Showing posts with label Ownership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ownership. Show all posts

Friday, 27 November 2015

Grade 10 French: How is our new approach working in the classroom?

Unit 1 - La RentrĂ©e (back to school) has wrapped up in Grade 10 French. Throughout the unit students: 
  • Read about the contrasts and similarities between schooling in France (through various readings for different levels of comprehension) and discussed them in a formal debate, through small-group conversation and one-on-one discussions with teachers;
  • Wrote a personal email to a friend about the start of the school year; and
  • Listened to several types of media (again at different levels) related to schooling and responded and analyzed the learning through oral conversations.
Students worked diligently at using new vocabulary and specific scenario-appropriate grammar when speaking about their involvement in school and their goals for the year, both in French class and at Greenwood in general. 

The final assessment was an Action Task. Students were given the profile of a new student from a French-speaking community in northern Ontario who will be transferring to Greenwood. The class was asked to read a profile about the student and read through the school’s website (online in French) to gather information about this student. They then wrote a welcome email (focus on proper email format) and made a voice recording (using specific grammar and vocabulary) answering questions the new student had about coming to Toronto and Greenwood.

As mentioned in the last post, there is a strong focus on students becoming responsible for their own learning by increasing their metacognitive capacities (the ability to think about thinking). Throughout Unit 1, students monitored progress by setting goals and referring back to those goals frequently. They were asked to make adjustments as necessary by using teacher feedback to improve learning.  In particular, they focused on communicating with peers and classroom teachers using explicit scenario grammar and vocabulary. 

As teachers we have observed that students have become more responsible for their learning and much more aware of their individual capabilities and where they need to go to improve. Unit 1 wrapped up with a written reflection in which students contemplated their progress through the first part of the course followed by an individual conference with classroom teachers to set new objectives for further improvement as we move through Unit 2.

Heather Maxted
French Subject Team Leader

Emma Pickard
French Teacher

Friday, 16 October 2015

Planning for Authentic Experiences in Grade 10 French

With the exciting changes in Ontario’s French as a Second Language curriculum, we engaged in the August Summer Institute week to rework the Grade 10 Core French (FSF2D) course.

The biggest changes in the Core French program are:

  • Decreased emphasis on grammar; and
  • Increased emphasis on authentic oral communication.

There is also a strong focus on students becoming responsible for their own learning by increasing their metacognitive capacities (their ability to "think about thinking"). 

In our classes, we often have a wide range in the amount that students have been exposed to the French language. Some students have been learning French all their lives, while others only started learning the language in Grade 7. We kept this in mind while planning the FSF2D course to allow for choice and variation depending on the learner.

A New Approach to Student Assessments

During the Summer Institute week we spent the majority of the time focusing on student assessments. Each unit will comprise an action-oriented task in which students use the skills gained throughout the unit to read, write, and interact in an authentic manner. The action-oriented approach encompasses not only communication but other important general competencies and skills such as critical thinking and decision making. 

Each task will offer choice and steps for students to complete, so that we, as teachers, will also be able to tailor the assessment to individual student ability levels - pushing those who need it, while supporting those who have more difficulty with French language acquisition.

In our next blog post we will further examine the changes to the French curriculum and the Grade 10 syllabus. We are thrilled to implement this redesigned course that will embrace a more dynamic and rewarding way of learning a second language.

Heather Maxted and Emma Pickard
French Teachers

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, 21 May 2015

Connecting Visual Arts to World Issues

The concept of personalized learning is likely most applicable to the visual arts when students are taught to see better, to envision, to persist, to be playful and learn from mistakes, and to make and justify critical judgments. Art teacher Colleen Petch shares how, in the senior visual arts program at Greenwood, students are provided with a tremendous amount of choice and are consistently challenged to problem-solve, persevere, be resilient and to find a personal connection to their work.

Recently, in Grade 11 Visual Arts class, students inquired about the correct technical approach to paint an acrylic portrait. My response was, "Well, that depends...on your comfort level with acrylic paint, your level of experience, how you want the viewer to feel about this person, what style of painting you appreciate, if you want to work on blocking the form or defining specific details first, how many tones of one colour you want to use, what your intended final product might look like, etc." Each student requires a different personalized discussion with the teacher and spends time developing an individual plan to approach creative assignments. One-on-one meetings and discussions are common during each period.

Grade 12 Visual Arts students recently completed their first independent large-scale work for their final exhibition, based on their year's personal theme. They were required to
  • create a large-scale work of art based on a current social, environmental, global or political issue of their choice;
  • take a stance on this personal interest and then express this stance visually; and
  • connect this issue to their personal theme.
The students were challenged to find an interesting way to connect the issue and their personal theme visually, which then became the subject matter for a creation in a medium of their choice.

