Showing posts with label Extension. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Extension. Show all posts

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Pre-planning of Careers Creates Ability to Meet Individual Student Needs

This past August, I had the opportunity to work with Lisa West and Jamie Lester on the Career Studies course during Greenwood’s Summer Institute. This mandatory, Grade 10 half-credit is full of content that leads students to learn more about themselves through online surveys, website exploration, activities and assignments.


The very nature of the course is driven by the students’ individual interests and personal career goals. Students get out of the course what they put in, and often find it to be a very practical course in terms of preparing them to make more informed decisions for their future.

During the Summer Institute, our goal was to create a fully developed online model of this course that could provide students with the ability to work more at their own pace and provide choice and extension wherever possible.

How is this working in the classroom? Exceptionally well!

Having taught this course for many years, I can say without a doubt that the solid planning we did for this course has been incredibly beneficial for me and my students. As we were able to dedicate time to thoroughly planning our modules, checking website links and refining tasks, students are able to work ahead or to complete work outside school when necessary, with very little instruction from me. This has allowed me to check in with students’ progress on tasks, to clarify concepts and to have meaningful conversations with individual students that help them apply their learning to their future goals.

As educators, we sometimes feel stress associated with planning lessons and delivering them effectively. As this planning has been done and the delivery is seamless, I can spend my energy on students’ individual needs, which makes for a more meaningful learning environment.

Liz Branscombe
Guidance & Career Subject Team Leader

Monday, 15 June 2015

Personalizing Historical Thinking Skills

History teacher Alex Hurley explains how history students enhance their historical literacy and gain an increased facility in making connections to contemporary issues through informal conversational assessments.

This year in Grade 11 American History, students have been developing their knowledge and understanding of significant historical events by adopting a critical thinking framework that applies six historical thinking concepts:
  • Historical significance
  • Cause and consequence
  • Historical perspective
  • Continuity and change
  • The use of primary source evidence
  • The ethical dimensions of history

In order to practice and develop these historical literacy skills, we created a personalized sequences of learning that used a variety of teaching strategies and gave our students the opportunity to choose from a range of historical documents, events, figured, themes and final products based on their personal interest and individual learning style.

During a recent study of the African American Experience (1865-1965), students analyzed key events, figures and themes, ranging from the failed promises of Reconstruction to the struggle and hope characterized by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and its use of non-violent strategies, such as boycotts, marches and legal challenges to bring an end to systemic racism in the United States.

Students deepened their understanding of these events by focusing on the historical thinking concepts of applying the use of primary source evidence and analyzing multiple historical perspectives. They were given the opportunity to focus on these concepts in their Civil Rights Protest Song Assignment. This was a conversational assessment of learning that asked the students to prepare for and participate in a conversation about a civil rights protest song from the 1950s and 1960s. The students were given the opportunity to choose a protest song from a variety of musical genres (jazz, blues, folk, rock 'n roll) that was of personal interest to them. Some of the songs included Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," Bob Dylan's "A Pawn in their Game," Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Happen," Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn," Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" or Neil Young's "Southern Man."

There was also an extension opportunity for this assignment that allowed students to choose a protect song to analyze about the Vietnam War. Some of the songs included CCR's "Fortunate Son," Crosy, Stills, Nash and Young's "Ohio," Country Joe & The Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" and John Lee Hooker's "I Don't Wanna Go to Vietnam."

In order to prepare for this conversational assessment, the students were asked to annotate the lyrics of their chosen song by highlighting key events, figures, ideas and themes that they studied during our unit. They were also given a list of guiding questions to answer that allowed them to think critically about the larger themes of the course and communicate how the lyrics of the song could relate to any current struggle for rights that exists today - something that the majority of students successfully accomplished through their astute observations on parallels between Civil Rights issues and current events in Baltimore and the Black Lives Matter movement. Each conversation (which was about 5-7 minutes) was led by the teacher during which time we listened to the song in the classroom and the student answered the chosen guiding questions.

This assignment was a great example of how letting our students choose a topic based on personal interest and allowing them to demonstrate their critical thinking skills through an informal conversation with their teacher leads to an increased facility in making connections between issues that existed in the past and continue to persist today.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Students Showcase Findings at Annual Climate Change Fair

Each year, Grade 10 Science students have the opportunity to explore a topic of particular interest to them that relates to climate change. Their task is to design their own research project and apply what they have learned to a new situation. With this open-ended project template, we are able to personalize learning and help students discover areas of scientific interest, while guiding their exploration of such topics.

The opportunities for discovery are limitless. One student chose to extensively study the effects of global warming on the country of Tanzania, which has been severely affected by extreme droughts and floods. The student had the opportunity to then travel to Tanzania, where she could witness these issues firsthand and speak with the people who are being affected. Through photography, she documented dried-up river beds, as well as animals and locals suffering from food and water scarcity.

