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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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

Classroom Learning – Term Two Update

Hi everyone,

I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday break and a great first week back to school! We eased back into our routine last week and have begun some new projects. Below is a brief overview of the learning focus for in our room for this term:

Language Arts

We are finishing the book Out Of My Mind for our read aloud and students will continue making predictions, connections, inferences and asking questions for our reading strategies. They will post their reflections on their blogs and this term we will have a deeper focus on conventions in their writing. Emphasis and assessment will be placed on capitals and punctuation use in all writing.

We will also be focusing on the Organization trait in writing and students will be learning how to gather their thoughts and compose them in a fluent way. We will start a group read aloud on the book Wendell The World’s Worst Wizard and students will have the opportunity to write their own stories with detailed beginning, middle and end while also connecting predictions, inferences and questions with other classes also reading this book.

Students will also start their own book clubs and literature circles this term. Books will be chosen by student groups so as to focus on their interest but also their instructional levels. This may involve some at home reading if a student is not able to read in time allotted in class time. They will meet daily with groups and discuss the book, its contents, their reflections and predictions. Individual at home reading is still to continue whenever possible and is to be recorded on Good Reads or in their reading duotang  – whichever they have been assigned. Students are encouraged to continue to review their books, provide recommendations and search for additional books they want to read on Good Reads as well as set their 2015 Reading Challenge goals.

Our Reading Tree!

Our Reading Tree!

We had a beautiful Reading Tree drawn and painted by the incredibly talented artist Aiden. which we cut out and placed in our room. Students have begun to fill it up with all of the books they have read and rated. Our goal is to have it overflowing by June with all of the books we have read!

Mathematics
We are working on our multiplication strategies with integrated division strategies so students can make the deeper connections between the two with a focus on fact families and deep meaning and understanding of multiplication and division. Students are also working in groups on Tuesdays and Wednesday with Mrs. Krefting‘s class to strengthen their mathematical understandings. We also are continuing with our Problem Of The Week every Fridays and students will reflect on their processes on their blogs.

This term we have also started participating in the Math Photo A Day Challenge with other classrooms around the world. Students are provided with mathematical prompts daily and they are to find and represent their understandings through a photo. We have begun to tweet our photos on Twitter using the hashtag #MathPhotoADay and I will curate all of their photos monthly and post them to this blog for you!

We are also learning how to use charts and graphs by integrating our understandings with an upcoming Science unit of Weather. Students will be graphing weather trends globally.

Science
We began our Classroom Chemistry unit and students have started learning about the States of Matter : Solid, Liquid and Gas. We have watched a Bill Nye video and they have implemented their jot note skills on the states of matter. Students will begin experiments this week with key learning features: mixtures, crystallization, properties of matter and chemical reactions.

Social Studies
Students have worked so incredibly hard on their family history presentations and we are all so honoured to learn about one another’s ancestries and family backgrounds. They began their presentations to our class this week while at the same time received feedback from both myself and two peers. They have been using an assessment tool and interactive feedback document in their Google Docs which allows them to leave and receive peer and teacher feedback. As a student presented, two peers were leaving them feedback and everyone else was practicing their jot note taking and picking out the most important features of their peer’s presentation. I have never been more proud of the hard work and dedication they are demonstrating!

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Presenting, providing feedback and taking jot notes!

Working hard on our presentations and our feedback/assessment documents.

Working hard on our presentations and our feedback/assessment documents.

Providing feedback and taking jot notes, working on our 1000 piece Map of Canada puzzle and presenting!

Providing feedback and taking jot notes, working on our 1000 piece Map of Canada puzzle and presenting!

We will be meeting with Mr. Kolody and Mrs. Krefting’s class this week and re-presenting our family histories in small groups and making connections between the histories of one another.

This term we will also be focusing heavily on the Regions of Canada. There are six regions:  Atlantic, Arctic,  Plains, Canadian Shield, Great Lakes St. Lawrence and The Cordillera. We will be diving deep into the Arctic and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence regions and then collaborating with our peers in  Mr. Kolody and Mrs. Krefting’s class to make the connections between the other four regions. Students will research and participate in a variety of activities to deepen their understanding of each region. They will then write a persuasive argument for one of the regions and present to the LC 5 groups in a Socratic Circle.