The process involved individual and group process work, such as:
  • An evaluation of each student's technical strengths, weaknesses and goals
  • Class critiques in which students expressed issues of interest, as well as their personal and thematic connection to the issue
  • An exploration of materials, subject matter, techniques and approaches.
The final works are thought-provoking and technically impressive. Each represents aspects of the students' identities and creativity, local and global and concerns, and a superb commitment to their artistic studies. As the students reflected:

"I am proud of the message I represented and how I have portrayed it. My main goal was not just to represent the issue, but to [also] evoke guilt and responsibility for the issue, which I feel I have accomplished."

"The one main thing that I have learned is that, once I go deeper into [the] thought [process] of making a more creative piece, I can make it look amazing. I have also learned that I can paint and do very well with issues and pictures that I am passionate about."

"I scrapped a piece the day before the final critique and started a new one. This new image captivated my thoughts and with the help of espresso coffee, I painted throughout the night to meet the deadline. Switching my idea was worth it in the end."

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

Friday, 17 April 2015

Grade 12 Leadership Takes Students Out of Their Comfort Zone

Leadership at Greenwood is an opportunity for students to engage in activities and conversations with peers and staff that often require them to go outside their comfort zone as they strengthen old traditions and create new ones for the Greenwood community.

Leadership at Greenwood is a progressive model in which each grade of students is afforded more opportunities and responsibilities than the previous year. This culminates in the roles that some of Greenwood's Grade 12 students take on as executives for various committees such as Arts, Athletics, Diversity and Social Affairs. The Grade 12 students also act as leaders in the fall to younger students at Kilcoo Camp during the fall outdoor education program.

Starting their graduating year as counselors, large group activity coordinators, small group activity leaders and skill developers is the greatest leadership challenge our students face and, I would argue, the most important. At Kilcoo, the grads are responsible for welcoming new Grade 7, 8 and 9 students, mentoring and guiding them through their first week of school, and helping students navigate the social climate of high school as cabin counselors.

Beyond these general leadership roles, the grads are able to personalize their own Kilcoo experience with the additional specialized roles they select. A Grade 12 student can request to
  • A large group activity coordinator - Student in this role work in conjunction with teacher-advisers, House captains and members of the Student Council to plan three-hour integration blocks. In this role, students are challenged with the logistics of organizing up to a hundred students at a time, while liaising between different facets of the school community. This experience provides excellent preparation for those who will go on to create initiatives for the entire student body throughout the school year.
  • A small group activity leader - These Grade 12s work with groups of ten of fewer Grade 7, 8 and 9 students, as they move through traditional summer camp activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and more. The challenge for our grads here is to build a cohesive group that stays motivated, engaged and safe throughout an exciting but also tiring week.
  • A skill developer - Assuming a graduating student has been at Greenwood since at least Grade 9, they have a wealth of their own outdoor education experience to share with our younger students. Grads that choose to be skill developers will instruct activities such as kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and so on. The challenge with being in this role is much the same as being a substitute teacher. The skill developer does not have a developed relationship with the students who come to their activity. In this role, the grads learn how to manage and troubleshoot the dynamics of smaller groups and break down larger skills into a manageable and logical progression, while keeping engagement and safety at the forefront of their minds.

The relationships the grads make with the younger students set the tone for the school year and have an enormous impact on the school's culture. In my mind, leadership development and the opportunities Greenwood provides are the best examples of building and stretching each individual student's leadership potential and ultimately character.


Erin Porter
School Life Coordinator and Mathematics Teacher

Friday, 31 October 2014

Computer Literacy Skills Both Stretch and Support Student Learning

Grade 7 and 8 students at Greenwood participate in a Grade 9 course titled Information and Communication Technology in Business (informally referred to by staff and students as BTT) which gives them the opportunity to reach ahead and develop skills they will use in their other courses. BTT teacher Sarah Thornton discusses how this personalized, independent course helps students gain valuable skills in communications, technology, planning and organization.

Students complete the BTT course independently over two years (with fifty percent of the course completed in Grade 7 and the remaining fifty percent in Grade 8), which is both valuable and challenging. To scaffold this effort, there is a BTT coordinator appointed to the Grade 7 and 8 programs respectively. The coordinator oversees the BTT co-curricular periods that are supervised by each student's Adviser, marks assignments, and tracks and reports individual student credit accumulation to students, Advisers and parents. The personalized support provided by the individual Adviser and the oversight of the coordinator ensure that the students are able to set and meet clear goals so that they can achieve the credit in the most efficient and organized way possible.

