Archive for April, 2016

Talk With Our Kids About Money Day 2016

Posted on: April 26th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Financial literacy is a new focus of our redesigned math curriculum in BC. There are content learning standards focused on financial literacy concepts (saving, spending, giving, wanting, needing, budgeting, etc) in grades 1-9. Over the last three years, teachers in Richmond has been investigating ways to learn these concepts with their students. Last year, teachers at Kingwood had financial literacy as a focus of their Innovation Grant project and obtained some great materials to use with their students.

Talk With Our Kids About Money day is a Canadian initiative that is part of financial literacy month is April. It is held on the third Wednesday of April and its goal is to raise awareness of the importance of economic education. This year, two school trustees and Kumi Abercrombie, a representative from the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education visited some of our Richmond classrooms to see what teachers have been doing with their students around financial literacy.

Students in grades 1&2 in Tracy Yuen’s class at Kingwood, engaged in several tasks focused on an awareness of coin values, money and role-playing financial transactions.

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Students in grades 3&4 in Leanne Teixera’s class at Garden City shared their “Dragon’s Den” project where they create a product, budget for it its creation, pitch it, etc.

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The visiting trustees and Kumi, the representative from the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education with Leanne:


The trustees and Kumi also visited with teachers from the Big Math Ideas for Grades 3-5 after school session at Garden City. Kimi spoke to them about the organization’s goals and we shared the resources on the website which can be found HERE.

We look forward to ongoing collaboration with the CFEE as we examine ways to support teachers and students in this area of the math curriculum.


NCTM 2016 Annual Meeting: San Francisco

Posted on: April 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Last week I spent three days in San Francisco at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Annual Meeting and Exposition with over 9000 math educators from around the world. I had been invited to speak on some of the professional learning project we have been doing in Richmond for a new strand in the conference called, “Building Capacity: Personal and Collective Professional Growth” and was excited to engage in my own professional learning and to connect with educators I have met through the #MTBoS (MathTwitterBlogoSphere). If you are curious about what a program looks like for a conference this size, you can view it online HERE.


I attended the opening keynote by Dr. Eric Jolly where he wove a Cherokee basket as he delivered his keynote – fun to watch the  basket come together. There were some important messages about caring for all of our students embedded in his talk – “Help our children see all of the possibilities in themselves” and with the basket as metaphor for a sense of self – “The inside of the basket needs to the same as the outside to be strong.”


During my session on Thursday, I shared the work from our district around the Reggio-Inspired Mathematics collaborative professional inquiry project which is supported by the BCAMT as well as the Place-Based Mathematics professional inquiry project at Byng, supported by the NOII-AESN. Attendees at my session were from all across Canada, the states from Hawaii to Connecticut and from Singapore. More information about my session is featured HERE. I uploaded my presentation to slideshare and it can be viewed HERE.


I was fortunate to attend sessions that inspired my thinking – thanks to Jessica Shumway, Graham Fletcher, Elham Kazemi, Sherry Parrish, Robert Kaplinsky, Andrew Stadel, Kaneka Turner, Brian Bushart and Tracy Zager. I made lots of connections to our BC curriculum and was reminded multiple times how privileged we are to teach here – to have autonomy around how we enact the curriculum in our classrooms. This is not the case in so many jurisdictions around the world where “programs” and “pacing guides” and “packets” and “testing” are what teachers talk about.

Highlights of the conference for me were the IGNITE talks on Friday morning and the ShadowCon talks on Friday evening before I flew home. The videos of the Ignite talks will be posted on the NCTM site or Math Forum site soon and those from ShadowCon16 will be posted HERE.

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I also stood in a very long line to hear Jo Boaler speak – it was great to see so many educators listening to her messages. You can find out more HERE.

Jo Boaler has rock start status in the math world - hundreds lined up, so many took photos with her, book signings, etc

Jo Boaler has rock start status in the math world – hundreds lined up, so many took photos with her, book signings, etc

I was also fortunate to go out for dinner with Marian Small on Thursday evening – lots of nuggets of wisdom in our discussions over delicious Italian food.


Ten takeaways from my NCTM 2016 experience:

1. Our children need to see all in the possibilities in themselves.

2. Numberlines for the win!

3. There needs to be joy in professional learning.

4. What structures are in place in our schools for us to learn together?

5, We need more high-five moments in math class!

6. We need to spend more time helping students to consolidate their thinking.

7. All students have ideas about every problem.

8. Finger perception and discrimination is important.

9. Provide students with room to explore, play and experience joy in math.

10. Make sure we’re inviting all children to the “math party”.


I feel so “filled up” and inspired and have lots of ideas swirling in my head. I would like to thank the RTA for the major conference funding that helped to fund my attendance at this conference.

