We are looking for learning partners!

I guess we need to take a new approach

We are just coming off of a major national campaign to revive our old schoolyard. We’re not sure of the results yet, but it has been a hard slog, encouraging support and voting every day. If we make it to the next round it will be by the skin of our teeth!

Here is the concept drawing that was developed for our yard - we will get this done!
Here is the concept drawing that was developed for our yard – we will get this done!

 

We have applied for grants throughout the fall, but this doesn’t seem to be the right approach. Grant writing takes a long time and usually the results are negative.

So, today, we start a new approach. We are going to promote all the great things about our school and our community and see who out there wants to work with us!

What do we have going for us?

We have great kids, totally engaged in learning, happy for what they have who display daily a love of learning and a joy for living.

We have a great, dedicated staff who really work hard with our kids. The results show in the provincial testing where are kids consistently score above provincial and board averages.

We have a great supportive community with all sorts of services for struggling families and for those who don’t speak much English or French. Right now, we have a cooperative daycare in our basement and a new community agency room on the second floor housed by groups connected to the school and open to finding ways to engage our parents in our school.

We are developing a vibrant makerspace through a generous donation from our superintendent. The makerspace is supported by an ‘innovations groups’ made up of profs from the university of Ottawa, student teachers, local entrepreneurs and a few principals. We don’t have much equipment yet, but we hope our group will come up with more resources as we look for second-hand lego and other materials.

Our kids are also mad about Minecraft!  We want our own server so we can run the program on Minecraft edu, safely for all our students.  They have great ideas on how this can be used for education and have done some great writing about how we can bring this into the classroom.

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We are running a terrific arts program.  The kids have all taken part in hip hop lessons and there is much more to come.  They have worked with a local artist to create a beautiful mural right in the entrance to our school.  The mural is an expression of how the students see the community – we are all really proud of this. We will go beyond hip hop and add music and storytelling as the year progresses.

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our mural and our artists

We are also experimenting with a computer lending program.  We have old Dell Netbooks that aren’t being used much anymore.  We are starting to lend these out to students and families for the year so that they can continue to work on programs like Raz Kids, Mathletics and Dreambox.  We need more of these machines to give out and we have to ensure that the machines are hooked up to the internet.

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looking for machines like this to send home

We are also working with our partners to develop a parent outreach program.  School Board in other jurisdictions like Hamilton-Wentworth and having lots of success offering parent workshops at the same time as they offer student tutoring and enrichment.  We would like to find a way to do this here.

So, are you interested in working with us?  We would make a great partner!

Teacher professional development

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This morning I had a chance to sit in on the junior math triad at our school.  The triad is made up of three schools – St. Gregory, St. Daniel and St. Monica.  The teachers in each triad meet throughout the year and set their own learning goals as the year progresses.  These learning goals become the basis of our school improvement plan.

I believe that this is a very powerful model for professional development.  It puts the teacher in the driving seat and shows due respect to the adult learner.

I try to sit in on as many triad meetings as possible and I always find their conversations really interesting.  Because the teachers set their own learning goals and decide when they are going to meet to work on their own inquiries there is continuous discovery based on the evidence gathered from student work.

I have been fortunate enough to work with this group throughout the school year.  They have been working on a continuing inquiry on the use of math journals as a way to introduce and reinforce math concepts.

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The rectangle and the parallelogram – a student reflection on learning.

If we continue to solidify students’ ability to communicate about math through the use of math journals with support through conferencing, then they should be able to demonstrate their learning through oral or written responses using math language..

current math inquiry goal – junior math

At this point, the teachers are reflecting on what they have learned this year and where they want to go in the future.  Reading through the math journals, it is very interesting to see how the students reflect on what they are learning.  The teachers shared some of these reflections with me and I am posting them here.

The junior triad is now exploring how the journalling, especially the reflections can lead to more sophisticated student inquiry.  They have learned that the ground for inquiry needs to be carefully prepared before jumping into one.  The math journals, leading to individual student reflection on learning is a great way to do this.

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The wonderful thing about the triad teacher inquiry process is that teachers choose what they want to learn based on the needs of their students.  They all record their learning in an Evidence of Learning document that gets updated every time they meet.  Ultimately, their inquiries become the basis for our school improvement plan.

