Tuesday 31 January 2012

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Government-Grade 4/5

This post is courtesy of Grade 4/5 teacher Kent Percevault

To help students prepare for an assessment on the services the 3 levels of government provide, students worked together in groups of 3 to write songs to the tune of "Head and shoulders, knees, and toes..." with only with one level of government as the focus; e.g.,  fireman, police, and library...municipal, municipal, etc.  They needed to include actions for everything in their songs (pretty funny, especially sewer and water actions!).  They did a great job on these, had a lot of fun with it.  Engagement was high, presentations had accurate information and enthusiastic participants!  This was after doing a tableau activity where they had to demonstrate a government service in their group for the class.  Again they did very well with the activity.

So did these fun engaging activities help them learn the content?  The assessment was a cut and paste quiz where they were given 20 different government services to cut up on one sheet of paper and a 3 column chart on another paper.  They had to glue the service in the correct level of government column.  I spoke with the class after the assessment about what they thought of the cut and paste quiz format.  The response was unanimously positive. 

Some of the things they said were: "Didn't have to put all my energy into remembering the big list, could think about where it belonged"; "Didn't have to do a lot of writing, makes my hand hurt, don't like to write that much" (which might lead to reluctance to complete and maybe not a true assessment of what they know);  "Could move them around in my hands before gluing to think about where they went, change my mind." 

These comments make me think that we probably got a more accurate measurement of what the students actually knew by removing the writing/memory barriers and increasing the tactile methods for some of our students who respond better to this learning style.
Overall the marks were good.  A few students were not very successful, they were students who often have difficulty academically.  So now to figure out why?  Is it a reading barrier?  This is my suspicion, when these students see a fair bit of text they need to extract meaning from they often "shut down" as they struggle with their reading.  So I think I will re-test them orally to find out if their knowledge is better represented if it is read to them first one item at a time then they decide which level of government the service described belongs in.

Show What You Know Geography-Socials 8

This post is courtesy of Middle School Teacher Lindsay Anderson

Students had the choice to show their understanding of the geography unit by either writing a test (and creating study notes in class) or creating their own country which includes everything that we have learned (lat/long lines and coordinates, temperature, region, trading, landforms....)  Most students chose the map (although 3 students did choose the test).  The students showed everything that they needed to...they showed that they understood political boundaries (having the provinces separated), landforms (they have rivers, archipelagos, mountains...), lat/long lines, lat/long coordinates (they used their own lines to find the coordinates of their cities), trading/natural resources (students also had the option of orally presented me with some of this information). The students clearly showed me that they understood the learning outcomes of this unit.  Moreover, they personalized their map with names that come from their favorite video games and they were excited and motivated to work on the map because they had fun relating it to their interests.

Monday 30 January 2012

"What would it look like to be the best classroom in the world?"

We had a chance to see our students in action today, expressing (to the class as a whole and to one another in small groups) their vision of belonging in the classroom. What does "the best classroom in the world" look like; feel like; sound like?" Some responses...."quiet; happy faces; being friends; playing; building robots (from a student who loves to think out of the box!); colourful; learning together..." Using the Smart Board, the classroom teacher recorded the responses. I spent time observing students who will we track using the Social Responsibility Performance Standards.

The classroom teacher and I then modelled a role-playing scenario to show what our "best" classroom would be (using kind words; learning together). Students were able to identify specific examples of how we were showing these attributes and we talked about how we felt inside when we used kind words and cooperated while we were learning (our example was sharing ideas about a book we were reading together and respecting the ideas of the other person).

Later, students role-played scenarios to demonstrate their ideas of the best classroom in the world. I spent time with a group of three to elicit further discussion. One student was an eager member of the group, and I noticed that he felt safe sharing his feelings about what it means to belong - he talked about how he has experienced times when he felt left out and that if people felt this way in our classroom, it would make it hard to learn. I took some photos of this activity but now wish that I had taken video! It would be interesting to see students taking video of one another acting out these scenes...something for down the road.

Courtesy of Primary Resource Teacher Kathryn Golbeck

More Success! English 8

This post is courtesy of middle school teacher Lauren Vallis.

Last week I tried another new activity with my class.  I had them reflect on the poem from The Outsiders, but I did this by having 3 stations: window writers (my favorite!), graffiti, and chalkboard writing.  Everyone was extremely engaged!  They absolutely loved it!  It seemed that most of them understood the essence of the poem as well.  John, a reluctant writer (not his real name) was on the window writers station and he was right in there with the rest of them, putting ideas on the window.  I'm going to try this again soon; I'd like to see more ideas next time.  I think they were so excited by the novelty of the activity that that's what they were thinking about more than the reflection question!

