thinking about measurement in kindergarten

Posted on: May 24th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

I was invited into Denise Tong Vargas’ kindergarten class at Dixon Elementary to look at ways to present mathematical provocations to students at this age level as well as how to integrate technology use as a way to document learning.

For our first time together, I asked the students to share what they knew about measuring. I then did a little demonstration with matryoshka dolls which the students were fascinate with. We compared their height and ordered them from tallest to shortest. We talked about the importance of using specific mathematical language like long, tall, short instead of a general term like “big”. We talked about how when we are comparing two objects directly that we need to “line them up” or use a baseline for accurate comparison. The students were then challenged to find something in the classroom and compare and measure it in different ways.

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As we came together at the end of their investigation time, as a way to share the students’  experiences and consolidate students’ thinking, we co-created two pic-collages using photographs I had taken using iPad technology, focusing on the concepts of baseline and units.

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On my second visit to the class, Denise and the students settled in with their regular morning routine and then I talked to the students for a short time about the big idea that we were going to focus on – comparing and ordering objects and how we might use mathematical ideas and measuring tools to help us investigate this. I had set up three provocations on tables, adding to the one that Denise and her students had been investigating already.

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And I added another onto the carpet area involving containers and cylinders to  provoke students’ thinking about measuring curved surfaces and measuring capacity/volume.

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There was high engagement amongst the students and many of the children stuck with one set of materials or provocations while others moved around. It was interesting listening to them play with the language – second tallest, “mediumest”, third shortest, etc., play with the materials and play with mathematical ideas.

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I must say that there is something to be said for unique and “fresh” materials that engages students and helps bridge school and the world outside of the classroom. By using toys and materials (like ribbons and pinecones) that they might find outside or at home, the students can see that they can be measuring wherever they are – not only if they have a ruler or Unifix cubes!

Some new pic collages were created to help consolidate the students’ learning and to focus on the big ideas involved with measuring.

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I am looking forward to checking in on Mrs. TV’s classroom blog to see what other measuring experiences the students have.

~Janice

primary teachers study group: inquiry in social studies

Posted on: May 21st, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

For our ongoing look at inquiry in the curriculum, the teachers in the group chose Social Studies as an area of focus for the third term. When we met in April at Blair (thank you Jaclyn and Karen), teachers shared what they had been doing since we last met and then our new area of focus was introduced and discussed.

We looked at an overview of the K-3 curriculum, focusing on big ideas such as community that tell a story across grade levels. Connecting to the First Peoples Principles of Learning and the Core Competencies, ideas of place, story and self-identity were discussed.

Several books and resources were made available to teachers: the new K-2 Social Studies and Science big books from Strong Nations, Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell, a photo book of Places in our Community and then some materials from the Richmond Museum and Archives – self-guided tour books of different regions of Richmond and a set of archival photo postcards.

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Jaclyn and Karen from Blair shared their ongoing inquiry into place – connecting both Social Studies and Science through their investigation of Richmond.

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Our final session of the year was hosted by the McNeely team in their library.

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Teachers shared how they had been thinking about social studies through inquiry with their students. Gillian from Grauer has been looking at diversity in Canadian communities and as an art experience, students drew portraits of themselves and then created outlines just using glue coloured with black tempera paint, squeezed onto recycled cardboard pieces. These art pieces, displayed together highlighted how much we are the same.

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She also had student randomly choose skin, eye and hair colours to paint their portraits to highlight the idea of diversity. Interesting juxtaposition.

Rehang from Tomsett shared how her class had been investigating what Richmond was like now and in the past. Using archival photos, students compared and contrasted different places in Richmond and different services, such as transportation.

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Terra from Homma shared an inquiry into the students’ names and their realization of the power of names and how they are linked to personal identity. Jenna from Homma shared the Newbery award winning (thanks Shannon) picture book Last Stop on Market Street and the potential for connections to big ideas of community, diversity and social responsibility. Jaclyn and Karen from Blair shared their ongoing study of place, recently looking at a map of BC and the different First Nations territories. Anna, Deanna and Shannon from McNeely shared their garden inquiry and all the student investment that has gone into planning and planting.

