January 19, 2013
Happy New Year families and students! What a great way to roll back to class – WITH A FIELD FULL OF SNOW! (Although we’re starting to miss it now … we’ll keep our fingers crossed for some good snow this weekend.) Just before the break a team of us rolled this enormous snowman on the playground. Finally Micheal had someone his own size to hang out with!
Our afternoons this month have been very busy with our Engineering projects. We all look forward to 1:30 when we can dive into our constructions. The Grade 7′s are making great progress on their jinx bridges. The blueprints are impressive. Some of us are making minor variations to our plans as we cut and measure struts and trusses. It sure will be fun to test them out with our weights in another week or so!
Our Grade 8′s continue to develop their understanding of mechanical advantage in gear systems. You can check out their completed models on their blogs (Science pages). What a great chance to use the motors in our Lego kits and our Car Kits. It is not an easy process to line those gears all up. We are using photographs to build our Lego models. However, when using the Car Kits students have to invent their own gear trains. We’ve learned that a mechanical advantage greater than one is good for speed, and less than one is good for power.
Other studies that are catching out attention this month are:
1. Our World War 2 novel studies. This has really captured our imaginations. Most of our students were not aware of the events that unfolded during the Holocaust. By sharing the story of ‘The Devil’s Arithmetic’ and then studying other novels in small reading groups we’ve learned a lot about the experiences of Europeans during this incredibly difficult time. We are also focusing on how narratives are centred about the changes (or the evolution) of main characters. We are using a three column chart to direct our thinking processes in order to make better inferences. Students make note of ‘What We’ve Noticed’, ‘What That Might Mean’, and ‘So What’ as we share stories. For instance, in ‘The Devil’s Arithmetic’ young Hannah is not interested in her family’s heritage. She is impatient when she ‘has’ to spend a day with her family celebrating the Passover. After traveling through time she comes to a much deeper appreciation of what her ancestors survived in order to give her the life she enjoys. In each of our novel study groups we are examining the changes that main characters undergo through the series of events in the plot line. Our novel study groups have been reading:
Twenty and Ten by Claire Bishop
Someone Named Eva by Joan Wolf
Prisoner of Dieppe by Hugh Brewster
Lisa by Carol Matas
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Bartoletti
We also have a large collection of other novels, illustrated books, books on tape and reference books for students to use for independent reading periods.
2. Our third key focus this month is a combined Geography and Mathematics study comparing a country in the Middle East with Canada. The Grade 7′s are focusing on physical geography patterns and data while the Grade 8′s focus on human geography trends. Students are creating graphics using www.hohli.com and www.infogr.am . These are great online tools for creating all kinds of interactive charts, graphs and diagrams. They will combine their research, photographs, video, web links and charts and graphs to create a Prezi (multimedia presentation) to share their findings. Once again students are finding that they are learning so many new things about a part of the world they are not familiar with. (And yet, a part of the world we hear so much about on television and radio news broadcasts.)
In between all of these tasks we are squeezing in time for ukulele, basketball, operations with fractions, knitting, weaving, Garage Band and French studies. No wonder time is flying in our room!
Happy New Year!
December 21, 2012
One of the new research terms being tossed around in educational circles these days is ‘STEM Skills’. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. When we are able to combine these four fields I find that students are highly motivated and excited about their learning. This year’s Engineering unit has once again given everyone an opportunity to shine in hands on technological problem solving. Check out some of this week’s action.
Have a great holiday! Safe travels!
November 30, 2012
In french classes this week we’ve been listening to the popular singer, ZAZ. Her song ‘Je Veux’ focuses on her dreams for her life. You can check it out here.
Students have reflected on their own interests and worked hard to find ways to express them in french. Good job everyone!
November 25, 2012
This past week we combined our Math and Science classes to focus on FORCE, WORK and ENERGY. By combining our measurement skills with our scientific experimentation skills we are looking at the connection between potential energy and kinetic energy. We have hooked ourselves up with the NASA Connect – Rocket to the Stars program.
Students work in small teams to conduct experiments in which they measure the potential energy of a large marble before it zooms down a ramp to knock a milk carton along the floor. Using algebraic equations students are then able to find out how much kinetic energy is expended at the end of the marble run. We’ll be working with graphs to show the relationship between the two forms of energy and will then use our plots to predict the energy transfer for other drop heights.
NASA then does a great job of connecting this type of experimentation to the work they are currently doing to plan for a human base on Mars (or other planets). It is fascinating to see our students involved in this type of teamwork. Good job everyone!
November 18, 2012
Last week we enjoyed an amazing four day photography workshop put on by Andre. We started the week off learning about the history of photography. Andre built his own ‘Camera Obscura’ which he brought to our school to share with us. When you enter the ‘Camera Obscura’ you can see images of everyone outside projected onto a white table top. Andre built a lens into the roof of this trailer. With a small pinhole and this lens ‘video’ of the live action outside was clearly visible! Back inside we had an opportunity to play with old cameras, a box camera obscura and various lenses. We then were organized into five groups with our own pinhole cameras. Check out some of our pictures after you see the video clip.