For me, the most interesting teacher reflection throughout this process has to do with how their inquiries has changed their teaching practice.  We added this question this year after reading Intentional Interruptions by Steven Katz.  Katz states that every time teachers embark on a new ‘doing’, they need to reflect on some key questions.  One of these questions asks teachers to reflect on how any new initiative will deepen their professional  understanding such that teacher practice changes. (pg 78)

This is how the junior teachers answered this question:

Where to next?  Now what?

“The journals have shown us that explicit teaching prior to, or in combination with, inquiry allows for more success.  We need to fill the student’s toolboxes with concepts and strategies before we can expect them to be confident in problem based inquiry.  Confidence is one of the most important tools for students to be successful!

We have also learned that the journals have built in differentiation for all the learning styles in the classroom with the flexibility and creativity allowed in the reflection piece.

 

We will definitely continue the Math journal into next year.  Where possible, the students remaining in the school will have their journals passed on to the coming teacher and continued on from there (teacher discretion). We hope to take the explicit teaching in the journals and use it to strengthen the students’ inquiry skills.

Possibility for next year are some shortcuts for the kids who have a difficult time with copying or concepts, for example having the curriculum learning goals pre-typed, having some of the interactive tools photocopied, creating alternative interactive tools based on student needs.

More conferencing needed.”

Really interesting to see concrete examples of teacher learning taking off once they are given the autonomy to try out new concepts on their own!

 

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Teacher collaboration project – Math journals

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I have written briefly about one of the teacher collaboration inquiries that has been going on in our three schools.  In this post, the teachers have written an explanation of their work so far.  I am hoping that more of our teacher groups will do the same so we can post their work on this blog.

These rest of this entry is written by Teresa Zappavigna, one of the teacher triad members.

Our Triad team came together in early October to determine an area of focus for our students in our junior grades.  After examining EQAO scores, last year’s records, and our personal running records to date, our next steps became quite evident.  The attitude toward math and in particular, problem solving, needed to be addressed. Many times, students have the skills, but are thrown by the math language.  Students needed to find a tool to help students break down math  problems (scaffold their thinking) in order to understand:  “What do I know?”; “What do I need to know?”;  and “How can I help solve the problem/ What strategies can I use?”. A tool was introduced by our partners from St. Daniel’s.  They were in the process of working on interactive Math journals which help guide a student’s problem- solving process and encourages them to demonstrate their understanding of new math concepts in a personal and creative way (through re-enactment, art, poetry, music, crossword puzzles, etc.,).  Our intention is that if we explicitly teach problem solving strategies and provide opportunities for students to prove, explain and reflect on their learning in Math journals, then students will have more success in explaining their thinking while problem solving.  By allowing students the opportunity to express themselves creatively (be it literacy, numeracy, arts, verbal, kinesthetic, tactile,) we hope to make math fun for students who shy away from math.

We are still in the process of developing a routine using these journals with our students.  Our observations so far have been positive.  Students have been eager to share their rap songs, cartoons etc with the class and are often asking the teachers if we will be working on our “journals today”.  The atmosphere is changing and we hope to continue these “brag books” as a tool to help students develop efficient problem solving strategies.

Video of a student conference…Please watch both (one is the continuation of the other) In this video, teachers can see the importance of conferencing with students on their journals, EVEN if the student puts a GREEN traffic light on the activity. He or she might not fully understand the concept. The example is a student working on Place Value activities.

samples and photos from the teacher inquiry

 

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Sample of a grade 4 journal – this is a collaborative project in grades 4, 5, and 6 being carried out in three schools

Triad Project: The use of math journals to encourage purposeful talk

Yesterday, we spent the entire day with Lucy West.  It was a great day and I learned a great deal.  She asked us to tell her one thing that we would take away from the session.  I told her I would visit all of the junior math classes and really find out what they are doing.

This post is based on my observations in the grade 6 math class.  The teacher is using math journals as a way to get her kids to think about math concepts – today she is focusing on mean median and mode.  There was a good deal of very purposeful talk from the students based on their journaling.  The teacher’s questioning encouraged additional contributions from her students.

Math journaling is the project the grade 4- 5-6 Triad is working on this fall – three schools and the teachers in grades 4,5 and 6 are taking part in a collaborative inquiry on the benefits of using math journals.  Here is their inquiry statement:

If we explicitly teach problem solving strategies and provide opportunities for students to prove, explain and reflect on their learning in Math journals,

then students will have more success in explaining their thinking while problem solving.

Based on Lucy West’s talk, three simple things can change the learning culture of a classroom

  • turn and talk
  • tell me more about that?
  • who can repeat that?

All these were observed today!  Great lesson