Showing posts with label Greenwood College School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greenwood College School. Show all posts

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Learning Historical Literacy through Role Play: The Trial of Louis XVI

Recently, Grade 12 students in the Headlines of History class were given the opportunity to travel back to revolutionary France and put King Louis XVI on trial for crimes against the people and the revolution. By facilitating a trial that loosely follows the actual events of 1792 (which, unfortunately for King Louis XVI, resulted in his execution) students were able to work together, focus on their individual strengths and develop their critical thinking skills.

In Headlines of History, along with other Canada and World Studies (CWS) courses at Greenwood, we have been working toward integrating and fostering an approach to history education that develops students' historical literacy. This is done using "historical thinking concepts" that engage students to become competent and critical historical thinkers.

As researched and developed by the Historical Thinking Project and reflected in the recently revised Ontario CWS curriculum, teaching students how to understand and leverage historical thinking concepts helps them understand and analyze historical issues from a number of angles.

The goals of the Trial of Louis XVI lesson were to develop two particular historical thinking concepts:
  1. Taking historical perspectives
  2. Understanding the ethical dimensions of history
Students had to use their understanding of the different positions and perspectives of both Enlightenment-era thinkers and the varied interests and factions of French Revolutionary thought.

Students were divided based on their own personal interest and strengths into teams that consisted of the prosecution, the defense and the jury for the trial. After taking the perspective of specific historical actors, the students researched and determined their position on Louis XVI's culpability, based on their character's philosophy. For example, a student who had chosen to take the role of radical Jacobin Maximilien Robespierre had to address the charges and the ethical issue of the trial by using only Robespierre's perspective.

This process was successful because it developed the students' ability to remove their own contemporary opinions and perspectives on the events of the past and develop historical empathy. This enhanced their understanding of the complexities of historical issues and in turn, developed their critical thinking abilities. It also allowed students to work together and bring their own individual strengths to bear in the activity; each student was able to leverage research on Enlightenment thought that they had developed earlier in the unit.

The result of Louis XVI's "second trial" at Greenwood? On this occasion, the students in the jury found him guilty of all charges - as the National Convention did in 1792 - but unlike the 18th century trial in Paris, Louis was spared execution and given life in prison instead.

Eugene Henry
Teacher, History

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Designing the New Gym: A Grade 8 Math Challenge

Grade 8 Mathematics students have been experiencing real-world thinking through an inquiry project focused on the construction of a new gym for the school expansion.

The focus of the project is design and planning, both spatially and financially. Before the students were introduced to the goals of the project, they spent a lesson brainstorming various considerations needed when designing a new gymnasium for the school. Their only resource was the blueprint for the third floor addition.

Students then interviewed the school's Athletic Director and Subject Team Leader of Health and Physical Education to get more detailed information about specific features needed in a gymnasium and a sense of the major factors to consider when designing and planning a new gymnasium.

Once the students had completed the brainstorming and interview tasks, they were given a package that included all the information needed to design and determine the cost of the new gym. The package included blueprints, photos, building code requirements (such as the fire code), sporting requirements and budget information.
Students critically examined the resources provided and determined which information would be relevant to their design. The last component of the project was for students to design the floor plan for the new gym. Final designs included dimensions, the layout for the gym and an estimated cost.

Students are presenting their design process and sharing some of the challenges they experienced with a local architect, who will then offer some additional points to consider when designing a physical education space.

The Grade 8 Math class has been engaged and excited by this project, as it has an authentic real-world connection, with a focus on creativity. The students were encouraged to explore their ideas and to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

One student stated that their favourite part of the project has been "finding information in a different way. We are doing the work, and we are almost doing what you would do as a real architect." Another student recognized the importance of the process, or "how hard it is to actually create a gym, and all the thought you have to put into the different aspects of it." Students realized that "you need to do a lot of things [and] you need to choose," while using mathematics to design, plan and financially justify your design.

Grade 8 students have thoroughly enjoyed completing an open-ended and realistic task that promotes creativity and supports the development of real-life skills through a mathematical lens.

Elysia Jellema, Math and Science Teacher
Erin Klassen, Math Teacher
Amanda Lester, Math Subject Team Leader

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Teachers Work Together To Meet Student Needs

There are many ways to meet the needs of individual students or groups of students within our own classrooms. If we schedule more than one section of a course at the same time, then multiple teachers are available to work together to meet the needs of the students in their classes.
multiple teachers are available to work together to meet the needs of the students in their classes

Teachers can then work together on the initiative of meeting students’ needs rather than working alone.

At Greenwood, we have scheduled two Grade 7 mathematics classes into the same block for the past few years. The teachers stay at roughly the same pace and are able to use assessment to periodically create mixed groups from the two classes. Sometimes, but not always, the mixing is based on readiness:
use assessment to periodically create mixed groups from the two classes. Sometimes, but not always, the mixing is based on readiness

one group gets concept reinforcement and the other group gets some extension work. This is not streaming. The students still have a mixed-level classroom and an assigned teacher who they are with most often, but the students also have the opportunity to work with groups of students whose needs are similar. On the days when groups are created between the classrooms, the teachers can focus in on what the students in their group need rather than having to do multiple tasks all within their own classroom.

We have created a timetable for the 2013-2014 school year in which a few courses have more than one section running at the same time. The teachers of these courses will modify the groups in their classrooms for various reasons. Sometimes they will use assessment results to regroup for content readiness, similar to the Grade 7 mathematics class. Other times, they will shuffle students between classrooms based on interest. In English, students could choose different novels to study and then meet with their novel group for discussions. Students in this novel group could be a combination of students from 2-3 different classes within the same course.
Students in this novel group could be a combination of students from 2-3 different classes within the same course

Alternatively, teachers may give students the choice of how to work through material in a series of lessons: one group may use technology-rich resources, another group would have a teacher-directed lesson and a third group may work through a series of activities. Scheduling 2-3 classes of a course at the same time means that these three paths could run in different rooms, each with a different teacher. Students could also be grouped by their learning style for some lessons.

