Showing posts with label challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label challenge. Show all posts

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Challenge and Support: Greenwood's Centre for Teaching and Learning

Greenwood's Centre for Teaching and Learning will support teachers in taking full
advantage of our new learning spaces.

We often forget that teachers are learners, too. Greenwood’s new Centre for Teaching and Learning ensures that our teachers are challenged and supported throughout their careers, whether they’re in Year 1 or Year 10. The Centre is also dedicated to identifying and implementing best practices in customized learning, and to supporting teachers in taking full advantage of our new learning spaces.

As its inaugural executive director, Mary Gauthier will drive the work of the Centre throughout the school year. Here’s a quick introduction to what drew her to Greenwood and her hopes for the coming months.


Mary Gauthier

Q: What brought you to Greenwood?
A: I’m drawn to schools that are very clear on their mission - where it is evident that the community lives it every day. Greenwood is one of these schools. I also really admired the commitment to innovation, and to valuing and developing the expertise of teachers.

Q: What have you learned in your time at the school?
A: I’ve been so impressed with the high level of teaching expertise at Greenwood. Teachers have already been making great use of the new spaces to increase customization in the classroom.

Q: What are your hopes for this year?
A: Much as we encourage curiosity, creativity, initiative and perseverance in our students, these qualities are also key to great teaching. I want teachers to take inspiration from all of the new spaces available to try new things. We’ll also be sure to gather and value student voices - as owners of their learning, their feedback is critical.

Be sure to visit our blog throughout the school year to see how we're turning these hopes into reality.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Grade 7 Integrated Project: Designing for Disaster


Shannon, Megan and Taylor with
their disaster survival prototype.
In March, Grade 7 students were challenged to ‘Design for Disaster’. The students’ goal was to use their scientific knowledge and understanding of resources to design a device that would allow their literary character to survive a natural disaster.

In the process of completing their prototypes, students were challenged to integrate subject knowledge, think creatively and develop their teamwork skills.

Students had the opportunity to create diverse products that covered several curriculum expectations. Project tasks were designed to provide appropriate structure, while being open ended to foster critical thinking and capture student interest. Students could choose how they demonstrated their design process, what they built, what supplies they used and even where they worked.

Choice served to empower our students’ thinking and creativity. Taylor Davis ('21) commented that “getting to be creative and build things without a written plan pre-given” was really rewarding. While reflecting on connecting her school subjects in one project, Zoe Starnino ('21) stated that she “really liked doing all of the science and math parts because it was kind of like you were solving a mystery, or going on an adventure, and you just kept discovering all these things”.

Learning should go beyond curriculum. A collaborative approach to design thinking was used throughout the week. This allowed students to learn from each other, as well as problem solve in a team.

Working in teams was a highlight for many of the students. Toby Bower ('21) stated that “sometimes we didn’t agree”, but as the project progressed they enjoyed  “coming together as a group”. Callum Thomson ('21) thought “it was really fun working with the same people. Splitting the jobs up worked really well for us because we got the work done quickly.”

Students experienced successes and failures throughout the week. While no two groups took the same path, all students realized their design goals in creating final products they were proud of.

Students and teachers are looking forward to the second Grade 7 Integration Project in June!

Elysia Jellema & Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Teachers

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Thinking Deeply About (And Along With) Hamlet

The combined ENG4U/ENG4UO course in
our flex classroom..takes advantage of flexible
groups and space.
It’s post-Winter Break for students in Grade 12 English, and that means it’s time to talk about Hamlet.  In both the university preparation (4U) and Advanced Placement (AP) streams, students are examining the language of Shakespeare’s most popular play. The focus of this unit is to think about the play’s big questions--who can we trust, what is justice, are we defined by our actions or by our intentions--while also working on close reading skills to more fully appreciate the intricacy of the language.

The combined ENG4U/ENG4UO course in our flex classroom, room 207, takes advantage of flexible groups and space with class discussions that allow for a range of opinions matching the number of students in the room. When examining questions of morality or conscience, like whether or not Claudius is a good king (not person), diversity of thought allows students to be challenged and confronted by other points of view. Recapping an act of the play via Twitter summary also sparks an unspoken creativity contest to see who is most masterful in their use of hashtags.

The flexible space also allows for differentiation in terms of level of challenge when performing a close text analysis on passages of the play. After a common review of literary devices and lesson on how to notice aspects of language in a text, the class splits into groups to learn how to effectively communicate about the passage. The AP students (as well as any students who opt in from the 4U class) examine a more intricate way to organize an essay, while the rest of the class gets to work applying a more traditional method to the complex ideas and language in front of them. In either option, the depth of thought expectation is the same, so all students must strive for the complexity and insight befitting Shakespeare’s most notorious thinker.

Caley Blyth
English Subject Team Leader

Stephanie Martino
English Teacher

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Grade 8 Integration Project: The Student Perspective

Group work was a major component
of the Integration Project.
Last week, teacher Kathryn Connelly shared her thoughts on our Grade 8 Integration Project. This week, Grade 8 student Graham Palmert provides his perspective on the same project.

During the week before the December holidays, the Grade 8 students were involved in an Integration project which drew from our four core subjects; math, English, science and social studies.

Each class contributed to a different aspect of the project. The beginning of the project was related to science and social studies. We had to pick substances or elements, such as fluoride or lead, and explain:

  • How the substance gets into our water system,
  • How it affects us, and
  • Ways to solve this issue. 

For English we wrote a final proposal, which outlined the research behind the issue we chose, how the issue affects humans, and potential solutions.

In relation to math, we completed a data analysis.

