Archive for January, 2014

Palmer’s Junior Science Fair

Posted on: January 31st, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Wednesday, I had the honour of attending Palmer Secondary’s Junior Science Fair. About 90 students in grades 8-10 participated in this competitive science fair, with the top projects being chosen to move ahead to the next level of competition, at the provincial level. The students were in their best attire, with prepared scripts ready to read to the judges.

The teachers had invited elementary students to tour the projects earlier in the afternoon and over 200 elementary students visited, many who will be participating in our district’s Science Jam at the end of February. I am sure Palmer’s Science Fair was very inspiring to them!

As a guest, I asked the students to not read their scripts and to just tell me about their projects. As I asked questions, the passion the students had for their projects came through and their depth of knowledge was well beyond their years. 
This pair of grade 8 students tested very substances on controlling the spread of E. coli bacteria.
They found vinegar worked the best.

This pair of grade 10 students investigated an alternative to petroleum-based plastic forks.
They found a substance created using potato starch created the sturdiest fork that also decomposed well.

This pair of students were motivated to find a way to still drink green tea in the evening, with a reduced effect from caffeine. Using the residue from brewing tea made with hot and cold water, they found that green tea made with cold water had significantly less caffeine than green tea made with hot water.
It was a great experience (and a great visit for me to my old Junior High School) to see so many inspiring scientists!

using iPads to demonstrate understanding of mathematical concepts

Posted on: January 26th, 2014 by jnovakowski

A team of teachers at Grauer are taking part in a collaborative inquiry looking at ways to enhance their math and science classroom experiences. This week, I visited Ms Poon’s and Mrs. Silva’s grades 4 and 5 classes.

With Ms Poon’s class, we asked the students to show what they knew about fractions. They told me they had learned about equivalent fractions and used the terms numerator and denominator as they described fractions. The students took photographs of materials in their classroom that would help them to represent fractions and then used the app 30Hands to annotate their photographs and narrate their explanations.

Here are two examples of the students’ recordings using the 30Hands app:

In Mrs. Silva’s class, the students have been learning about multiplication and division, using arrays to support their understanding. The students used mathematics materials to create arrays and then used the ShowMe app to take a photo and annotate and explain their array orally.

Here’s an example of one pair of students’ ShowMe:

Students that emailed off their files before the class ended used the iPad app Multiples (a MathTappers app) to practice multiplication facts. The Math Tappers apps are created by two UVic professors and correlate with our BC Math Curriculum.

In both of the above examples, the teachers and students can use “movies” created on the iPads as assessment information – to help understand where students are in their beginning understanding of these concepts, to see what mathematical language is or is not being used and to uncover any misconceptions the students might have.

A follow-up to these experiences might be to share some of the “movies” to the classes and ask some questions that extend students’ thinking around these concepts. For example, in the array video (7×7=49), the students mention having to add up the cubes to get 49. The class could be asked:
How does the array help you think of other ways to solve 7×7?

documenting science experiments with iPads

Posted on: January 25th, 2014 by jnovakowski

The grades 2 and 3 teachers at McNeely have been investigating ways to integrate iPad technology into the science curriculum this year as part of a collaborative inquiry. This term the classes are beginning to investigate properties and states of matter connecting to a study of air, water and soil.

We have been introducing apps to the students that allow for them to share their learning and can be used across different curricular area. This week we introduced the app, Haiku Deck. This app is like a powerpoint slide show for the iPad and connected well to the class’ work with procedural writing.

The students worked with a partner and took photos with the iPads. For this lesson, we just demo-ed the experiment in Anna Nachbar’s and Leanne Neaves’ classes, with the students watching and taking photos.

The students had all sorts of predictions as to what would happen when the baking soda fell into the vinegar.
“The balloon is going to blow off.”
“It’s going to explode.”
“it’s going to melt.”

They were shown how to create a new Haiku Deck, how to add photos and how to add text to each slide.

Here are two Haiku Decks the students created, documenting the experiment and their observations:

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

One student used the app 30Hands to explain the steps of the experiment and her observations.

The students are building a repertoire of apps that they can use to represent and share their learning.


animal storytelling with grades 1 and 2 at Diefenbaker

Posted on: January 19th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Friday, I visited Margaret Choinski’s grades 1 and 2 class at Diefenbaker to hear and see the stories the students have been working on. This class is part of our district’s QTL project looking at playful storytelling and oral literacy.

The class had read the book Sharing Our World: Animals of the Native Northwest Coast by Garfinkel Publications during which they learned about the importance of different animals in local Aboriginal culture. Each student chose an animal that was important to them and this was a character in their group stories.

The students went outside and collected various materials to create their settings. They wanted to be able to create forests, beaches and tree top settings.

Margaret gathered paper box lids for the students to create their settings in. This gave the students a defined space and also made the settings portable and able to be “saved”.

The students then created their settings – one of their favourite parts of the project. They thought carefully about the types of habitats their animals would live in.