After our sharing time, teachers were asked to work together to create an inquiry map of one of the inquiries they engaged in with their students this year, based on the work we have done in our study group. The idea of this kind of mapping came from a workshop some of us from the group attended in early April, facilitated by the Ontario group Natural Curiosity.

Teachers began with the starting point or provocation for the inquiry and then mapped how the inquiry unfolded with the students, noting significant events that were either turning points or high engagement points for the students.

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The teachers agreed that this was an interesting way to reflect on their studies with their students and a way to be mindful of what structures or events proved effective and engaging for our students.

At the end of the session, we discussed what would like to focus on next year in this group. Many teachers are interested in outdoor learning and looking at more interdisciplinary or environmental inquiry. The area of personal stories as well as stories of family and community was an area of interest. There was also discussion around documentation to support student inquiry and the way that technology might support that. Study group members will continue to cast their votes and we will see where next year takes us!

~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry: April 2016

Posted on: May 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

For our second year, a team of Richmond educators who have visited the Opal school in Portland, Oregon, have facilitated a professional learning series called Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry. Blog posts about our first two dinner sessions this year can be found here and here.

Our third and final dinner session of the year was held on April 21 at Diefenbaker Elementary. Educators were greeted in the library with several provocations prepared by our playful inquiry mentors that focused on connections to the natural world and the use of art materials and visual tools. The following question was displayed to provoke thinking and engagement with the materials:

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During and after engagement with the materials, we asked educators to share what they noticed about the affordances of different materials and what connections they were making to our redesigned BC curriculum.

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Some teachers had been invited to share what they have been working on with their students since our last session in January. Christy and Jo of Cook shared their students storytelling experience connected to the First Peoples Principles of Learning and their study of residential schools. Jaclyn Cruz shared how she has been using morning literacy provocations and how she extended students’ storying with materials to think about “cover stories” inspired by book covers. Melissa Vervegaert has visited the Opal School the week before so she shared some of her experiences, specifically noting how the teachers and students accessed and used and were inspired by art materials.

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After a lovely dinner together, we came together in our different mentor groups – intermediate, primary, kindergarten, mathematics, outdoor learning, non-enrolling (teacher-librarians and learning resource teachers) and engaged in discussions and sharing facilitated by our playful inquiry mentors.

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This has been such a powerful series for teachers in our district and we have grown a community of teachers committed to playful inquiry in our K-7 classrooms. The following are some of the reflections from educators in the series:

What did this series offer you as an educator?

A chance to listen to others and hear their ideas – knowing that we are on a path together.

We can all try strategies in our classes but we truly gain a deeper shared understanding through engaging conversations.

It was a great opportunity to hear about what other teachers are doing in their classrooms and how they are taking risks and opening the door for their students to explore.

 An understanding of the power of using materials to scaffold thinking, build stories, develop relationships and self-awareness.

 A way to connect with others in the district and the inspiration I left with each time – what an amazing experience!

What will you take from your experience in this series that will endure in your teaching practice?

From this experience, I will take with me a different approach to my teaching in all aspects – my outlook, my word choices, how I view my students, how I tackle “subjects” and so much more!

 That I need to connect and talk with like-minded colleagues. Sharing circles, provocations, playing with a purpose.

 Creating an environment that supports deep thinking, community building and communication.

 Use of materials in many different ways. Arranging the classroom environment to better support student engagement.

 Inquiry happens naturally – honour the curiousity.

 Letting go.

 Risk taking…the courage to let go and make small but significant changes.

Wow. Rich professional learning.

We have a team of 16 Richmond educators visiting the Opal School in Portland for a summer symposium in June. Our playful inquiry community continues to grow and we look forward to continuing this series next year!

~Janice

investigating force and motion with grades 1&2 students at Wowk

Posted on: May 12th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

As a follow-up to an after school science session she had attended, Claire Thomas from Wowk Elementary emailed me and asked if I would be able to come to her class to work with her and her grades 1&2 students around developing an inquiry project about force and motion that they could share at their school’s science fair.