All of the subjects blended really well together and we required knowledge from all of them, such as:

  • Knowing the water system,
  • Taking data and turning them into graphs, and 
  • Knowing human settlement patterns. 

Each group chose their own topic to explore, such as how microbeads affect the water systems in Toronto. My group, which included Owen Bates and Jackson Cowie, learned about where lead comes from, how it affects us, and solutions to solve the problem of lead in our water system.

The two most astonishing facts that we learned were:

  1. Next year, the World Health Organization estimates that 143,000 people will die from lead poisoning.
  2. Lead pipes themselves elevate the risk of health issues for Toronto 35,000 households.

This project was a change from a regular classroom that provided different challenges. One challenge we faced was balancing working in a group, and dividing up how much each person had to do. The project itself was more challenging than the regular classroom work we are used to because we had to use knowledge from all four subjects instead of just one.  It was also different than a classroom because the whole week we worked in small groups, and I usually do not have class with some of my group members.

The final product had two different components:

  1. A proposal on what the problem was and how we can fix it. 
  2. A visual component. Our group decided to make a Google slides presentation on how lead affects us. Other groups used videos or poster boards. 

Upon completing the project, we showed our work to a Toronto city councilor, Jaye Robinson. Hopefully she will consider our ideas and make our water cleaner.

This was an interesting week for me as a student, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Take aways from the week were that Toronto’s water isn’t as clean as everyone thinks it is, and that working in a group requires a lot of patience.

Even though it was difficult, at the end, I think we all felt rewarded for the hard work that we had accomplished.

Graham Palmert
Grade 8 Student

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Grade 8 Integration Project: The Teacher Perspective

This December, Greenwood piloted a unique project for Grade 8 students: an integration task involving math, science, social studies and English components. This problem-based learning activity requiring the students to look at a water issue in the city of Toronto and examine how this issue has either impacted human settlement OR is impacted by human settlement.

How did this project go? Teacher Kathryn Connelly shares her thoughts. Next week, we'll bring you a student perspective on the same project.

The Grade 8 Integration project took flight on the week of December 14-17, 2015, with great success!

The Project


Students` visual and verbal presentations
highlighted their proposed solutions for
the water issue they studied.
The students were introduced to the project by going on a field trip to the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant. They took a tour of the facility and learned about where our water comes from, how it is treated, and what Toronto’s challenges are in terms of water treatment.

Back at school, the students were placed into small groups and were presented with a problem statement: How does human settlement impact the physical environment and sustainability of water resources in Toronto? What are possible solutions to this problem?

The Process


In small working groups, the students chose from a variety of topics directly related to the science, social studies, math and English curricula. In teams, the students researched, summarized and identified the connection between the science behind water quality issues in Toronto and how human settlements have impacted these issues.

The students were engaged and energized through their investigation and new knowledge of the relevance of water issues in Toronto, and worked collaboratively to think critically about their research and data, while also thinking of potential solutions to their chosen issue. The ideas that the students came up with were innovative and inventive. Throughout the collaborative process, the students were extremely engaged and active problem solvers. They worked well within their groups, divided the work effectively, and worked together to find the most relevant research and data. As a teacher, it was most impressive to observe their minds at work!

The Presentation


As a group, the students created a visual component that reflected each of their written proposals, which were completed individually. The goal of the project was exhibited through the presentations, as the students visually and verbally presented upon the history behind their issue, their analysis of the present situation and predictions of future trends of their issue, as well as the possible solutions/recommendations.

On the last day of the project, Toronto City Councillor, Jaye Robinson, listened to each group passionately present their discoveries and solutions to Toronto’s water quality issues.

Overall, it was an extremely successful integration project which the Grade 8 students embraced with open arms. Through a problem-based approach to the project, the learning became wholly student-centered, which enabled the students to work to their full potential. This project enabled the Grade 8 students to embark on a different type of learning than they were used to, allowing for more flexible and innovative thinking. The students thrived, showing them that hard work and dedication to a relevant issue leads to a heightened sense of accomplishment.

The project also gave the team of integration teachers an opportunity to communicate and collaborate outside the classroom walls, which was enriching and energizing. The first integration project helped solidify the value of student-centered learning, which will continue to be a focal point in future Grade 7 & 8 integration projects.

Kathryn Connelly
English & Learning Strategies Teacher

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Planning for an Enriching and Flexible Senior English Program

Our focus during Greenwood’s Summer Institute was to give students in the Grade 12 University Preparation English course (ENG4U) the opportunity to participate in aspects of the Advanced Placement (AP or ENG4UO) program, and potentially write the AP Literature exam. Combining the programs also broadens the range of perspectives, which is critical in the study of English.

ENG4U Class Photo
Students in both classes discuss The Great 
Gatsby together, broadening the points 
of view in the conversation.
We began the planning of this program by looking at the skills and texts of each course to see where they fit together. Both courses follow the Ontario curriculum; however, elements of the AP exam require students to study a larger scope of historic literature. 

We then aligned the two courses by focusing on the study of two texts that are read at the same time in both courses: The Great Gatsby and Hamlet.

We also looked at ways to use different texts but teach the same skills. For example, while the ENG4U students analyzed short stories, the AP students focused on novels, but all students participated in seminar-style discussion groups. 

In organizing instruction, we designed a daily agenda where students can see their learning plan and choices for each class. Ideally, ENG4U students will see opportunities for challenge and will attempt AP content. Already, many students in the combined class elected to listen to the lecture on writing a personal essay, an approach usually reserved for students in AP English. 

Here are some examples of the class’s daily schedule:

















Caley Blyth
Subject Team Leader, English

Stephanie Martino
English Teacher