Joanne is Specialist for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing with the Calgary Board of Education. Her Superpower is the ability to detect an unused FM system.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) students in inclusive settings, grades 4-8, had the opportunity to meet other kids with hearing loss, some of them for the first time, for a day of fun, learning, and socializing. The Newberry Honor Book, El Deafo by Cece Bell, a humorous account of the author’s childhood experiences after losing her hearing, was the springboard for discussion. The students created comics about themselves and their hearing loss on iPads. Other fun activities were creating designs for their hearing aids and problem-solving with partners to build Lego structures.
Many students commented they learned the most from the session on Responding to Teasing - “I have positive things to say when bullied.” Parents also had a day of learning with a social worker from the DHH Well-Being Program in Vancouver. One parent shared that it was an “Excellent and insightful workshop. Really enjoyed the presentations – relevant and timely.” The DHH System Team and other Learning Specialists hope this experience is a beginning, or continuation, of discussion for the students with their families on having Superpowers, being different, challenges, and amazing abilities.
Joanne is Specialist for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing with the Calgary Board of Education. Her Superpower is the ability to detect an unused FM system.
This year I participated in the Design the Shift Cohort, as well as a Creative Development cohort. It’s been an amazing learning experience attending both workshops and my students have definitely benefited.
I have been working with my grade three class all year on developing a Growth Mindset, taking more challenges and control in their learning. Our most recent design challenge was to design a playground given a specific place or user. First we considered what elements were necessary when designing a playground, money, space, safety, etc. Once we had a list, the students worked individually to come up with an initial rough plan. They shared their ideas in “Speed Dating” format and went back to iterate their designs. Next, they worked in groups to come up with a design, shared again and then I shuffled the groups. This process of diverging and converging planning led to a plethora of ideas and no one student being attached to one single idea.
Through this planning, the students were more willing to share thoughts and take more risks. They demonstrated the Risk Taking Mindset, Iteration Mindset and Empathy Mindset. At this point I assigned them their specific task (type of users for their playground or place) adding in the Human Centred Mindset. They tried out many different designs, tested them and either adapted or completely changed them, if they didn’t work out, easily and without fear of failure. My students absolutely loved this project and process, and their final projects were amazing and they were so proud and excited to share!
Stacey Cropper (@StaceyBeth82) is a third grade teacher at Hidden Valley School, who has an endless capacity for remembering useless information.
In anticipation of this post, I decided to tour the school over a few weeks and take a look and listen to what students were learning in their classrooms. While this is a pretty regular part of my work day, it’s always a bit different when you go on a mission searching for something in particular. My mission was to find student responses to the question What Did I Learn Today? However, a funny thing happened along the way…
While I was on my mission the students I was able to spend time with were taking in the experience for completely different reasons. Here is a sample of some of the exchanges:
Kindergarten – students were taking a body break and dancing energetically.
Me: “Hey guys, do you like body breaks? How do you think they help you learn?”
Student 1: “Hey Mr. Fero, check out my dance moves. Why don’t you dance with us?”
Student 2: “Nice dance moves Mr. Fero”
Grade One – students were reading during a morning literacy period.
Me: “Hi, what books are you reading? How did you choose those books?”
Student: “Mr. Fero, can you read with me?”
Grade Six – students were in the hallway testing gliders.
Me: “So, you guys testing your gliders? What are you noticing?”
Student: “Mr. Fero, I can’t figure out how to make mine fly straight. Do you think I can make it work if I fix the elevator?”
So what did I find out? I learned that all of my students were very much engaged in what their particular learning activity was, but moreover, I learned that my students just really wanted to opportunity to engage with me. In those moments MY mission was less important than THEIR mission. Mine was to find data, and theirs was to hang with the principal. Student mission accomplished.
Ian Fero loves his job. He is the principal at Fish Creek School and has some pretty solid dance moves. When off the dance floor you can find him through Twitter (@principalfero) or his blog (www.principalfero.weebly.com)
The Grade Fives I work alongside at West Ridge School have been testing out formative assessment strategies to increase student engagement and participation in whole-class discussions. One strategy that has been particularly well-received is No Hands Up, Except to Ask a Question. Championed by Dylan Wiliam and detailed in his book, Embedding Formative Assessment (2015), No Hands Up is exactly what it sounds like - students do not raise their hands to signal their desire to offer a solution or participate. Instead, students are selected entirely at random by the teacher.