The students had been learning about force and motion and had been provided with Keva blocks and marbles to enrich their investigations. When I visited, I asked the students to share what they knew about force and motion and then what they were still curious about…what they were wondering about. These questions were recorded by their teacher and the students were asked to choose a question that they could investigate.

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The students worked together in groups of two or three to investigate their question using the Keva blocks and balls and marbles and after about an hour of planning, designing, testing, making adjustments, testing, etc., the students were asked to document their findings using pictures, numbers and words.

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Here is a link to a short video compilation of the students’ investigations:

Wowk Grades 1&2 Investigating Force and Motion

This week, Wowk held a K-7 science fair, with each class having displays celebrating their science learning. I was able to pop by and visit the grade 1 & 2 students and see their displays. They were so proud to share their updated projects!

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A few students called me over to see specifically how they had made their designs better. One group said, “we finally got it to work!” – love the persistence shown, such an important disposition for scientists!

~Janice

provincial numeracy project in Richmond: session four

Posted on: May 12th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

This year, Richmond is one of several school districts in BC that are participating in a pilot provincial numeracy project. Other blogs posts about this project can be found here and here.

For our fourth and final session together, teachers shared what they had tried in their classrooms since our last session- use of the rekenreks and what assessment tool they tried. We watched and discussed a short video about a Richmond K&1 teacher and how she has tried guided math in her classroom this year. We looked at dice games and how a bag or basket of dice can be a great source of differentiation. Students can choose from different dice based on their number range, fine motor abilities or sensory awareness.

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Teachers were also provided time to prepare their final case study form for the “wonder students” they have been looking closely at this year and teachers were also asked to complete a professional narrative, reflecting on the impact of this project on their practice. One teacher’s impact statement follows:

“Being a part of this Provincial Numeracy Group has been one of the most exciting projects that I have worked on in my whole teaching career. The other teachers were extremely supportive. The chance to share ideas and reflections with other primary teachers was significant in my growth.

 This project has changed my thinking and practice in teaching math that will continue for the rest of my career. I have always loved teaching math and been excited about sharing that love with my students. Now… they are sharing with me…I am learning from them in a way that I have not experienced before.” 

There is something to be said for working collaboratively with a small group of teachers, with a common focus and goals!  I look forward to compiling the information from the student case studies and professional narratives to reflect upon and share the impact this project has had on student and professional learning.

~Janice

grade 4 science: energy

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

Based on feedback from teachers last spring, we have planned a series of after school sessions supporting new content in the K-7 science curriculum.

This month, the after school science series session focused on the grade 4 science curricular content of energy. We looked at the big ideas, competencies and content and also looked to grade 5 curricular content to see where they more “natural resource”-based forms of energy were included in the curriculum – solar, wind, hydro, etc. We looked at a variety of picture and information books as starting places for students to gain some understanding of energy before they begin their own investigations.

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The following are some compiled information about the curricular content and applicable resources.

Grade 4 Energy

Gr4 Energy Resources

~Janice

Richmond’s first IGNITE event – #sd38ignite 2016

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

The Richmond School District hosted its first IGNITE event on Monday, May 9th at the Big River Brew Pub. The first IGNITE took place in Seattle in 2006 and is now a movement that is international in scope. An IGNITE talk is a five minute presentation consisting of 20 slides, auto-advancing after 15 seconds whether the speaker is ready or not. The IGNITE tagline is….”Enlighten us, but make it quick!”  More information about the IGNITE movement can be found here.

Having presented a few ignite talks and experiencing the inspiration and fun that goes along with these social events, I really wanted to be able to bring this professional learning format to our district and my colleagues Rosalind Poon and Lorraine Minosky were on board and we ran with it. Chris Loat created our logo for us…

SD38 Ignite logo

And both Chris and Lisa Schwartz agreed to be our technical support for the event.  We found a site and had a meeting at the Big River Brew Pub to see where attendees would sit and how the technology and food service would play out.

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We invited Richmond educators representative of primary, intermediate and secondary as well as a balance of teachers and administrators to share a story about something they are passionate about. We also invited two out of district colleagues to add to our Richmond stories.

