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Student Led Conferences: Using Podcasts

We recently had our first student-led conferences of the year. Like many schools, this is a time when students walk their parents through some of their learning over the term, as well as reflecting over the first 3 months of the year and setting goals for the next term.

This term a couple of our grade 4 teachers used garageband to have students record their self-reflections. They then posted the reflections on their class website, making them available to return to on an ongoing basis.

Write For Life

One of our grade 6 teachers, Rick Fawcett, has introduced a program in his grade 6 classroom to help engage kids in the writing process. Called "Write for Life," the program brings parents into the classroom to discuss how writing plays a role in their profession. It's a project that one of our Vice Principals, Dr. Shelley Robinson, has previously done with high school students, and has here been modified for grade 6 students. You can read the overview on Rick's classroom site by clicking here.

The program involves a number of stages:

(1) Rick used Google Forms to create a registration process on his classroom site. Interested parents signed up here.
(2) For each parent who comes in, three students are assigned to do some preliminary research on the profession. The students then craft a number of interview questions. Throughout the year, all students will eventually be assigned to one parent volunteer.
(3) These three students then write an email to the parent, introducing themselves and sharing the interview questions before the parent visits the classroom. There is a sample student email shared below.
(4) During the parent visit, the three assigned students are responsible for hosting the parent and running the interview.
(5) After the interview, the assigned students write a summary of the interview, posting it to the class website.

Here's the handout for the project and a sample student email:

Here's a video from the first parent visit to Rick's class:

Student Voice in Assemblies

Like other school across the country, we had a school assembly on November 10, remembering those brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the protect of our country.

When our school has assemblies like this, our school philosophy is always to get students involved as much as possible - particularly having students share their voice and opinions on different issues. In the past, our student assemblies for Rememberance Day have contained student podcasts, tableux, readings and movie productions.

One of the great things about being a 1:1 laptop school is the range of possibilities that emerge for students to use technology to capture their voice, and create presentations to be shared with the rest of the student body. The work that students create in classes often has an authentic audience, right here in our own school.

Here's a great example, spearheaded by Rachelle Savoie, one of our Grade 8 Humanities teachers. Rachelle organized this production - offering the opportunity for any CSS student to come forward and share their thoughts and reflections on Remembrance Day. This was one among many student-centered productions shown that day - demonstrating the power of technology to allow students express their voice about a topic that matters.

Grade 6 Pre-Algebra Discussions

This year, our math team is taking a focused look at exploring student's numerical literacy, realizing that even in grade 9, students frequently struggle with foundational concepts such as number lines, fractions and ratios.
One of the ways our math team is accomplishing this is by taking a more in-depth approach and providing time for students to discuss, debate, and converse about their mathematical thinking as they work through different problems.

Grade 8: Is Calgary a Renaissance City?

Grade: 8
Subject: Social Studies, Humanities

Our two grade 8 Humanities teachers, Dave Scott
and Rachelle Savoie, are in the last stage of planning for the Renaissance component of the Social Studies Curriculum.

In planning this project, Dave and Rachelle wanted to take the concept of "Worldview" that runs through the entire grade 8 curriculum, and make connections with contemporary society. The goal was to move beyond a static examination of the 'Renaissance City' as something in the past, and find ways to connect the idea of "the Renaissance as the foundation of the Western World" to elements in our world today.

Through much discussion and deliberation, the teachers decided to focus the study on the question: "Does Calgary have the necessary conditions to become a Renaissance City?" There have been a number of public discussions in Calgary over the last few years, such as here and here, debating whether or not our city has the elements of a Renaissance City. The bring the study of the Renaissance into the 21st century, our grade 8 teachers have decided to take this question up with their students.

As they work through this project, students will be:

(1) working through the creation of a Worldview Survey
(2) creating a general mindmap of the Renaissance
(3) attending a lecture on the Renaissance at Mount Royal University
(4) analyzing some initial historical artifacts to get students thinking about the different elements of the Renaissance
(5) then choosing one characteristic of the Renaissance to focus on in depth :
  • Arts/Culture,
  • Religion/Spirituality
  • Trade/Competiton/Finance
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Thinkers/Philosophers
  • Social and Political Systems
In small groups, students will begin to research the role their particular element played in the rise of the Italian Renaissance. Students will be expected to discuss specific examples of their element, as well as develop some general themes.

(6) Students will then use their research to create a presentation on their particular element, either an iMovie or a Powerpoint with a recorded script. Then the students will upload their presentations onto a wiki site, with each different element having a different page. The purpose of the wiki site is to begin building a shared understanding of the necessary conditions for a 'Renaissance.'

(7) Next we're hoping to find contemporary local experts in each of the elements listed above. We want these experts to watch the student presentations on the wiki site, and then respond, commenting how the current conditions in Calgary compare to those of the Italian Renaissance City State.

For example, one group of students will research the role of the Arts in Renaissance Italy. They will turn this into a (5 minute) digital presentation, and will contact local people in Calgary's Arts community to watch their presentation on Art in the Renaissance. Then the experts will respond by providing insights into whether or not Calgary has these same conditions as the Italian Renaissance. These expert responses (either text or voice) will be posted on the wiki below the original student video presentation.

(8) Finally, having access to all the other group's findings, the students will be responsible for answering the initial question: "Does Calgary have the necessary conditions to become a Renaissance City?" Students will also be required to make recommendations on how Calgary might improve its conditions, which we're then hoping to present, either at City Hall or the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

It's a pretty big project - but we're looking forward to getting started soon!

As with all the other project ideas on here, we welcome feedback, comments and suggestions.

As well, we're looking for local Calgary experts in the following areas:
  • Arts/Culture,
  • Religion/Spirituality
  • Trade/Competiton/Finance
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Thinkers/Philosophers
  • Social and Political Systems

Grade 4 Regions: Sustainable Communities

Grade: 4
Subject: Social Studies

Our grade 4 Humanities students are about to start on a large inquiry project focused on the Alberta Regions component of the Social Studies Curriculum.

In previous years, the grade 4 teachers had done a project on the regions where they had students imagine they were early settlers coming to the land. The students had to pick an area in the regi
on to settle, and explain why that particular location would be livable for early settlers.

Using 'Ning' to Collaborate Between Schools

In a previous post, Dave Scott, one of our grade 8 teachers, discussed how Twitter and Skype had allowed him to connect with a philosophy teacher on Bowen Island, just outside of Vancouver, BC.

Having met and Skyped a number of times, Brad and Dave have now set up a Ning, a site that allows the user to create a 'facebook-like' space for collaboration. The philosophy students from both Island Pacific School and Calgary Science School have been invited into this protected space, and are now sharing and commenting on topics such as the nature of matter and the universe.

The beauty of a site like Ning is the simplicity of its set-up, as well as the networked structure. Everything posted on the site is easily viewed by everyone else, and Nings are great for handling video uploads.