Students in these courses will have a core teacher to whom they are assigned. They will also have the opportunity to interact with other teachers of this course and other students beyond their usual classmates. Students will get multiple perspectives. Teachers using this approach will work together to plan their classes, assessments and common evaluations. They will get to know the needs and interests of all of the students in the course, not just those in their own room. Teachers and students will be part of a bigger community that extends beyond their own classroom.

Heather Thomas
Director of Personalized Learning

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Adaptive Learning

Anytime, anywhere learning is a big component of personalized learning and essential to our program at Greenwood. In order to create this flexible learning environment teachers use a variety of tools including a Learning Management System – Moodle (or as we call it ‘Groodle’) and Google Drive.

Another aspect of personalization at Greenwood sees teachers taking “time to understand each student’s unique personality, strengths and learning style, and design a customized, fully personalized learning experience to maximize that individual’s highest potential for engagement and success" (see article). To thoroughly understand the needs of students requires teachers to assess continuously and in a variety of ways. In a traditional classroom, assessment is often limited to one or two points during a unit and is unable to provide timely feedback or enable intervention. While continuous assessment is essential, it requires a significant time investment by teachers.

In order to help teachers get a quicker and easier understanding of their students’ needs, Greenwood is continuously looking for new technologies. Computers are exceptionally good at collecting and presenting data and have a lot of potential to offer additional support. While Groodle and Google Drive are excellent at fostering a flexible learning environment they are not currently able to help students make decisions based on their needs.

In order to help teachers get a quicker and easier understanding of their students’ needs, Greenwood is continuously looking for new technologies.

An emerging technology that holds promise for both teachers and students are adaptive learning systems. Adaptive learning uses technology to identify student strengths and weaknesses and then presents exercises tailored to those areas in need of improvement. One company receiving a lot of attention for their adaptive learning platform is Knewton. According to their website, Knewton has developed a system that is continuously adaptive providing the right instruction at the right time about the right thing. In addition to guiding students down an appropriate pathway, adaptive learning systems supply extensive data to teachers about each student allowing teachers to provide enrichment or additional support even quicker.

Although adaptive learning systems offer a lot of potential for educators, they are an extremely new technology and most are not yet available to individual schools. Additionally, many of the adaptive learning systems prohibit schools from utilizing their own resources which limits their usefulness.

While teachers will always have the greatest understanding of the needs of their students, technology will hopefully provide greater support in the near future. We will continue to monitor developments of adaptive learning systems and other technologies and implement those that help to further our goal of creating personalized programs.

Kyle Acres
Learning Technology Adviser

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Examples of Blended Learning at Greenwood College School

I recently gave a presentation on the progress we have made in developing blended learning courses at Greenwood College School. As I created this presentation, I began to reflect on how far we have come with using this approach to personalize the experience for students. During this current school year alone, many teachers at Greenwood have developed lessons and units that they have already implemented and many full courses that will be implemented next year, all using blended learning tools.

What struck me as I sorted through all of the many blended learning tools teachers are using or have created at Greenwood was how well these teachers understand the needs of their students.


To follow are some examples of the blended learning tools that teachers have used or developed this year.

Grade 9 geography will be implemented as a blended learning course next year. The teachers developing this course recognize that this will be the first blended learning experience for many students, so they have planned to start each class with a teacher-directed lesson, similar to what would be found in a traditional class. They will then use technology to check for student understanding and to send students down one of two paths, either to a task that will reinforce the concepts just covered or to a task that has students apply and go deeper with what they have learned. The teachers are using technology to facilitate the pathways for students. They recognize that not all students will understand all concepts the first time they are exposed to them.

The teachers in Grade 12 English this year have used an online Hamlet text to enrich the learning of their students and to create more classroom discussion about the text. Often, when studying a Shakespearean text, the students spend a good deal of class time reading together as a group. Rather than doing that this year, the Grade 12 English teachers had the students read scenes along with the online resource at home. This resource reads the text with or to the students, while highlighting the words as it reads. Students could also choose to watch the scenes from a variety of different movie or theatrical productions. The resource gave students assistance with the language and its meaning. When students came to class after actively reading/listening/watching the assigned scenes, they were put into discussion groups based on need: do they need help understanding the scenes, do they need to talk about character or do they need to discuss bigger themes of the text? Using technology in this way allowed students to spend class time in meaningful dialogue about the content that they needed to understand most.

Another example of technology helping to guide students’ learning was found in the Grade 11 and 12 blended learning mathematics classes. Students in these classes can move through the material at their own pace. Technology is used to assess students throughout the unit. If they achieve a mastery grade on an assessment, the moodle platform releases the next few lessons for them to work through. If they do not receive a mastery grade on an assessment, moodle will not give them access to the subsequent lessons. In this case, the teacher is alerted that the student needs concept clarification. The teacher then reinforces the concept with the student and provides more practice. The student is then able to attempt a similar assessment and once a mastery grade is achieved, they are given access to the next few lessons. Students have found that technology used in this way has forced them to stay true to their learning and not assume that they understand a concept. Teachers working with the students in these courses have found that the technology has helped them to more easily determine when students need help.

The blended learning tools described in this blog post are creative tools that teachers have found or developed to help personalize their courses. There are many more examples of blended learning being used at Greenwood College School. As teachers develop these resources, they are keeping student needs in mind and varying how the tools are used in different grade levels and subject areas.

Heather Thomas
Director of Personalized Learning