Earlier last week I also had vocabulary words with definitions all around the room (I had each student stick one word and definition anywhere they wanted in the room).  They had to gather these in order to complete a crossword for The Outsiders.  Again, John was actively participating!  One other student I am concerned about did not participate, so I have to figure out why and what to do next. 

(I have videos of these activities that I will post as soon as I've got the technology issue figured out.)

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Learning About Ratios with Hands On (Math 8)

This post is courtesy of middle school teacher Pam Rutten.

This morning I taught my ratios lesson on the floor with my class sitting in a circle each with a piece of paper and a pencil.  We started by discussing what ratios were and using the class, boys to girls, as our starting point.  I wrote a few points on the board as we were discussing and they copied them down.  Once I felt they had the idea, I took a box of Halloween mixed chocolate bars and dumped them on the floor in the middle of the circle.  At that point I put six different scenarios on the board (kit-kat - smarties, coffee crisp- aero, kit-kat to all chocolate bars) and asked them to write the ratios in different forms on their paper.  The were practising part-part ratios, part-whole ratios, and 3-term ratios.  They were also practising converting fractions, decimals and percents.  They were discussing and problem solving individually and as groups. Once they completed it on their paper, I had volunteers write their answers on the board and we would then compare and discuss as a class.   All the students were interested and very involved in the lesson. 

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Body Portraits (Grade 1/2)

This post is courtesy of primary teacher Jandi Doyle.

We started our Body Portraits activity this week and the students are hooked! With the help of some parents, we managed to get every student traced while their partner interviewed them on what they were good at. The interview questions helped keep the focus on learning about themselves and each other. Everyone participated and took on a helping role eagerly. My grade twos took turns snapping pictures of their peers while I shot video. 

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Note Taking Walkabout (Grade 4/5)

This post courtesy of  Kent Percevault

Note Taking Walkabout (Three Levels of Government)

Students were raring to go on the note taking walkabout.  About 30 different little chunks of notes were taped up in the gym, halls, library and students had a scavenger hunt to find them and write them down in the category they believed they fit best (municipal, provincial, federal).  Engagement was high, students were discussing each piece of text they found, all students were on task.  Reluctant writers and/or at risk students got a lot written, it was clear that adding the physical movement with the social small group discussion aspect had the students much more enthused about what was essentially copying down notes.  Judy and I got some good video of the students at work during the activity.  Will be interesting to see tomorrow what understanding and retention the students have of the content.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Christmas Toy Project (Math 9) Part II

This 2011 “Maggie + Math Toy Project” was a great success on many levels! I am thankful for the support of others who stepped up to help my students complete the project.  Special thanks go to Mr. Brodt and the Senior Woodworking students, Mr. Gibson for donating the paint and brushes from the art department, Mr. Becker for being supportive and Mrs. Searcy for her positive encouragement and enthusiasm throughout the process and for helping to film and then doing all of the editing. As I reflect on the entire process wherein students achieved the prescribed learning outcomes for this unit while doing something commendable for others and the traditional classroom extended into the community, I cannot help but smile!  We proudly presented the toys, candy canes and food hamper to the Women’s Shelter on December 15, 2011.  It has been one of those memorable times as a teacher!  Congratulations students – well done!

(For a detailed explanation of the project see the "Part I" post below)

Courtesy of Melissa Berrisford

Christmas Toy Project (Math 9) Part I

Special Christmas Project (This post is from Melissa Berrisford)
Goal of Project:
  • To teach a mathematical concept through the design and construction of unique wooden toys to be given to families with young children for Christmas.
  • To make a real-life connection for the math students; learn surface area while doing something nice for someone else.
Who is involved?
  • It is a collaborative project that involves Mrs. Berrisford’s Math 9 students and some of Mr. Brodt’s senior Woodworking students.
Background information about the project:
  • I came up with the idea while I was planning the chapter one math unit. My initial goal was to incorporate an interesting, meaningful project tying in the concept of surface area. I used a mind map to explore possible project ideas. Then it came to me - the timing was perfect to tie in Christmas – my favourite holiday! Yippee. The project evolved from there…
The “math” involved (brief description):
  • Students used grid paper to design and label measurements (either to scale or using a scale factor). We also discussed imperial versus metric system.
  • Once the toys were made, the math students measured the actual dimensions using rulers and/or calipers.
  • The students then calculated the surface area of the composite figure (the toy). They also determined the cost of painting the toys.
Our class will also be adding dry food items and goodies to the Christmas baskets! I am excited for the completion of this special Christmas math project!