Two weeks before the event, we hosted a rehearsal especially for educators who were new to the ignite format. It gave them a chance to meet other igniters and to practice their presentation in front of an audience. By seeing and discussing what we appreciate about others’ presentations, I think it also gave presenters some ideas for their own ignites. And its always great to have sushi…and pens.

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As we were setting up on May 9th, we were all so excited to see everything fall into place. The venue was great and it was a beautiful day so the patio was open, the technology was cooperating and the tables were set with programs and sweet treats from Sinfully the Best for our guests.The burger bar was a hit and the company was great. Unfortunately two of our igniters (Neil Stephenson and Sarah Garr) had to pull out due to personal reasons.

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Some of the guests…

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And then the talks began! I was live streaming the talks using the Periscope app and people that weren’t able to attend the event could still watch the talks live. Between each “set” there was a 15-minute break for guests to chat about the talks, etc.

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Twitter was alive with #sd38ignite…we were trending!

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It was such a positive, passionate event and such a great way to build community amongst colleagues. All our igniters shared their own personal narratives within their professional narratives and these stories are what connect us and make us better together.

We will be releasing the IGNITE talks on youtube soon…watch twitter for announcements!

A HUGE thank you to our igniters…you are what made the event the success it was!

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~Janice

playful storytelling project celebration

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

On Thursday, May 5th Marie Thom and I hosted a year end sharing celebration for our Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning project. This project began as a Ministry affiliated Quality Teaching and Learning project (hence the QTL tag in the category section of this blog) with four of our Richmond schools and has grown to ten schools being involved – Blair, Blundell, Diefenbaker, Kidd, Steves, Ferris, Cook, Tomsett, Bridge and Debeck. This year we were glad that a French Immersion school wanted to be a part of the project.

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We had our first session in the fall (blog post here) and teachers have been providing storytelling experiences to their students over the year. Because of other curricular demands, Marie and I haven’t been able to make it into classes as much this year but we were able to provide TTOC release to our teachers in the first year of the project to go an visit teachers’ classrooms who have been involved in the project for a couple of years. This proved to be a valuable experience!

At our event on Thursday, each school shared one thing that they have tried this year from felting story settings, retelling stories from picture books, creating cedar storyboards to creating story stones.

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Teachers shared their professional learning in different ways – through powerpoint slides, sharing student creations or preparing documentation panels.

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After a lovely dinner together, each school team was provided with some new resources from Native Northwest and Strong Nations. We looked through the new books and shared ways we might be able to use them in our classrooms.

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In asking teachers to reflect on their experiences in the project, they commented on a need to share resources and ideas and wanting more opportunities for collaboration and observations/visits to other classrooms.

When we asked teachers to consider a moment or event where they noticed a shift in their practice regarding the First Peoples Principles of Learning, some of the written reflections we received included:

“When I noticed during our sharing circles how students’ responses had changed and reflected the principles of patience and respect.”

“I noticed the children’s relationships to each other and the environment around them.”

“Children were using the ideas of place in their play.”

It is powerful to see the First Peoples Principles of Learning enacted in our classrooms and in our professional learning communities. Marie and I are looking forward to continuing our work with this project next year!

~Janice

creative thinking core competency project 2016

Posted on: May 8th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

For the third year, our district has invited grade 6-9 teachers to participate in a Core Competencies project. This year, Rosalind Poon and myself hosted the project, focusing on the Creative Thinking core competency in the BC curriculum. A blog post about our first session together can be found here.

Our second session was held in January and teachers shared what they had been trying in their classrooms, nurturing students’ creative thinking focusing on the three facets of novelty & value, generating ideas and developing ideas. Leah, a grades 5&6 teacher shared a force and motion invention fair she co-coordinated at her school with students applying creative thinking to their invention design and purpose. Irene shared the creatures her grade 8 Home Ec students created, considering the facets of creative thinking.