November 12, 2012
Our school paused for a solemn assembly on Friday morning to remember those who have fought in many wars and served as peacekeepers across the world. Many students from our class took on leadership roles in the assembly. Micheal and Farrin served as Masters of Ceremony. Breanna and Tobie each read passages as part of the ceremony. Olivia and Marissa served as wreath bearers for our group. Abbi and Derrick hung all of the wreaths for the various classes at the cross. All of our classmates created posters to decorate the gym or the Legion in Tamworth. We were joined by many parents, siblings and grandparents for the ceremony. It was a proud moment for our community. Well done everyone!
Here is Tobie’s presentation of his poem.
TRUE SUPER HEROES
They march into battle,
they give their lives to protect us.
Canadian soldiers strong and proud,
they know that if they die…
they will always be remembered.
Those that die in the fight
live in the hearts of every Canadian.
They fought in World War II
and all they ask
is to be respected alive
and remembered when dead.
So little for all they do…
They are true super heroes.
They see death and chaos,
they are haunted by what they see.
but push on…
They know that people die in wars
they go to war…
but come back
never the same.
They are true super heroes.
October 12, 2012
This afternoon we started a study of the ‘Art of Illustrating Books’. Our first stop was Mordicai Gerstein’s “The Absolutely Awful Alphabet”. We reviewed the use of line in artwork and thoroughly enjoyed his characters. Then we had fun trying our own skills out on our initials. Check out some of our results!
Students took incomplete projects home to finish for Monday. Good fun!
October 10, 2012
This is a special post for moms, dads, grandparents and guardians. One of the great things about current educational practice is the use of LEARNING GOALS and SUCCESS CRITERIA. (Check out our current examples on our website.) These help both students and teachers to keep their focus on WHAT they need to do and HOW to do it. We keep these checklists in view for all English and Math units. Intermediate students are learning how to self monitor their progress. This does NOT mean they have to teach themselves. It means they need to know when they should be asking questions. They need to be able to look their goals over and determine whether they are understanding what to do. Before any class tests we go over our Learning Goals (LG) and Success Criteria (SC). Students have study sheets to practice and have a period to ask questions and check out any skills they are confused about. When students write tests there are not time limits. Student learning styles vary greatly and most of the skills we focus on are not dependent on speed … (adding, subtracting, multiplication and division FACTS are the exception – but that is another post.) Students may cross out a question or leave me a note in test margins to let me know if they have not mastered a skill and need more time / help.
Learning does not stop there. Sometimes students need a longer time period to master difficult skills. Sometimes students have absences that interfere with completing all practice work. And, sometimes, at the beginning of the school year, students need to fail a test or two to see that they need to improve their study habits. So after each unit test we build in review time for students who have not accomplished all of their learning goals. We target specific gaps and have small group remedial sessions. These gaps are identified either by myself as I mark their test results or by the student if they have let me know while writing the test that they are not ready to be tested on any specific skill. After a week or so we then have a ‘rewrite’ test in which students have the opportunity to improve their results.
We will send home all of our tests to be signed by parents. This will give you an insight into how your son/daughter is doing. Please do be aware that there are always ‘second chances’ and more time to master skills. Our first term goals are set with a January ‘expiration date’. In mathematics many of our skills are used over and over again throughout various units of study. This gives everyone many chances to show that they’ve mastered the required skills. We do not average marks (as was prior practice). Instead, the most recent or highest skill level demonstrated is used as the report grade for each strand on the Mathematics section of the report card. This is a different practice than when you were in school. I think it provides students with more time to learn new skills. It gives them a better chance at achieving higher grades. Both of which build more student confidence.
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October 4, 2012
We started our day off working on our French skits. We’ve been practicing a lot on common phrases we might need to use if we were traveling in Quebec or Europe. Our goal is to come into class ‘thinking’ in French each morning. It is nice to have the steady routine of starting each day in our second language.
We are almost finished our Mission Statement display. Check it out in our front hallway. Mr. Dowling built us a real tree to use! We’ve posted the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Each of us are working on colourful posters to share our goals. Posters that were not finished have gone home for homework. They are due back by Monday.
We have a Math Test tomorow for Mrs. P’s groups. There is a list of our learning goals in each student’s agenda. Students SHOULD STUDY for the test by selecting numbers to practice factoring and multiplication facts. They should be able to find common factors and common multiples between two numbers. Students should know how to write numbers as exponents. Finally, they should be able to apply the correct order of operations to solving equations.
By two thirty we’d put in a very full day. We decided to take advantage of the last warm, sunny day this week to play some ball hockey. Here is a shot of our whole gang just before we started our games.
Kiersten and Tobie were our goalies today.