The class chose the themes of friendship, family and helping others for their stories. Margaret provided some guiding prompts on a chart to help the students frame their stories and keep them focused (I am, We live in the, One Day…). The students practice their stories orally many times before sharing them and having them Margaret record them on the iPad. During my visit, several of the groups presented their stories to me. You could tell they knew their stories were well, were proud of their work and had fun moving the animals around in the setting as they told their stories.
At the end of my time in the class, Margaret connected her iPad to the projector and shared a few of the groups’ recorded stories. The students loved seeing and hearing their stories on the big screen!

A short animoto with parts of the stories:

The students were so proud of their stories and told me they thought the best part of the project was creating their settings and presenting their stories.

collaborative science inquiry at Blair

Posted on: January 19th, 2014 by jnovakowski

The primary teachers at Blair are taking part in a collaborative inquiry project looking at ways of moving science outdoors as well as ways of documenting science learning in science notebooks.
On Tuesday, I met with the teachers at lunch and then spent time in two classes in the afternoon.

In Tanyia Kusch’s grades 2 and 3 class, the students have just begun learning about structures. The students could tell me what they had read about natural and human-made structures so we went for a short walk outside to notice some of these structures and to think about the question, What are structures?

The students then came back into their classroom to draw and label the structures they had seen outside, using their science journals.

As students were recording the structures in their journals, one student wondered, 
“Are people structures?”

The students enjoyed building structures using materials they found in the classroom. We had lots of portables, houses and a tree.

And a little animoto video:

In Karen Sato’s grade 1 class, Karen started the class by reading Questions, Questions by Marcus Pfister to inspire the students to ask questions and wonder when we went for a walk outside. We walked around the school park looking for signs of winter.
The students found lots of mud, lots of moss and grass (such a mild winter we are having!) and some branches that had fallen to the ground during the latest storm.

We also found a large deciduous tree with an empty bird nest in. The students had lots of questions about the nest.

Why do birds live in nests?
Why is the tree bare?
How do they make nests?
Why are they are camouflaged?
Why do they make them with sticks?
Why do they only make nests in trees?
How does the nest balance on the tree?

We’ll have to re-visit the tree in the spring and see if we see anything new!


ways to make 5 in kindergarten

Posted on: January 16th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Monday I spent my morning at Anderson in four of the kindergarten classes, both neighbourhood programs (Laura Daitz, Miran Lo and Shelina Rajani-Shakar) and an Early French Immersion class (Shannon Fitzpatrick). The early primary teachers at Anderson are working on a collaborative inquiry project this year looking at developing their students’ communication of mathematical thinking, including the use of math journals.

In each class we set up tables with different math materials and one table with five of the school’s iPads. After a short lesson on different way to “make 5” the students rotated through the table tasks in groups, showing different ways to make five and “reading the math”.

For example, this student read her groups of yellow and red discs as 4 and 1, 2 and 1 and 2 and the last row as 2 and 1 and 2.

I have learned not to make quick assumptions and asked this student to explain why some of her glass beads were not in groups of five. If you look carefully, you can see that she has used the beads to represent the equation 3 + 2 = 5 in the top section of her work mat. Miran Lo’s class is a K/1 class and some of the students included math equations in their representations.

For all four classes, this was the first time the students had used the iPads at school. As part of the short lesson at the beginning of each class, after showing ways to make five with a material, I then showed them how they could use the Doodle Buddy app on the iPads to represent apps. The students learned how to find the app, open it and use different drawings tools, change colours, use the stamps and then save and share their work. The students were asked to represent 5 in at least two ways.

The students were so excited to use the iPads for math and the teachers all commented on they could see how easily the iPads could be incorporated into their math programs. The teachers received the students’ work in their email inboxes and these images can be printed and included in the students’ math journals or embedded in newsletters or class websites.


playful storytelling: an introduction to QTL

Posted on: January 14th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Richmond is one of six districts to have been selected to take part in this year’s iteration of BC’s Quality Teaching and Learning Project (QTL). Representatives from the six districts meet throughout the year to share their projects and learn together. We also have meetings for the teachers involved at the district level. The proposal we submitted was several pages long but in brief the project looks at the role of playful storytelling in the early primary classroom, using natural materials and animal toys and stories. The main areas of focus are on oral literacy and on teaching through the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Kits were provided to each school team and each school has its own focus, such a personal stories or stories about self, environmental awareness, place-based learning and Aboriginal cultural awareness.  In Richmond we have four schools involved: Blair, Blundell, Diefenbaker and Kidd. Marie Thom (Early Learning Teacher Consultant) and I help to facilitate the project.

Our first district meeting was at the end of November and school teams shared what they were doing at their schools and teams also received some new materials to add to their kits.

Marie and I spend time at the schools, capturing and collecting data for the project and documenting the schools’ experiences. Last week, I visited both Diefenbaker and Kidd.