We started by using tongue depressors with student’s names that were randomly pulled from a jar, but that was not random enough (according to the students), so we upgraded to a digital randomizer. All students in class already had an assigned number, based on their alphabetical order, so it was easy to transition from names to numbers. During our first tries of not raising hands, students were excited to see if their name would be pulled and engaged with the novelty of the strategy. Gradually students began to focus less on the strategy itself and more on the learning task at hand. As this shift occurred, it quickly became apparent that more students were engaged in learning – there was less off-task discussion, less movement and shifting around, more eyes on the SMART Board, and more focus on whoever was speaking. Not only that, but students who rarely participated in discussion were offering lucid responses and making their thinking visible.
This strategy may not be one we choose to use every single class, but randomly calling on students changes the classroom dynamic. Students pay attention because they know their name may be selected at any time. Students who are normally quite vocal in discussions are required to listen and be more reflective, while students who participate less frequently see that their ideas are worthwhile and have value. It encourages students to take risks and realize that it is okay to make mistakes. As with most learning techniques, exclusive use of the No Hands Up strategy is probably not prudent, but when used in tandem with other effective teaching practices, it can reap significant gains in the areas of student engagement and participation.
So, what did I learn with my students today? Question your most basic assumptions about classroom expectations - even something as ingrained as raising hands.
Adam Eakins (@EakinsYYC) is a Learning Leader at West Ridge School and is passionate about life-long learning, quality professional development, and collaborative growth amongst peers.
World Water Day At Louis Riel School
On Wednesday March 22nd, Louis Riel School took part in a school-wide activity to celebrate World Water Day. The activity was organized by the Louis Riel Eco Club, which consists of students who are passionate about the environment. The activity stemmed from the purpose of World Water Day, which is to bring awareness to the world water crisis. Even though water is a basic human right, not everyone in the world has equal access to it. The Eco Club wanted to create an activity that would help raise awareness of the world water crisis and give the entire school community a shared experience.
On World Water Day, there were only two water fountains in operation. All other water fountains were covered up with garbage bags. This meant that for both students and staff to get water from the fountains, they would have to walk further than they normally would have to. This action of having to walk further to a water fountain simulated what many communities must do daily to access clean water. Teachers were encouraged to use this activity as a platform for classroom discussions around World Water Day, the world water crisis and equality.
With my own grade 7 classes, we discussed how the water crisis impacts communities in our own country. As an entire school community, Louis Riel Elementary and Junior High worked together to demonstrate a high standard of global and local citizenship on World Water Day this year.
Teri Ryan is an avid rock climber and climbing instructor. She teaches Humanities 7 and Physical Education at Louis Riel School.
Our Early Learning Network designed a learning series “Designing for Artful Play” to evolve the idea of play-based programs. We wanted to immerse educators in an authentic setting with experts, we designed this series to work within the disciplines of visual arts, drama, dance, music and also Indigenous ways of knowing on the land. Educators arrived for our first session at ACAD and were immediately invited in the room to explore a visually appealing collection of art materials.
In a knowledge building circle, we reflected on being asked to play with art materials. This circle of educators was as diverse as a community of learners as we shared.
“I want to dig in and get messy.”
“I am hesitant. I need protocols and structure.”
“Going in to create was overwhelming to me but once I got exploring, it was so calming.”
“I am that kid who did not want to clean up. I kept going!”
We used the student-claimed stairwell at ACAD to think about the idea of graffitti as a form of student voice and expression, asking questions such as:
How might we use a shared space to show a growing understanding of curriculum and represent knowledge of numeracy, literacy, line, shape, colour, texture, pattern through art?
Throughout these experiences were rich pedagogical conversations about knowing the curriculum, space, materials, skill vs engagement, diverse learners and documentation. These discussions and reflections the tone for the rest of our sessions, reinforcing the importance and often seriousness of learning through play.
Stephanie Bartlett (@sj_bartlett), learner, teacher as designer, CBE Specialist...always working towards outcome unknown.
Our grade 3 and 4 students are using Twitter to help investigate how human impact on Alberta’s natural regions changes the land and communities. As part of their exploration, students were asked to form an opinion, based on facts, about the impact oil sands have on our province. Using their fact-based opinions as a foundation students will be writing a persuasive letter to an expert in the oil industry, government or regulating bodies that monitor the oil sands.
Using Twitter, students are able to make direct contact with individuals and to follow up with new questions when they receive responses. By using social media their learning is alive, relevant and rooted in current events.
The question of who to follow arose quickly when we started looking at Twitter. Through classroom discussion and exploration students identified how to tell if an account was verified, how to navigate a profile page to find the user’s biography and website and how to navigate tweets the user sent. Students then derived a set of five questions they applied to each user they wanted to follow.
Once vetted by these questions students voted to follow the user or not and then began tweeting their questions using #oilsandsquestions to help organize the responses they received.