The significance of these experiences was evident. In her own words, "In Tanzania, I was able to apply my knowledge and get an incredible chance to learn how [climate change] is affecting these people...From this experience, I will rethink many of the things that I do at home that contribute to global warming because I can appreciate who is facing the consequences."

Depending on individual strengths and interests, some students were encouraged to design, conduct and analyze experiments to support a particular hypothesis related to climate change. Through controlled experimentation, one student analyzed the effects of deforestation on atmospheric temperatures. She found that environments exposed to high levels of greenhouse gases remained cooler in the presence of vegetation, thus illustrating the role that plants play in regulating climate change. Another student investigated the effects of carbon dioxide on rising sea levels. She designed a laboratory procedure to effectively demonstrate that atmospheres rich in carbon dioxide are able to rapidly melt ice, thereby contributing to rising sea levels.

In the end, students were able to explore topics of interest while developing scientific reasoning and research skills. The project concluded in a Climate Change Fair, during which the Grade 10 students showcased their topics and findings.

Caroline Ferguson
Teacher, Mathematics and Science

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The AP Challenge: Close Text Analysis of Hamlet

Close text analysis, or close reading of a text, is one of the core skills developed in English classes. It forms the basis for much for the AP English Literature and Composition exam, and requires critical thinking about how texts create meaning, both in terms of structure and content. In Grade 12, we apply this skill to a challenging text: Hamlet.

In the regular Grade 12 English course, the focus of close text analysis is a critical reading of the text and how it functions in the play as a whole. Assessments are chunked to help students differentiate between the importance of the information in the scene and the importance of how it is said. For example, how does word choice reveal character? How does a recurring image recall a larger theme? The goal is to be a critical reader, a skill that students can apply in any discipline and later in life.

Students in the AP course also hone their critical reading skills but have the increased challenge of deciding how to organize their findings in an essay. This essay is written in class over about thirty minutes, emulating the format of the AP exam. While this task may seem grueling, it enables students to make their own decisions about how to prioritize what they notice in terms of both its importance and how their ideas should be grouped within paragraphs. Students in both classes are taught to notice the same things; the difference is the depth to which students explain what they have noticed.

Close text analysis is a great example of how AP courses can increase academic challenge for students. Looking forward to applications to Greenwood's future flexible classrooms, the fact that both skills are taught during the same unit and can be done with the same readings also means that students can choose to challenge themselves with the AP model of the skill even if they are in the regular course. This way, students are given more opportunity for "challenge by choice," as they expand their critical reading skills.

Stephanie Martino
English Teacher

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Design Projects Add Creativity and Individuality in Physics Class

Each year in Grade 11 Physics, students build a multitude of contraptions, machines and gadgets to allow them to manipulate a real-world application of the theories they are learning. Physics teacher Emma Seaborn explains how these projects add creativity and individuality to the class.

Design projects are intended to let the students show their creativity in science and are also a great way to analyze the kinematics, forces or other physical components of machines. At the end of every unit, the class tests out their designs as a group, analyzes the findings, compares results and decides how we might build a better machine, slingshot or instrument.

The design project for the winter term was a whole-class Rube Goldberg machine. (Not sure what a Rube Goldberg machine is? Here's a great example.) Personalization is embedded within the project, as every student is responsible for one section of the machine. They can choose to make something simple, like a pattern of dominoes, or extend themselves to make something a bit trickier, like a pulley system.

Students must work collaboratively with the entire group to determine the order in which the components will run, and how to piece the machine together. This is an excellent opportunity for leadership within the classroom and students have plenty of space for creativity and individuality within each section.

When the whole machine comes together, students are very excited to see it in action, and with any luck, the whole thing runs from start to finish as planned. As a class, we then analyze the energy transfer in the machine and have a discussion about how to improve the design.

Students are already looking forward to building their very own instrument for our next design project!

Check out this video of one of last year's machines.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Using Leveled Worksheets to Challenge Math Students

Students enter Grade 9 at Greenwood from a variety of different schools with very diverse backgrounds in math, which leads to a large array of abilities collaborating in one class. To help ensure we are able to reach each and every student in the room, we need to rely on differentiated learning.

One of the most popular tools in the Grade 9 math toolbox is the use of leveled worksheets. The leveled worksheet is a series of questions sorted into levels that progressively increase in difficulty. Each worksheet will have a section to extend students who need a challenge. Students may be asked to explore variations of questions above and beyond the scope of the course.

There are a few different ways in which we employ leveled worksheets in the classroom. Sometimes, we differentiate by speed and allow everyone to start at level one and see how far they can get in a given time period. Other times we will differentiate by readiness and we will either allow students to choose their starting level or guide them to a starting level based on previous assessments. Differentiating by readiness works very well in a diverse classroom because it allows confident students to spend more time challenging themselves with more difficult problems.

The students really like when we work with leveled worksheets because they get immediate feedback and they are able to appropriately challenge themselves.  

