Friday 25 May 2012

The Results Are In! (Part 1)

We have been tracking the results of this project in so many different ways...from surveys to student and teacher reflections, and with both anecdotal and numerical data. Nothing is more powerful however, than the testimony of the actual students. Interviews are being conducted though June, but here is a sample of some elementary and middle school kids.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Tetrahedral Kites-Math 8

We just finished our unit on volume and surface area of prisms.   I wanted to do something fun as an end project, and I decided on two activities:

1.  The first one was to build a more complicated 3-D figure out of a given net.

2.  The second one was to build tetrahedral kites.  It has been a real success, the students are really into in and they just want to keep building them.  It has been a great way to help the students recognise how to build a 3-D object and learn about volume and surface area of them.  We are still working on them and planning on flying the bigger ones (photo #2) and then making one really big one and attempting to fly that.  We will be doing some calculations on surface area and volume of the different sized kites as well.  I will attach another video of flying the bigger kites next week.

This post is courtesy of Pam Rutten.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Contacting Home

Last week was a tough week, it felt like my students and I were a few days away from summer break.  Not only were they arriving late, but they were unprepared (no books, pens, pencils, paper...) for the class and during class time they were unfocused.  I was frustrated and angry they had quit 5/6 weeks before the end of the year - it took two days of wallowing in my misery to break out of it.  By the third day I was tired of focusing on the negative; I did not want to dwell on things or students who were not working. 

So I took some time out of my lunch to email six parents a positive email about their child.  Instead of marks I focused on the child's work ethic, behaviour in class and interaction with peers and staff.  All were relatively brief but to the point:   "Contributes to class culture" / "Independent worker" / "Self motivated" / "Wonderful sense of curiosity" /  "Helps others after completing work" / "... proud of your son / daughter". 

I received three emails in return.  They thanked me for taking the time to send something positive home,  reaffirmed the comments I sent them (how proud they are of their child), and in return offered some insight as to how myself and my course were being received at home.  My favorite response came from a dad who called me at 3:01 on Friday.  First of all he wanted to make sure that the email was written by me and second to thank me.  It just happened that he and his son had planned a dinner out that night and he was excited to have a reason to celebrate on a Friday.  It had been a long time since he had a positive contact home about his son.  He was a bit taken aback and asked a number of questions to make sure I wasn't blowing smoke.

In writing these emails a couple of things caught my attention:

a.  We are in the business of human relationships.  Regardless of curriculum, course etc... the foundation of teaching is the connection with the student and hopefully the parent.
b.  As parents, regardless of age, we worry that our son / daughter is doing the right thing, making the right choices, behaving in the way we raised them.  Rarely are we given positive feedback that eases our worries.  It felt like a sense of relief from the parents who replied.
c.   I was surprised how each parent had some feedback for me.  We tend to forget what happens in our classroom is often relayed back to parents, friends... 
d.  To be completely selfish - this was a rewarding experience (on a number of levels).  When I was young and new to the profession I would call roughly 75% of all the students I taught to let their parents know of something positive.  I am going to make a goal of emailing / calling as many parents as I can - 5/6 a week.  
e.  When the students returned to class the next day all six of them thanked me for sending the email.

I would encourage you to try and do something similar.

Post courtesy of Russ Reid

Thursday 10 May 2012

Writing Case Studies

All the  elementary and middle school groups met yesterday morning to work through their case studies.  It is a pretty intense process but the feedback was very positive.  The teachers felt it helped them to pull all their information together for the year so far, and that it was a great way to look at the growth of the students they have been focusing on.  It helped them to clarify what is really helping their student grow in academic confidence, in their relationships with others or the teacher, in learning to work with others, in figuring out that they have strengths to contribute to their classroom community.

Some of the stories revolved around the importance of a strong and supportive relationship with the teacher, or the power of finding out you have strengths that you can offer your peers that they may not have seen before. Sometimes the key was the idea of success breeding success - that once a student starts to believe they actually CAN do some of the work in a variety of ways, they are more willing to attempt more traditional work. With other students movement and hands on learning were extremely motivating.

Again, I am so lucky to work with a group of teachers so willing to look at their own practice, take risks, explore ideas, try new things, and tell the stories!

Post Courtesy of Judith King.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

My Favourite Lesson

I don't know if I have ever had a more consistently successful lesson than playing Cranium at the end of a unit. If you have never tried it (personally) then I highly recommend getting the real game itself and playing it with friends and family . In Lit 12, King Lear "Kranium" is the wrap up review activity for our unit on King Lear. Students play on teams of 3 against other teams of 3. If students are in groups of 2 then both kids need to be fairly outgoing or confident in the material. Kids and adults alike love this game as it combines elements of drawing, sculpting, acting, and answering knowledge questions. Usually it is a good idea for the teacher to make the groups to ensure a balance of students who are confident with the "role playing" options. Students who are not comfortable with role play can choose the drawing, sculpting, or knowledge questions instead. For Literature class the questions are based on key themes, characters, symbols, and important plot events. In our school, Cranium has also been used in socials classes as review for unit tests, but the potential is endless for subject areas and grade levels.