Students who are participating in the Minecraft region creation can continue and share their building as they go.

I will continue to update you on our learning adventures as we continue!

Miss D. Ariss

Classroom Learning – September 22, 2014

Providing peer feedback

Providing peer feedback.

Students today reflected and brainstormed on the differences between leaving comments to generate conversation on a written piece and providing effective feedback to help peers grow their learning.

They shared their written pieces via Google Docs based on the topic “Microsoft bought Minecraft…Now What?” and practiced providing feedback to their peers focused on how, where and why their work could be improved. Students also ensured that their feedback was kind and helpful instead of judgemental. I was really impressed with how they thought and re-thought the wording of their feedback to make sure it provided growth opportunities.

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Collaborating on peer feedback.

What has also really stood out was the enthusiasm students had for this writing topic. We had discussed the implications of the sale and how it might impact them as the target audience, and they had quite a lot to say about the situation. Their posts will be uploaded to their blogs by the end of this week, revised using the feedback provided to them by their peers.

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Working on peer feedback.

We have also began our focus on the importance of understanding mathematical place value and the role it plays in our lives. Students were asked to think about where a knowledge place value is needed, and the majority struggled to find examples beyond the use of math in a classroom. Students will be asked this year to step outside of the box, and apply in-class learning to real-world necessities and applications. This is a difficult concept, but will be vital for their growth.

I have also noticed a struggle in saying large numbers, beyond a thousand, out loud and so today we practiced visualizing and saying numbers through an activity using a deck of cards and student-made place value holders. The place value focus this year is on whole numbers to 1,000,000.

Visualizing place value.

Visualizing place value.

This activity assisted students in visualizing numbers spoken and applying their individual values. It was a great way to have them practice saying the larger numbers out loud in a fun setting.

Miss D. Ariss

Classroom Learning – September 17, 2014

Reflecting on problem solving.

Reflecting on problem solving.

We’ve been discussing in class how to solve problems and how problem-solving skills are essential in all aspects of lives. We had Mrs. Rogul join us for two periods today to help us think deeper about what strategies we can use when addressing problems across subjects and in life.

We worked together and reflected on what comes to mind when we think of the words “Problem-Solving”. These were some of the student’s answers:

  • Confused
  • Hard
  • Annoying
  • Math
  • Fight
  • Thinking
  • Tired
  • Bullying
  • Hard work
  • Voice
  • No fun
  • Trouble
  • Me

We also reflected on how we can solve a problem and some of their answers were:

  • Think hard
  • Ask a friend or teacher
  • Work it out
  • Think about other things on your mind
  • Teamwork and cooperation by working together
  • Always help
  • Get some sleep
  • Find a good compromise

This was a difficult task to complete as most students associate “problem-solving” with either math or in terms of social skills. They really worked together to breach those gaps.

Working to solve sample problems.

Working to solve sample problems.

Students were then provided with a sample problem and were asked to use some of the strategies they come up with to try and solve it. Some students jumped right in, while others really hesitated. I made sure to let them all know that the first step in tackling any problem is to try.

Our afternoon Social Studies activities also brought forth the opportunity for the students to implement the skills they learned that morning. They each created their own Google Map and were asked to identify the provinces, territories and capital cities of Canada. While this may sound like an easy task or one that could just as easily be done via a paper map, its a much deeper process when the students can manipulate a map and see the world move from a bird’s eye view.  They weren’t given any information as to the locations but had to reason, describe and search for the information requested.

Exploring Canada's geographic regions.

Exploring Canada’s geographic regions.

It was amazing to watch as a student hit their first problem … does Nunavut have any cities?…. as they couldn’t locate anything on the map. With some purposeful questioning, they realized they were searching too high north. As Nunavut is a northern territory without much access, cities are located near water for easy transportation of goods. They began to connect the pieces and formulate their own knowledge about the geography of our country.

Classroom Learning – September 10, 2014

Working hard on their paper blogs.

Working hard on their paper blogs.

Students have been learning how to write an effective blog post to reflect, connect and share their learning with the world.  We started this activity yesterday by brainstorming ideas on how we can represent ourselves. Students came up with many ideas as to who they are and what they would like to share while also focusing on Digital Citizenship and ensuring that whatever information they share is safe, appropriate and representative of themselves. We have started with paper blogs and will be discussing how to provide feedback through commenting on Friday by reading one another’s blogs and leaving comments via sticky notes. Once students have shown growth and confidence, they will begin to create their own personal online blog.