By using social media such as Twitter, our grade 3 and 4 students are learning how to navigate the digital world in a safe and controlled environment and how to use social media as a tool to interact with, engage in and experience their world as global citizens.
Dan Pye (@dcpye) is a Learning Leader at the All Boys Program. He’s passionate about empowering his students to create and collaborate through the use of technology, maker space and design thinking.
Did you know, all over the world, women and girls set out early to walk for water?
On World Water Day, students at Tuscany School participated in a school wide “Walk for Water”. Our Kindergarten students began by exploring “Why Water is Important”. They created posters to share their findings and promote our walk. An informational video was created and shared with the whole school to develop empathy for all the people in the world who work hard for their drinking water.
Seeing with the eyes of another
Listening with the ears of another
And feeling with the heart of another
Tuscany students were then invited to engage in a Design Thinking Water Challenge:
How might you design an instrument to carry water around the field?
Using the Design Thinking Process, students ideated, created prototypes, and tested their designs.
On March 22, 2017, students walked around the school ground with their water instrument for 30 minutes.
Through this process, students got to experience what it might be like to have to travel distances to gather water for their family.
What did I learn today? or better yet, what did I learn from blogging everyday in the month of March?
In the month of March I joined teachers from around the world for the Slice of Life month long reflective writing challenge from Two Writing Teachers. I took the time to gather my jumbled ideas into one coherent blog post per day. As a teacher of writing across the disciplines I hoped that this daily reflection would remind me what it is to be a writer as well as allow me to experiment with my own writing in order to find my own voice, and better yet be an asset to my students writing lives. I took this writing challenge to give me the opportunity to live an authentic writing life. To give myself the time to reflect, muse, vent, plan, and create. Often as teachers we are so busy with the everyday mundane tasks that we don't give space to things that will make us better teachers, colleagues, friends, human beings. I hoped that in my muddled mind I could find some clarity. Clarity in my practice as a teacher, as a learner, as a writer and as a passionate lover of life.
Wow, what an experience. Some of my impressions were that I am a procrastinator, 90% of my posts were posted just before going to bed. Likewise, I mainly wrote in a reflective journal format with ideas ranging from classroom experiences, having a student teacher, the arts, and being in a reading rut. I did write a few poems but did not really go outside of my comfort zone as a writer to write any fiction. My biggest takeaway from this experience will be to include my students in the process for next year's student challenge. I am also going to continue to blog with this group weekly on Tuesdays. Likewise, I am going to continue to give my students ample opportunity to develop themselves as authentic writers.
As a teacher, it can be hard to give up control of the classroom and invite in “chaos”. Last year though, students and staff at Fish Creek took on our first Innovation Week and did just that. It was a huge success and everyone involved learned an immense amount. It was time for us to do it all again. So, in mid February, the Grade 5s (@FamousFCS5s) & Grade 6s (@InquiringFCS6s) met to plan this years Innovation Week.
Taking in the lessons from last year, we chose to focus on a theme of “How can we reduce waste at FCS?” while compressing the experience to one week (5 school days). With a deep breath, we introduced the week to eager students and then watched as they exploded in a frenzied fever of creativity, iteration and problem solving. It was an exhausting week but one of the greatest weeks of the entire year. It was an incredible experience.
“It let me push myself to see what I could actually do.
“It was really fun. I was never so frustrated, but I wish it could have lasted longer. I’m REALLY REALLY proud of my project and I was super super focused and I was able to get a lot done. It was really easy to write a lot about this because so much happened and I really wanted to share it.”
“I loved Innovation Week because it got me out of my comfort zone. I built a robot that cleans and before this week I would have never thought I could have built it.”
I firmly believe that finding solutions to problems while navigating restrictions or limits allows for an authentic environment that fosters critical thinking, creativity, and innovation in our learners. With an imposed limit of 5 days (4 days of ‘building’ and 1 for sharing), the nature of this experience challenged students to be creative and imaginative from the outset. I genuinely believe the time constraint boosted creativity as it pushed students to focus on ways to deliver on their hypotheses. I wasn’t disappointed – every day myself and the other teachers would debrief how impressed we were with the growth, progress and confidence. It reminded me time and time again of the scene in Apollo 11 where they must engineer a square filter into a round whole.
It’s hard to compress the passion, creativity and breadth of projects into a short response here but in summary, it was amazing to the see.
Daniel Polsky (@mr_polsky) is a Grade 5 Teacher & Learning Leader at Fish Creek School. Teach. Eat. Sports. Repeat. Website: bit.ly/PolskyDotCom
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