The enrichment that Greenwood students gain by participating in the BTT course is twofold. Firstly, they are able to demonstrate the mastery over communication technology and online organization necessary to be successful in Greenwood's innovative technological environment. Moreover, participating in the course challenges and further develops students' executive functioning skills, as they are required to take responsibility for their work in a course that exists beyond the walls of their physical classrooms.

In this way, their participation in the course encourages perseverance. It teaches them how to implement and execute strategic plans, as they negotiate their way through the personalized assignment options. It provides an opportunity for Advisers and the BTT coordinators to coach the students on how to choose the best and most effective way to navigate an assignment or topic. Finally, the BTT course challenges students to maintain a clear organizational system that allows them to balance the homework and assignments required to complete the BTT course in a timely manner.

Grade 7 and 8 students benefit in both the long and short term by participating in a BTT course. This course prepares them to be successful throughout their high school careers, by giving them freedom of choice to personalize their schedules and perform to their best, as well as equipping them with critical technological skills. It also allows them, with the support of their Advisers and the BTT coordinators, to practice and apply executive functioning skills that will allow them to be successful in their current courses and beyond.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Blended Learning in Media Arts

Teachers Johanna Liburd and Amy Adkins discuss how personalizing learning for their Media Arts course helps students to acquire not only technical skills but also confidence in their learning capabilities.

What is Media Arts?
Media Arts provides an avenue for students to experience new technologies and the ways in which those technologies interact with and build on the traditional arts. Students explore such areas as photography, image manipulation, sound recording and editing, video recording and editing, digital animation and web design. Students acquire communications skills that are transferable beyond the media arts classroom and develop and an understanding of responsible practices related to the creative process. Students will also develop the skills necessary to create and interpret media art works.

The Traditional Media Arts Class
There are many ways to personalize student learning in the arts. One of the more traditional methods is personalizing by student interest. This year, the course has been further developed to incorporate even greater opportunities for personalizing learning based on readiness. For instance, in each unit students are given a variety of options for how they go about learning course concepts, skills and the ways in which they express their knowledge and understanding. With a focus on choice, students are able to use their interests and strengths to navigate their own learning through each project.
When personalizing for readiness, the teachers get to know each student and create lessons and projects that build upon their unique interests, strengths, prior learning and academic needs. We identify when a student needs a push or challenge and gear their choices and projects in a more challenging direction.

How Will This New Course Benefit Student Learning?

Blended Delivery: Students will be given a variety of ways to learn material based on their specific needs and/or learning preferences. By delivering course content in a variety of ways, students will learn the same material, but in the manner that suits them best. Students will also be encouraged to consider when, and if, they need to revisit prior learning. With the guidance and support of their teacher, students will be given opportunities to push themselves and will be challenged to develop strong and effective work habits.

Greater Teacher Support: The course Groodle page will contain resources presented in a variety of formats, such as videos and written tutorials, as well as one-on-one demonstrations provided by the teacher. With a greater focus on online learning, it is our hope that students will further develop their independent learning skills. This also allows the teacher to circulate around the room and provide support based on individual need.

Student Choice: The last unit of the course is an Independent Study unit. This unit provides students with the opportunity to propose a project that revisits and expands upon prior learning in the course. After submitting a proposal, students will be challenged to further develop their independent and collaborative learning skills. Regular check-ins with their teacher will ensure that the student stays on track while exploring the topic of their choice.

Collaborative Learning: Our goal is to give students a realistic sense of what it is like to work in a creative field. To that end, we aim to create and support an environment of collaboration, teamwork and leadership. Lessons will begin with warm-up activities that energize, challenge and promote community within the class. Students will not only gain a broad set of technical skills during the year, but they will also develop their interpersonal and collaborative skills, as well as their emotional intelligence.

In conclusion, it is our hope that students are able to experience greater success in Media Arts because of blended delivery, greater teacher support, student choice and collaborative learning. We aim to increase our students' ability to learn in a self-directed manner, to build their creative thinking skills and to foster a love of the arts. As we prepare our students for the future, our focus is not only on equipping them with competitive skills, but also instilling confidence in their own ability to learn.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Personalizing Reading Assignments in the English Classroom

English teacher Heather Wright explores how students become more engaged in literature when they are able to take an active role in their reading choices.

"There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book." - Frank Serafini

As an English teacher, getting students to not only read, but to enjoy their reading and reflect upon it critically is an ongoing challenge. I have found that in order for students to get the most out of the reading tasks, they need to first be reading the right book - a book that both challenges them academically and also peaks their interest. One of the ways we do this at Greenwood is by offering students choices for reading assignments.