As we continue our journey into seamless technology integration, students have begun to use their PSD70 logins on their own and school-provided devices. This is the time where they are learning how to use the tools that will be applied in our classroom. Today, students had the opportunity to explore Google Maps in Social Studies to gain perspective on our location while also gaining insight into how the program works as it will play a large role in our classroom learning.

Students exploring the world through Google Maps.

Students exploring the world through Google Maps.

Students working in exploration groups.

Students working in exploration groups.

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Google Maps exploration groups.

Flexibility Leads To Authentic Learning

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Double checking the continents!

“The best things in life are the things we don’t and ultimately can’t plan for.”

I find this to be especially true for the learning in our classroom and yet as an educator, planning is something that almost becomes an innate sixth sense. As I grow in my teaching, I have learned that the key to having a learning environment that is authentic, purposeful and connected to the real world, an educator must be flexible. Plans are great for back-up, but for me, they can never replace experiences which may suddenly arise that could enhance the learning in our room.

Real life is happening when we are in the classroom and as educators we can either ignore this fact or embrace it and welcome the events of the world into our room. With everything we learn, I try and find connections to our lives and invite my students to find and create those connections as well.

This year, we have been learning about world geography with a curriculum focus on India, Peru, Tunisia and the Ukraine. Our school is located in a tiny rural hamlet, and so for my students to really grasp just how large our world truly is, we have been researching and learning about as many cultures and countries as we can and tying them back to our lives. We’ve connected with classrooms in a wide variety of countries, had guest speakers Skype with us, tried foods from around the world and are becoming global citizens.

Imagining the world and its vastness can be a very difficult concept to grasp. I also know that some of my students still struggle with trying to fully understand this and so when I saw today that Google was pulling off an ingenious April Fools Day joke that could actually help my students search the world, I jumped at the opportunity to have some fun! The Google Maps Pokemon Challenge asks the world to find 150 hidden Pokemon characters all around the world using Google Maps.

Students divided themselves into groups, each with a self-created role (country researcher, landmark researcher, typer, Pokemon catcher), with one iPad and one laptop per group. We created a Google Spreadsheet called @Gr34bears’ Pokemon Challenge and each group logged in to record what Pokemon they found and where in the world they found it.

What transpired next was just incredible to watch! The learning and connections we have been involved in from the start of the year came out and I heard them working together saying phrases like:

  • “They must have hidden them in capital cities! What is the capital of the Ukraine? Kiev! What is the capital of Peru? Lima!”
  • “I remember that in India there was a huge palace! Oh the Taj Mahal….look up the Taj Mahal!”
  • “The biggest city I know is Edmonton. Do you think they came to Canada? Let’s see if they are near us!”
  • “What country has the most people? They would definitely hide them there but we need to find out its biggest city too.”
  • ” San Jose, California… my favourite hockey team is the San Jose Sharks….where is that? How close is it to me?”
  • ” Let’s remember the Olympics …what country and city were they held in again? Sochi, Russa!”
  • ” Google is in the United States, so they must have put more there. What is their most popular city? New York! I know the Statue of Liberty!”
  • “I did my research on Australia. I wonder if they placed some in Australia? Let’s go look!”
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Atlas, iPad and laptop on the go!

They were collectively using iPads, laptops, world maps and atlas’ and making connection after connection. I didn’t even have the heart to tell them we had to stop as it was lunch time. They had already located 73 of 150 Pokemon but they had looked at almost every country across all of the continents and had no intention of stopping. We were also watching the hashtags #GoogleMapsPokemonChallenge and #GottaCatchThemAll on Twitter and they knew so many people around the world were also searching and discovering new places with them.

As I reflect tonight, I am so thankful for opportunities like this. They allow me to witness first hand just how incredible my students are and just how much they have learned and continue to learn every day. The “plans” we had for that period couldn’t even come close to this experience and what they learned and showed me.

I continue to strive to bring the best of the world to my students and if that means being flexible enough to change, switch, or toss those plans out altogether for the sake of true learning, then that is what shall happen.