At Diefenbaker, Michelle Hikida hosts the project work in the library. Last week, teachers Linda Radford and Kelly Hinks brought their K/1 and K classes to the library. A story from the kit, Just a Walk by Jordan Wheeler, was read and then the students were asked to choose an animal character and think about what adventures it would have when it went on a walk. Different materials were set up on the tables in the library and the students were very engaged with the materials and their stories.

We video and audio recorded some of the students’ stories and the students also enjoyed sharing their stories with their classmates.

And a short little animoto video of some of the playful storytelling experiences with the K and K/1 classes at Diefenbaker:

At Kidd, I did an introduction to the kit with Penny Nakamoto’s grades 2 and 3 class and Laura Birarda’s grades K and 1 class. Each class was then given time to explore the materials and books in the kit, beginning their storytelling experience.

This project has so many connections across curriculum areas and engages students in many of the core principles of the new BC Transforming Learning curriculum frameworks.


little bits pilot inquiry project: day five

Posted on: January 11th, 2014 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

For the final day working with littlebits, the students refined one of their projects and documented their design and project using the district iPads. The students were asked to record the materials for their project and how the steps in putting the project together. The students set up “photo shoots” and used the iPad to take photos. They were reminded to show enough detail so that others could replicate their projects.

The students could choose from a variety of apps to document their littlebits projects. Some students used Skitch to create labeled diagrams.

Some students used Haiku Deck to create a slideshow on the iPad.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad  Others used screencasting apps such as ShowMe to use photos and record their voices.

 And here is the fluttery butterfly in action:

 Rick asked the students to write a short reflection on their week working with littlebits. Overall, the students really enjoyed the experience. One student said it all seemed kind of “bad” at the beginning because he wasn’t sure what the littlebits were able to do but realized their potential as the week went on and mentioned how “fun” school had been. Another student commented how she really liked how the littlebits forced her to think and be creative.

The littlebits will be going to our District Resource Centre now to be processed as a district kit so that teachers around our district can request it and use it in their classrooms. We have been using two Deluxe Kits this week and I will be recommending investing in more power bit packs (power bit, battery and cable) and a few individual bits from other kits (like the fan and pressure sensor and long wired LED lights) to extend the possibilities of the Deluxe Kits.

I loved watching the students’ confidence with the bits grow as the week went on and seeing their imaginations open up to the creative possibilities with the littlebits. So much creative and innovative use of technology!

little bits pilot inquiry project: day four

Posted on: January 10th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Today the grades 4 and 5 students at Diefenbaker had another day to create their own projects using the littlebits components. Today I brought in my son’s littlebits kit so the students could try out a few different bits like a fan, long led lights and a pressure sensor.

It was interesting to watch how different groups of students went through the process of designing and testing a project. Rick noticed that some groups started with the bits and tinkered around with them until they came up with an idea while others clearly had an idea in mind and figured out what bits they needed to make it happen. Some groups were focused more on the aesthetics of the project while others were focused on the circuitry. Some students were determined to use a particular bit that was interesting to them and designed their projects around that. All the processes got to a final project of some sort and all tapped into the students’ creativity in different ways.

Some projects that were made and tested today included a campfire

a disco Miga

a rocket

disco Miga under a disco ball

 a spinning disc

a lamp

and an LED flashlight

As students worked away this afternoon, the energy in the classroom had settled a bit from yesterday and the students were settled into working on their projects, focused on reaching success. There were so many important habits of mind demonstrated today…perseverance, curiosity, stick with-it-ness, thinking flexibly, problem-solving, taking risks and being open to  new ideas.

The inquiry cycle was in full swing today as well. Students began with a plan or question, investigated it and during this process, new questions were often overheard that took the students off on new avenues of inquiry.

I wonder what will happen if we…
Will it only work if we do this…
How can we make it beep louder…
What if we changed the order…
If we added this, would it still…
Do you think there is a better way to do this…

Students adapted and investigated their new questions during the process and in most cases, felt they improved their projects by doing so

The following short animoto video shows some of today’s projects, many that ended up not quite how they were originally planned:

Tomorrow the students will be using the iPads to document their experiences with  littlebits. It has been a great project full of innovation, creating and imagining.

little bits pilot inquiry project: day three

Posted on: January 9th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Rick showed his class the blog posts about their littlebits project this morning and the students enjoyed watching the animoto video, looking for their hands or backs of their heads! Diefenbaker’s Principal posted a link to the blog posts on the school’s website so parents can see what’s going on during this project.

Today, many students brought materials from home for their projects including lego, craft materials, a stuffed animal and a pair of sunglasses. Some students already had definite ideas about the type of project they wanted to create. We asked the students to take part in a design challenge…where they had to design their own project, list the materials and instructions (including pictures and words) and include a picture of the final project. The idea is that other students should be able to follow the instructions to replicate the project.

Some of the projects included a birthday candle that lit up

neon glasses

 some sticks of dynamite

a disco telescope

and a watch.

Today, there was a lot of planning, testing and improvising and adapting -all part of the process. Although some students completed a project today, we will be continuing with more project work tomorrow and an opportunity for students to work with bits they haven’t worked with yet.