So much work goes into a conference this size and I am so appreciative of the NCTM team that pulls this off each year! It was so great connecting to and talking with so many passionate math educators from around the world – so much positivity and optimism around math and for finding ways for all of our students to be part of the math party.


primary teachers study group: inquiry in science

Posted on: April 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski

In its thirteenth year, the Richmond Primary Teachers Study Group chooses a focus each year to guide their professional collaborative inquiry. This year, building on the focus on inquiry in BC’s redesigned curriculum, teachers wanted to investigate inquiry across curriculum areas and we’ve chosen one curriculum area as a focus for each term, with the second term focusing on science.

We did an overview of the science curriculum framework on the BC curriculum website, paying particular attention to the curricular competencies.

Anticipating (or hoping for) some winter weather, we shared some “winter books” that might inspire students to ask questions about the season, particularly during time outside.


This term we have four picture books to inspire inquiry in science – The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino, Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, and Stella, Queen of the Snow by Marie-Louise Gay. The whole Stella series of books is excellent for modelling curiosity and asking questions, as Stella’s little brother is full of questions!




One of the articles we referred to that outlines a grade 3 teacher’s yearlong journey with inquiry is the following article from the NSTA journal Science and Children:

Inquiry Takes Time

The teacher/author describes three inquiry projects moving from structured to guided to open inquiry.

As a group, we co-constructed some inquiry-based experiences for our students and then shared how these went with our students at the next session. Unfortunately, we only had one very light dusting of snow this winter so teachers will be saving the snow books for next year!

Many teachers used the Flashlight book to use the structure “what do you notice? what do you wonder?” and to inspire students to play with and investigate the properties of light, darkness and shadows.


Our second session of the term was hosted in Louesa’ K classroom at Thompson as she usually has a science/nature provocation table…


Louesa shared some science inquiry projects she had been doing with her Kindergarten students, including looking closely at frost and noticing trees in their local environment.  Students also chose areas of interest to them and some of them engaged together in inquiries into rainbows or dinosaurs.

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As the weather warmed up, students have found worms and snails outside and have had lots of questions – Sharon and Stephanie have started inquiries with their students beginning with their questions about worms and snails. Louesa and her K students have been discussing “How are living things in our community connected to one another?” beginning with considering how to bring “life” into their classroom and what that living thing might need.

Many of the teachers’ science inquiries are very much focused on connecting to place, which will overlap nicely with our group’s third term focus on inquiry in social studies.


using iPad technology to support all students in mathematics

Posted on: April 7th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Last week I was invited to do a presentation with Richmond’s Learning Resource Teachers, sharing ways that teachers can use iPad technology to support all of their students in mathematics.


The use of technology can support students in different ways –  through the use of audio narration (ie. screencasting) of explaining mathematical thinking or strategy use and for many students, using their fingers to navigate or “print” using iPad technology is more accessible than using a pencil/pen. The visual (and often audio and kinaesthetic or gesturing) support is also particularly supportive and this is an area the math apps I have recommended attend to. The Math Tappers apps (developed by University of Victoria math education professors) all provide different types of visual supports and tools for students and provide different “levels” of entry points.


The TouchCounts app (developed by SFU math education researchers) involves moving visual support, audio support in multiple languages (students can choose) as well as the use of physical gesturing which all contribute to many different ways that students can access an understanding of composing and decomposing quantities/number.


The apps from The Math Learning Center is Oregon all provide virtual manipulative that students can access for both mathematical thinking and solving as well as representing. Students and teachers often use these apps to “app-smash” with, where they take a screenshot of what they created with the virtual manipulatives and then use that image in a annotation app like Skitch or PicCollage or a screencasting app like ShowMe or Doceri. This app-smashing creates a way for students to document and share their learning.


Here is a link to slideshare where I have posted the section of my presentation about the different apps. CLICK HERE.


grade 7 science: the theory of evolution

Posted on: April 6th, 2016 by jnovakowski

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 7 life sciences curricular content of the theory of evolution.Unfortunately, this session had to be cancelled but I thought I would share some information I have compiled about the curricular content and applicable resources.

Grade 7 Life Sciences

Gr7 Life Sciences Resources

Natural selection and adaptive radiation are two key concepts now at the grade 7 level and this is a shift to elementary from secondary science content. Prior the curriculum redesign, grade 6 life science content included diversity of life (kingdoms and classification systems), micro-organisms, adaptations, etc., much of which could still be included in a broader study of life sciences/biology at the grades 6&7 level and necessary to help understand some of the concept involved with the theory of evolution. A blog post detailing how this “content” was uncovered through inquiry in an intermediate class at Lee Elementary last year can be found HERE.