Last spring, the Grade 12 students each read a novel as part of their unity on identity. Students were asked to develop and answer essential questions as part of their reading. Some questions that students created included:
  • How does our cultural identity affect the decisions we make?
  • How do others' perceptions influence how we view ourselves?
  • In what ways do we assess our own worth?

In order to increase student engagement, students were offered three choices for their reading. The first choice was Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, a Canadian novel exploring the history of Aboriginal Canadians and the residential school system. This text, while dealing with very mature themes, tells the story through accessible language, short chapters and a charismatic male protagonist. The second choice offered to students was Camilla Gibb's A Complicated Kindness. This novel, also Canadian, tells the story of a young woman living in a Mennonite community and having to deal with the practice of ex-communication. Though the story also explores the theme of identity, the writing itself is more advanced, making greater use of literary techniques. The final choice offered to students was an enrichment option to read Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, comparing how masculine identity and socioeconomic class are explored in each text. 

By providing these choices, each student was able to select a text that provided them with an appropriate academic challenge and read a story that held their interest. This resulted in some very impressive final essays and presentations from students in each of the three groups.

I have found that encouraging students to take an active role in their reading choices helps them to develop their own reading tastes and practices outside the classroom. This was evident at our recent annual Summer Reading Book Fair. It was great to see so many Greenwood students engaged in selecting the books they wished to read over the holiday and being genuinely excited to push themselves to read new and more challenging texts. Hopefully, this enthusiasm keeps up as each student begins another year of English class this month.

Here's to a great year of reading!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Meeting All Students’ Needs in Grade 8 Science

When students come into the classroom with varying levels of prior knowledge, it can be tough to keep everyone engaged. Science teacher Vanessa Floras explains how she customizes her Grade 8 science class to ensure that all students are invested in their learning.

The Grade 8 science curriculum includes a number of broad topics. As a result, students have varying levels of prior knowledge when it comes time to approach new concepts.

During our 'Cells' unit, we focus on the concepts of osmosis and diffusion. After some short introductory direct instruction, students work through the rest of the lesson at their own pace. Students select the degree of difficulty appropriate to their level of understanding and complete the problems based on their ability at the time. Students end with an exit card that allows them to synthesize the core concepts from the lesson and demonstrate their learning.

In the second class, students are put into groups based on their understanding from the previous lesson, in combination with the results from their exit card. In these groups, they develop a lab procedure that investigates the concept of diffusion. Students select from a list of options, or can submit a proposal for a concept of their own design.

Over the course of two classes, students design, execute and write their labs. This offers them ownership over their learning while performing an experiment that will solidify their understanding of core concepts.

Students have responded well to this flexible style of learning. Many have expressed that they were more invested in the results of their lab, gaining a deeper understanding of the theory as a result.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Professional Practice in Media Studies

This week's post comes from Katharine Rogers, English and Geography Teacher.

Students in Grade 11 media studies participate in both the analysis and creation of many forms of media. Most recently, they have been working to develop their skills in review writing as a method of analysing television shows, documentaries, and feature films. As a number of the students in the course are interested in pursuing careers in related fields, it is important that the assessment process reflects the reality of the industry.

First drafts of written content are rarely published; as such, first drafts of written reviews in this class are not assigned a final grade. Instead, I provide the students with a temporary grade and ample feedback on their work. I then return the reviews to them, and provide them with the opportunity to revise their work up to four times. Students are required to complete at least one revision, but the others – all assessed by me for temporary grades – are optional. Students can track the improvement in their writing in a measurable way between drafts, which gives them ownership over their learning and revision process.

During the most recent revision stage, some students focused on the depth of their analysis, while others revisited the structure of written reviews. Feedback was completely personalized, and students were given up to three weeks to complete their revisions. They appreciated the opportunity to self-pace; some finished all revisions within the first week, while others used the full time allotted. In all cases, the students chose to revise their work at least three times.

Currently, media studies students are researching influential film directors, and will soon be asked to analyse and review a selection of their feature films. Students will have the opportunity to decide whether they’d like to stick with traditional review writing in order to further develop their skills in this area, or move on to the more challenging comparative review as an enrichment option. They will also have the opportunity to select their preferred method of delivery for this task; product options include written reviews, podcasts, videos, etc.

Once the students complete the first draft of their film reviews, they will move on to the second stage of development in their editing process. Now that they have been through a full editing cycle with me at the helm, they will apply the skills learned to critiquing the work of their peers. Students will work in groups of three, and will be permitted to submit their drafts for peer feedback up to four times. They will use this feedback and support to revise their work, and to determine when it is fit for final submission. This process will enable students to self-pace during the review cycle, and will help them to make mature, informed decisions about their own levels of readiness.