Friday, 28 March 2014

Assessing Our Writing Part 2

Students have finally finished recording their slides in the Explain Everything App. I've shared the overall lesson here. I am very impressed with their ability to pick out favourite lines and explain their significance. They are truly thinking of their reader and they are thinking critically about their own writing.

Here is a sample of one group's script (see below). The script was just to help them with transitions and give them a structure before recording their voices.

Below are two examples of our Explain Everything projects:

To view more of these projects click here.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Assessing Our Writing Part 1

Explain Everything is the perfect tool to capture students' thinking. I wanted students to assess their dream writing by taking photographs of their work, pointing to specific areas of craft and explaining their importance. However, I needed to make sure students were prepared before using this app. The main priority was for  students to organize their thinking.
Students worked in small groups sharing their writing with one another. They created notes about specific craft techniques they noticed. I was really pushing them to move beyond the typical comment, "I like this line because it is descriptive". I told them to dig deep and think about what made a particular line in their story special for the reader. Of course, I want them to name the craft they see in writing. More importantly, I want them to be able to explain its significance for the reader. 

Here is a line selected by a student from their writing: "When dreams get caught in your hair you have to brush them out." This line shows that there's always little bumps and that's normal. Just brush off the dust and keep on going.

I like the line - "When you skate down the ice you feel like a bird drifting through the sky". It is a simile. It lets the reader know that you have to skate hard in hockey.

The next step was for students to use the iPads. They took pictures of their writing and created slides. They had to decide if they were going to take one or two photographs of their work. They learned how to crop, resize and lock an image. They added arrows pointing to specific features and are currently working on adding text boxes. This is where their notes will come in handy. 

The final step will be for students to work on a script for their voice recording. I want them to be clear and organized. You can grab a copy of the script here.

I hope to post some examples soon! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Ready to Write

We have read several books and articles about success and achievement. We have watched, shared and discussed many stories of people who have overcome obstacles to achieve success in their lives. These experiences have given students the language and insight to begin writing about their own dreams. 

We set criteria together as a class (see below). Organization, craft and voice were featured in our guidelines. You will also notice that I am using language that students understand ("stretching toffee"). Students visualize a piece of toffee getting stretched or pulled. This helps them understand the idea of elaboration or providing detailed examples to make their writing interesting for the reader.
Students are also aware of what they can already do in their writing. A bulletin board of "I Can Statements" reminds students of what good writers do. These statements grow over the course of the year as students acquire new skills. It's a great assessment tool or reference for students to use when they are drafting a piece of writing. These statements helped us create the criteria mentioned above.

I am so thrilled with the quality of my students' writing! It is very sophisticated because of the front-loading and because of all of the hard work we've been doing with leads, voice, vivid words, using one's senses, etc. 

In the end, we will be compiling all of our writing into a picture book, which students have planned to give to the Children's Hospital. They want their writing to inspire others and make them feel hopeful. 

I feel this writing project has been so successful! Students were invested in their work right from the start because they knew their thinking would be shared with a larger audience - beyond our school walls. Also, the topic is so very important to them - everyone has dreams! Just look at the sincerity in the examples featured below.

Sample One (Gr. 4):

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4
Sample 2 (Gr. 4):

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Sample 3 (Gr. 5):

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Inquiry: "Going for Gold" Part 2

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is now over, however, our inquiry, "Going for Gold", continues! We have been reading many books and articles about achieving success, having courage and showing respect. A wall of our thinking is starting to emerge (see below). Students refer to this board as they begin thinking about the dreams they have for their own lives. It is also a way to make our thinking public.

Our Inquiry Board - "Going for the Gold"

After reading the book, Dream, by Susan Bosak, I gave small groups samples of the artwork found inside this beautiful book. They had to think about how the artwork connected to the overall idea of following one's dream. The conversations that occurred were priceless. Students had to look at the emotions, colours and objects in each illustration to help them articulate an overall message. Talk about critical thinking!

I decided to give students an "App Smash" challenge. This is when students use more than one app on their iPad to produce a final product. The first app they used was PicCollage. They had to create a collage incorporating their artwork and a quote of their own thinking. Below is an example:

The next step was for students to take what they created in PicCollage and incorporate it into the app,  Tellagami. Tellagami is an app that lets you create a short video called a Gami. I thought this would be a great way for students to share their thinking about dreams with each other. See some of our creations below:

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Inquiry: Going for Gold

We continue to work through our inquiry - "How do we achieve our dreams?" One of the qualities that people need is courage. The story of one of our Canadian Olympians,  Joannie Rochette, exemplifies courage. Students read the story with a partner and then marked their thinking using post-it notes.

Some of their thoughts are recorded below:
  • No one can make your dreams come true but you. You have to be courageous and show who you are.
  • She had to focus on her dream, even though her mother passed away. That takes courage.
  • It takes courage to stay fit while your friends are having fun.
  • It takes courage to perform on the ice with the pressure of everyone watching.
Afterwards, students worked in small groups, going back through the article for a second time noting all of the ways Joannie made her dream come true. Students shared their ideas at the carpet and then we made a class list as a whole group. Here is a sample from a student's notebook:

Students will continue to act like "text detectives" - sifting through information and pulling out ideas that apply to our inquiry. Although we are focusing on Canadian Olympians, it is my hope that students will be able to apply these qualities to their own lives.


Students will start thinking about their dreams and the qualities they will need to make them come true. I want them to be able to write about their dreams and explain how they plan to achieve them. There is so much frontloading needed before we can expect students to write with quality. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Go for the Gold

We continued with our Olympic Inquiry by watching some of the "We Are Winter" videos highlighting our Canadian athletes. I used a QR code for students to scan with their iPads. I wanted them to explore the 7 pages of video clips, talk with their partner and record their thinking using a mind mapping form. Students were highly engaged viewing the videos and recording their ideas. They came up with such inspirational statements that can be applied to life. What an amazing group of critical thinkers! 

Here is a collection of our thinking. These ideas will continue to push us forward as we reflect on our guiding questions. These experiences also allow us to consider larger questions such as:

1. How do people achieve success?
2. How do we achieve our dreams? Better yet...
3. How do we "Go for the Gold?"

You have to visualize and actually put yourself in the moment.
A supportive team gets you somewhere, but a supportive family and friends gets you anywhere.
Follow your dream. You don't think about anything. You think about the moment. This moment is your life. Go play your best!
Don't pretend to be someone you're not. Follow your dreams and do what you want.
You have to think positively.
To let your dreams run wild you have to have confidence in your performance. You have to be strong so if you fall you can get right back up. You have to practice with all your heart.
Life can give you medals. Life can give you fame. But if you don't respect yourself, others, the course and your coach, life can't give you accomplishment. 
The maple leaf fills you with pride. It's so lifting to know that you've got a whole nation that has your back.
You are what you become. You find your power in your heart. Everyone has a power. You just need to find it.
You made this journey to the Olympics. Now go out there and do what you got to do. Have the confidence to play!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Our Olympic Inquiry

We are beginning a new inquiry surrounding the Winter Olympic Games. Students worked in small groups to unscramble three guiding questions that will help drive this inquiry. I really enjoyed listening to each group's conversation as they experimented with the order of various words.

1. What does courage look like to you and how do people exhibit courage?
2. What personal qualities help or hinder the formation of friendships?
3. How and in what ways do athletes show respect for one another and for themselves?

We also looked at some of the symbols of the Olympics. Students created a chart to record their research and thinking. 

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