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During the session we looked at the book, Weaving Creativity into Every Strand of Your Curriculum by Dr. Cyndi Burnett and Julia Figliotti, that we have been using in this series and in our school teams, used one of the ideas from the book to think about a concept we were studying with our students. Teachers were asked to use materials to create a soundscape to represent an idea or concept. Challenging! One teacher commented on how a student really has to understand the idea/concept and synthesize thinking in order to do this task.

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Our third and final session of the year was held at the end of April. Teachers shared ho they were weaving opportunities for creative thinking throughout their classroom programs. We asked teachers to write-up a lesson idea that was successful for them and their students and we will be compiling these ideas to share with teachers in our district.

During the session, we introduced teachers to the electronic components littleBits which were piloted in the district two years ago for the purposes of nurturing creative thinking through STEAM experiences. Different ways teachers and students have been using littleBits in the district were shared and then the teachers in the project were asked to create something that does something – being mindful of the three facets of the creative thinking core competency: novelty & value, generating ideas and developing ideas.

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As teachers engaged with the materials, they could see the possibilities for using the littleBits beyond  the electricity component of the science curriculum in grades 7 and 9. More information about littleBits can be found on the website here.

We also asked teachers to record a short professional narrative about their involvement in this project. The following is one teacher’s response:

  • I strongly believe that the focus on the creative thinking competency in my classroom this year had the most impact on my teaching and the students’ learning.  They are called the “core competencies” for a reason! Personal responsibility, communication, and critical thinking developed side by side with creative thinking.  The willingness to take risks and persevere with difficult or ambiguous learning tasks has increased tremendously.  I am also constantly amazed by the depth of thinking the students show in many circumstances. We had 2 students reflect on how learning happens in our classroom. See their thoughts below.

“Creative Thinking is the process of having original ideas of value. The Creative Thinking Challenges we do each Wednesday encourages us to think creatively when faced with a problem. Itís very important to have unique and innovative ideas, and to have different ways of overcoming challenges, especially with our rapidly changing society. We also do something called Monday Morning Provocations. Every Monday, we use a variety of materials to reflect on a question. We have more ways to show what we know, and explain our thinking visually. Not just with pencil and paper.We do a lot of activities helping us learn in different ways, not just reading a textbook, copying facts, and memorizing it. We do discussion circles where everyone shares an opinion and we discuss it. We use iPads and take pictures of our work to communicate and show our learning to parents and teachers. We use an app called FreshGrade. After every activity, we have a self-assessment/feedback frame to let us reflect on our work. Instead of the teacher giving us marks, we actually think about what we did well on, what we need to improve on etc. Overall, we think the new BC curriculum develops a creative and positive mind, which will help us in the near future.” ~ L&L

How valuable to have students reflect and comment on their learning experiences!

Roz and I look forward to continuing our work with the core competencies project next year!

~Janice

learning at the Musqueam Cultural Centre

Posted on: May 2nd, 2016 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

I have been fortunate to attend two professional learning events at the Musqueam Cultural Centre in the last month.

On March 29th, the Musqueam Language and Cultural department invited a team of Richmond educators to attend their second professional development day. As with last year, a group of primary teachers involved in our Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning project attended. This year, the focus was on heightening awareness to language rejuvenation projects as well as teaching as the intricacies of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language. We learned the story of the serpent after which the Musqueam peoples are named after and used a string game to help us remember the oral story. We were gifted yet again with some wonderful hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language resources to use with our students.

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On April 22, Leanne McColl, Aboriginal Education teacher consultant organized our third district professional development day at Musqueam. About 240 teachers from elementary and secondary schools attended the day where they were welcomed by a Musqueam drummer, attended a keynote presentation from Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert and then cycled through a series of sessions including a blanket exercise that simulates ideas of colonization, a tour of the Musqueam lands and a visit to the museum on site.

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One of the Richmond teachers who was visiting Musqueam for the first time, shared with me at lunch that all that we have been talking about in our district in terms of curriculum, First Peoples Principles of Learning, place-based pedagogy and reconciliation all came together for him during his time. He felt a connection to the place that deepened his understanding and commitment to the work we have been doing. Profound professional and personal learning.

We are already looking forward to continued collaboration with the Musqueam Nation.

~Janice