Matthew Donkers
Teacher, Math & Physics

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Quel Mystère! Using Authentic Assessment Tasks to Enrich Language Learning

French teacher Emma Pickard discusses how authentic interactions can enrich and personalize language learning with an example from her Grade 7-8 Enriched French.

The Grade 7-8 Enriched French class solved a murder mystery!

In December, each student was given a specific character with their own secrets, motives and alibis. The assessment involved reading the character notes, writing journal entries expressing their character's thoughts and back story, and listening and speaking to exchange information and solve the mystery.


There are many benefits to this kind of experiential assessment. In a classroom situation, it isn't always easy to find authentic tasks for the students to complete. In order for a conversation to be considered "authentic," the two participants must genuinely need to exchange information (as opposed to them already knowing the outcome before they speak). Giving the students a mystery that needs to be solved means that they do not have all the information at the beginning of the activity and they have a vested interest in uncovering clues to find out who committed the crime.

An assessment of this type is also easy to personalize, as the teacher can assign individual characters, with more or less information, in order to meet the language needs of each student. For example, a student in need of extension can be given longer and more complicated clues to investigate, requiring them to complete more conversations in the same period of time. As the students were given their character information ahead of time, those in need of support could use references or discuss information with their teacher before the assessment.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Extending Learning Through a Unique Field Trip

On Tuesday, December 2, the Grade 12 Exercise Science and Grade 12 Biology classes traveled to the University of Guelph to visit the Human Anatomy and Exercise Physiology laboratories. 

In the Human Anatomy Laboratory, our students had the privilege to learn human anatomy using body donors. Studying the structures of the human body in this environment is unsurpassed by any other learning tool. Students explored the structures and functions of the muscular-skeletal system, the nervous system, the cardio-respiratory system, and the urinary/reproductive systems. This field trip challenged students academically by teaching them the anatomy of the human body in real form, rather than studying diagrams in a text book.

At each station, students investigated and were verbally tested on the anatomical properties of each human system mentioned above. For example, in the urinary/reproductive station, students could observe the location of the kidneys in the human body and how the ureters attach to the bladder. In female specimens, they could also make the connection between the bladder and the uterus and why pregnant women need to urinate often!

Students made real life connections such as these at each station, which were led by fourth-year Human Kinetics students who created a safe learning environment and gave our students an idea of the academic depth needed at the postsecondary level.

The specimens in the Human Anatomy Laboratory have come from people who have graciously donated their bodies for the betterment of science and education and thus granted us an immeasurable privilege. We would like to extend our utmost thanks for this learning opportunity they provided for us.

After the Human Anatomy Laboratory, we traveled to the Exercise Physiology Laboratory to learn about three physiology tests: the maximal oxygen uptake (VO2Max) test, the maximal anaerobic power (Wingate) test, and a body composition test. Students had the choice to complete any of these tests, which are normally completed by third-year Human Kinetics students.

In the VO2Max Test, students ride on a bike while progressively increasing the intensity and measuring ventilation and oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration of the inhaled and exhaled air. VO2Max is reached when oxygen consumption remains at a steady state despite an increase in workload.

The Wingate Test is used to measure peak power and anaerobic capacity. These two values are important indicators in sports that require quick, all-out efforts, such as a hockey shift, a football game or the sprints needed in Ultimate Frisbee.

These tests challenged students both physically and academically, as they were able to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to real life situations. Students actively completed at least one of the three tests. Also, the University of Guelph post-graduate students demonstrated the knowledge and interest needed to succeed at the post-graduate level.

Carla DiFilippo
Director of Athletics

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Grade 8 Social Studies: Extending Students Inside and Outside the Classroom

Part of  personalizing education is creating opportunities for students to extend their learning when they are ready and able to take on more of a challenge. Teacher Cara Pennington gives some examples of extension opportunities for students in her Grade 8 Social Studies class.

Grade 8 Social Studies is a unique course that utilizes the history of Canadian Confederation and Western settlement, along with different aspects of human geography, to develop critical thinking, reading and writing skills. On many occasions, students are encouraged to think outside the box and imagine what life would be like in different time periods or in different parts of the world by taking on the roles of different people and characters throughout history.

Students receive ample choice when it comes to assignment topics. The choice allows for personalization and challenge for students who require a push. Some of the topics that students are able to select include extensions that require students to complete additional research and analysis of their topic. This allows students who are ready for more of a challenge to make deeper connections and to develop their critical thinking skills.

Furthermore, day-to-day tasks in class include extension options for students who are quickly developing an understanding of the material and content. These more in-depth questions encourage students to analyze the same material in different ways and from different angle, in order to to come to new conclusions about the topic.

 Students in Grade 8 Social Studies are also extended outside of the classroom through a field trip to Black Creek Pioneer Village. Here, the students are able to live like the pioneers they have learned about in class, both in British North America and during the settlement of the Canadian western provinces. They perform tasks reflective of the time period such as woodworking and candle-making, and are able to bring the knowledge they have learned in the classroom to life and apply their understandings in a real-world setting.