Friday 4 May 2012

Coat of Arms T-Shirts-Socials 8

As part of the medieval unit, this lesson was on heraldry.  Students learned that knights originally started having coats of arms on their armour so that they could tell who was an enemy and who was a friend on the battlefield.  Different animals, colours, and other symbols were used to reflect family values.  Students created their own coat of arms design that reflected their own personal and family values.  Many students ended up having conversations with parents and grandparents about the project, and a number of students wrote their personal motto in a grandparent's language of origin. They used the medieval colours, animals, and symbols as a guide, but were also able to use modern day symbols.  Students then had their designs pressed onto t-shirts.  They got to be like knights, wearing their own values, setting themselves apart in the classroom. The students did an incredible jobs on their shirts, and there were so many artistic students.  The students were completely focused on their projects and you can tell how much care and detail they put into them. Not a single student missed the deadline for getting their t-shirts pressed. Once they were wearing their shirts they explained what each symbol on their shirt represented. 

Post Courtesy of Lindsay Anderson

Thursday 3 May 2012

Crime Scene Investigation-Science 7

The above is a video of a lesson on Viscocity.

Mrs. Vallis, Mrs. Rutten and I developed a unit on Liquids for science class. To teach Viscocity and about jobs involving liquids, we set up a murder scene, complete with Crime scene tape and blood splatters. The students had to use some knowledge of blood splatters/patterns, critical thinking, and teamwork skills to solve the murder, which they did, with little help. They had to then write up a "police report" of guided questions to reveal their understanding.

It was awesome to see kids working in a hands on way with the material and smiling a heck of a lot in the process. 

Post courtesy of Jeff Fitton.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Meiosis Movies! (Science 9)

Students filming their video
Building a cell with yarn, play dough, toothpicks & construction paper
Students creating the cells before the film shoot

In Science 9, students worked to document the stages of Meiosis by creating cells (using play dough, yarn and construction paper). They then wrote a script to document the process and recorded it on video. Observations from the lesson:

1. The groups of 4 worked well. Students who were shy did not have to be on camera. (Teacher noted after ward that next time he would ask that each group member do the voice over for ONE of the stages).

2. Students were on-task and engaged for the entire hour and 15 min.

3. The teacher designed the groups but also took student preferences into account.

4. Students were not given access to the cameras until their scripts were checked and their cells were designed.

5. The process itself of making the videos was so successful the final videos didn't actually end up being that important.

6. On the unit exam a week or so later, the class did very well on the stages of meiosis. (Note: on a future post the teacher will describe how he designed an active component to the the test and had students actually build the cells and verbally explain the process during the test itself).

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Learning from the Student Teacher

Students begin on the full mat

The habitat is shrinking and students have to fit into the new space
Less and less habitat
Finally the students can no longer all fit...
One of our student teachers finished his practicum on Friday, so in his honour I am publishing one of his lessons that I had the chance to observe. The lesson was on the consequences of global warming and the destruction of the environment, and the teacher began the lesson with a huge blue tarp spread out in the middle of the room.

What I enjoyed about the lesson the most was that the student teacher didn't give his students any information in advance. The students were curious from the moment they walked in the class and saw the desks moved out of the way and the tarp covering most of the floor. He had the students arrange themselves on the mat and then kept kicking them off and folding the mat into smaller and smaller portions. The questions kept coming and he refused to answer:

What's the mat for?
Why are we doing this?
I don't think we're all going to be able to fit on there..

Then the questions became more purposeful...

How small is the mat going to get?
Does this represent something?
Is this connected with our unit?
Are we allowed to help each other fit?
Is there any other space we are allowed to go to?
Does this have something to do with animals losing their habitat?
Is this about the polar bears?
Is this about the ice fields?
Is this about pollution?
What happens when we don't all fit anymore?
Where do the people who don't fit go?
This isn't a good situation.
Are the people who can't fit on the mat the animals who become extinct?
Are the people on the mat the animals that evolve and adapt?
Are the people left on the mat the actual humans who kill everything else?

The students were curious and engaged throughout the first 40 minutes,  and the activity led to a good discussion about the environmental consequences of irresponsible human behaviour. The students were also moving around the classroom for most of the class, so it was a brilliant choice for a last block on a Friday afternoon.

*Note: Student faces have been blurred as we did not get every student's permission to post the photos.