Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 5 Highlights of 2014 School Year

This post is a short reflection on 5 highlights to date of the current school year, 2014-15 year. I have chosen to focus on highlights from both of my present classes from September through to December since they and the school community are likely to be reading this post.

The top 5 highlights have been extracted from various situations that have impacted both my Gr Fours and Fives in regards to their learning. There is no order of importance - just chronological :)

#5 - Ottawa Citizen Report
St. Cecilia had been chosen to be one of the two schools from our school board to be featured in our local paper. My Gr. Fives were fortunate to be interviewed for this article. This was a fascinating experience for my students since they had the opportunity to talk to the reporter about the 21st Century design of our school. They were also excited to show off their technological skills and discuss how we use technology to enhance our learning.
This was also an interesting opportunity for me to explain to the reporter about how teaching practice has changed and the physical structures of schools are complimenting that practice.
My Grade Fives were so honoured to be part of this experience and to see themselves in the e-article (which included videos). It really gave them an appreciation of their daily learning environment.
You can find the article here.

#4 - Corresponding with France
Both my classes have had an enriching opportunity to correspond with students in Misérieux (Lyon) France. Students started with short introductions on Google slides and expanded onto making iMovie Trailers about our school, video presentations, recipe exchanges, giving hand-crafted Christmas cards, and passing on descriptions of our culture (e.g., Halloween, Apple picking).  And to think that this is only the beginning! All students are so engaged in this project. They think about the students in France frequently and constantly want to share more with them. This has really opened their eyes to the benefits of learning another language. This authentic experience has inspired them to perfect their French in speaking, reading and writing!
Check out the website in progress, I have created to compile our interactions.

#3 - Parks Canada Giant Floor Map
These maps borrowed from Canadian Geographic were a big hit! The giant floor map provided a great visual of Canada politically and physically which gave students a very deep learning experience.  Students were able to collaborate on various activities, exploring and discovering the political and physical regions of Canada. They learned how to use coordinates, discovered various landmarks, practiced their French to complete the scavenger hunt and used iPads to capture their learning. I was just as excited about this map as my students were - maybe slightly more ;)
Here is where you can order yours for your school.

#2 - Hour of Code
This was a first for my students and I. After this activity, I quickly discovered how important computer science is for students. Both classes had the opportunity to practice coding using interactive games from At first both classes found it intimidating, but after some more tutorials and attempts, they were surprised with the results. Coding gives students the opportunity to problem solve, look over their mistakes to see where they went wrong and fix them, apply critical and analytical thinking and it encourages their confidence...etc. This list can go on and there are plenty of articles out there that will support the theories of how code benefits students. Overall, I noticed that my students were exposed to technology in a way they never thought was possible. Most of them enjoyed coding and pursued it at home. I think it really made them feel empowered and they realized all the opportunities it can bring.
Both classes were able to spend a block with a Grade Two class and teach them how to code. They soon realized how fast the Gr Twos picked up how to code and were impressed with their abilities. It was such a great experience to watch.
The Gr Fours started to use Scratch to make their own Christmas cards. I can't wait to explore further with more coding!

#1 - Trip to Parliament
The Gr 5s had an amazing field trip to Parliament and surrounding locations. This was the first field trip that we let students bring devices and our school gave us permission to bring iPads so that students can capture their experience.
Any field trip is such a great learning experience for students. This one, in particular, meant so much for the students. After the shooting that took place in Ottawa this year, we weren't sure how students would respond to this trip. To the surprise of all Gr Five teachers, all students had a very humble experience and new appreciation of our city, including all the people that make our government function. Students were first blown away by the parliament buildings and took hundreds of photographs with the iPads. Then they paid tribute to Terry Fox at the statute of him on Wellington. Afterwards, it was one student's idea to pay our respects at the War Memorial. And so we said a prayer at the monument in memorial to Cpl Cirillo.
Afterwards we continued to walk taking note of some landmarks e.g., Chateau Laurier, Union Station, Rideau Canal, Major's Hill Park, National Art Gallery, Notre Dame Cathedral-Basilica and the market.
A very meaningful field trip! One that students will share with their correspondents in France :)

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