder to accept the truth that nothing in life ever stays the same. I became almost paralyzed with fear; I was so afraid of losing the only family I had come to known, so afraid of moving away from everything that I had built and created, so afraid of what was to come, that I completely became focused on the impact failure could have on me by making this decision. I forgot how much I would champion making mistakes and learning from them to my students, but the difference was that we had built a safe environment for failing. I didn’t feel so safe as my entire life depended on succeeding with this decision I had made. I turned to the safety of my closest friends and family, who rallied alongside me and supported me in every way imaginable. By July 1st, I was living in a new home, in a new city and preparing for a new school, new colleagues and my first group of “new” students in three years. That is a lot of NEW and it happened within a span of barely two months. This was that feeling in the pit of my stomach realized: Change.

August 2014

Questions, questions, questions swirling in my mind all the time!

Where is our room?

Who do I contact for this?

Where can I find?

Will I connect with a new group of students?

Will I make an impact on their lives?

Will my colleagues accept and welcome me?

Can I really do this? Oh wait… I AM DOING THIS!

September 2014 – December 2014

When I first started this reflection I didn’t fully grasp or realize the amount of learning accomplished during the final half of 2014 until I started looking at the photos I had taken. I have grown immensely both personally and professionally in these past few months by being active in my new community and surroundings, by embracing the uncomfortable, by being honest and open about my strengths, strong passions and areas of growth but most of all in my own self-confidence as an educator.

I found myself surrounded by communities of support, expertise and varied experiences in an environment prime for growth. This is what I had hoped for and I knew it wouldn’t be an easy journey, but I have never been one for easy. I have come from close to 5 years of independent teaching in small rural schools. I have always planned, coordinated and constructed all of my own materials, units, and assessments based on my own student needs and most recently, students with whom I had looped with for three years and knew like family. I now was in a team of six grade five educators collaborating together on the learning for our students, in a school almost seven times the size of my previous.

A few of my fun-loving colleauges!

A few of my fun-loving colleauges!

Reflecting on the start of the school year, I see now that underestimated the transition into this. It has been years since I needed to share who I was, my true self, with other educators, as when working within a small district everyone knows everyone. My other collaborations have been with educators who follow me on Twitter or read my blog and have a strong sense of who I am. The individuals within my comfort zone, who are my rocks, all know my deep passion for learning, know how excited I get at the thought of planning a unit with my students and finding those connections for them, know that I am honest, genuine and will ask a lot of questions because I have a need to know the why behind everything I bring into my classroom, but that mostly I care…about everything and everyone all the time.

I learned that when working within a large group, fostering a relationship beyond work is essential for the dynamics because once everyone truly knows one another a foundation of trust and an environment where vulnerability is welcomed can be built, however that this also takes time. Effective collaboration doesn’t happen overnight, it needs to be built step by step by each individual party. My sheer optimism and strong will to ensuring meaningful things happen despite obstacles, is who I am however this is something that is shown over time through sincerity and action. I am learning how to communicate my passions, thoughts and ideas outside of my comfort zone and am pushing myself to hear (not just listen) and understand more and more.

Our LC5B!

Our LC5B!

These few months also taught me about the power of student connection and relationships. I had worried whether I would be able to connect with a brand new group, but as the weeks went on I started receiving hugs, drawings, jokes, stories from home, open discussions about their lives and genuine interest in mine, shared laughter and that feeling of knowing these are the amazing kids I am so lucky to know and work with every day. I love the community we have built and will continue to grow.

We are a family and their words mean so much to me!

We are a family and their words mean so much to me!

Just a few weeks ago, I decided to surprise my previous students by attending their Christmas Concert at my old school. I snuck into the dark auditorium hoping to grab a seat when one of them noticed me from behind the stage. Within a few seconds, they all popped out from behind the stage and began furiously waving to me. I can’t begin to describe that moment, but a lot of tears were involved. The kids I am honoured to meet and work with throughout my career are what make being an educator the most  meaningful to me.

Learning and sharing...always!

Learning and sharing…always!

This term also brought forth a lot of Professional Development and new projects which I am so honoured to have been a part of. Collaborating with other PSD70 educators on the first ever #EdCampPSD70 and co-keynoting the opening with Kelli Holden in the presence of so many incredible colleagues was truly humbling. Kelli and I reconnected again in November to present at ATLE on the use of SKYPE in the classroom.

I was also honoured to be asked to present an IGNITE session by Dean Shareski, who ever so kindly arranged the presentations to start alphabetically which in turn had me presenting first. This required me to dig deep into who I truly am as an educator and helped build my confidence in sharing that with the larger community of educators. Despite the nerves, it was an absolutely thrilling experience where in five minutes I shared my passion for education and spent the evening learning about the passions of others.

I was introduced this term to many new forms of PD focused on #MakerSpaces and #MakerEd, which I had implemented in my previous teachings but never had the opportunity to dig deeper into. From a Saturday road trip to Calgary with my AP and three other teaching colleagues to attend a one day MakerFaire to an ERLC hosted MakerSpace session where I connected with local librarians on the new creation of Innovation Labs in our city. I am so excited to share these experiences with the kids as they completed their first Innovation Week projects in December and will be visiting the labs in January. Not to mention continued collaborations and discussions surrounding Alberta’s Curriculum Redesign which I am currently a part of the committee for my new district in working on the competencies in learning.

In remaining true to myself and constantly having a need to learn and absorb, I along with my #Cdnedchat team continued our weekly collaborations continued and our chat is livelier than ever on Monday evenings! I also jumped in to three separate book clubs with Google Hangout reflections with various educators within my school and across the world to expand my learning and push my mind further. One of the book clubs focused on Leadership through being a part of my district’s Exploring Leadership committee.

Present – 2015 and beyond

My biggest take aways from 2014 have been to always listen to your heart, no matter how scared you are, and that how change is viewed depends solely on how you approach it. Is it an adventure filled with learning opportunities or will you view it as something horrible and choose comfort?

I learned how to truly be vulnerable and to rely on others when I need to. To not be afraid to say I need help or I don’t understand this can you show me. Reach out to others and in doing so, you open the lines of communication and make your connections just that much stronger.

I was reminded by my own inner fear and worries that we all face insecurities, hardships and stress. Our job isn’t to add to that, but to lift it off of one another. Be kind to all, especially the ones who may seem to have a hard exterior because somewhere down their path of life their experiences helped to shape that. Our students may come to school with brave faces, but they are looking to us to create the safety of an environment conducive to learning, just as we need in our own professional lives.

So what does 2015 have in store for me? I won’t even venture a guess, but I certainly hope my years continue to provide me with continued learning opportunities, strong supportive networks and a deeper understanding of my purpose as an educator.