The Sound of Science

Wow!  My ears are still ringing after today’s science investigations of Sound!  We’d looked at how sound can travel through air and solids, and today we looked at how vibrations affect tone.  With four different sound centres, the air was certainly busy!  I’m going home to sit in silence.  But ask your kids to tell you about it.

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Solstice Reflections

Sitting here in the silent vacuum of a classroom 15 minutes after the kids have cleared out, feeling tired, thankful and humbled.  Thankful for the sweet, deeply thoughtful gifts families thought to bestow on me (and Ms. Sarah Hogan, our utterly wonderful E.A.).  Humbled by the notes the children wrote, and the trust I am afforded in their growth.  And thankful again for this truly lovely class!  Thank you for them.

Our gift was blueberry pancakes yesterday; it seemed appropriate on a cozy Pyjama Day.  A number of kids had never tried blueberry pancakes, and did.  So that’s a small triumph, each new thing a bit of bravery we can use somewhere else.  (And, they’re blueberry pancakes!)

It’s been a busy time in our class!  (And I, having a busy time outside of class, have not been blogging much).  Here’s a bit of a recap:

Province Projects

Oh my goodness, these were such a success! The kids worked so hard (most of the time) and put such heart into them.  They are still displayed,now in the hall–please come and see them all if you haven’t been able to.  I reflected that the last time I did a version of this project, we did it in the Spring.  Those students had had a lot more practice with “research” and writing.  For this class, the project was the process of learning the skills.  I feel like we learned a lot beyond the specifics of the provinces, and that is of course the point–learning we can carry to other situations.

You will have hopefully seen a copy of the rubric and comments I produced for the projects.  I would like you to know that I struggled a lot with a question of pedagogy:  do I put a mark on the project (We’ve been reading a book called There’s a Boy in the Girls Bathroom in which marks and “gold stars” figure heavily).  In the end, I could not bring myself to do it.  As will always be true, the finished projects represent a huge range in ability.  But the range in achievement is not nearly as great.  Kids who struggle with writing or reading or organization worked just as hard as those for whom these come easier.  In some cases, harder.  And because I was really looking at three areas of assessment–the writing, the presentation, and the understanding of the content–it seemed weird to lump that into a single mark.

My main worry was that the moment kids got a piece of paper with an “A” or a “C” on it, the mood of mutual celebration and appreciation and general success would evaporate.  All that would be seen would be the mark. So instead, I opted to give the rubrics with levels checked in various areas, as indicators of where the achievement was and where the future learning remains.   I checked in with the class as a whole and with some individual students, but this is a conversation I am still having with myself and would be happy to hear from parents about.

The other thing we did was I asked the students to fill in a survey about their experience and learning, and any feedback they had.  Interestingly, the thing that most came up was “more time”.  We had a great conversation about how people use time, including “more” time and I shared my personal experience(s) of time wasting as well as my teacher experience of what happened if projects were given six weeks instead of three.  (Identical quality).   I very much appreciated their thoughtfulness.


Our biggest focus in the last while has been fractions, which of course are wrapped up in multiplication and division and a lot of other mathematicalness.  But through fractions, we have been doing math that doesn’t look like math I did as a kid, and probably not like you (much younger than me) did either.   They love 3-Act Math problems that they work together to solve as they get more and more information.   Number talks, where we sit together and work on mental math strategies.  And so on.

The themes that run through all of our activities are flexibility in which we see that many problems can be solved in more than one way; representation in which we learn to show our thinking (often in more than one way); communication, which is what it sounds like–the capacity to explain our thinking; and fluency, building our capacity to do arithmetic easily so we can apply it to complex problems.  All of these things can be practised in various real-life ways at home.  But fluency is the one thing that is hardest to practise enough at school.  Times tables and mental arithmetic practice at home is very helpful!


We’d been messing about with sketching in 3-D, and then our lovely Queen’s placement student Ms. Mouncey helped take that to 3-D painting.  This led to some sweet, highly-civilized Friday afternoons of  painting and listening to classical music.  A tradition worth continuing in the new year.


know that not all the kids like playing the ukeleles.  Many find it hard.  I have told them all from the beginning that being hard is partly the point.  Doing hard stuff is how we grow.  If you can fight your way to a G7 chord on the uke (or take a chest pass in basketball or whatever) maybe you can do anything.  Trying is the main expectation.  I’m thinking about new strategies for making more kids feel comfortable with that.  I’m also (warily) rolling around the idea of “take-home” ukes so that kids could have more practice time.

I am terrible at getting pictures or recording the kids when we are playing.   If you were able to come in last week and hear us play, great!  Yesterday we took our ukes on the road for a few impromptu holiday uke concerts in other classes.  It was fun.   Some kids just sang because that’s all they could manage.  Thanks to them.


Orthography is worth about twelve posts on its own, all overdue.  Suffice it to say that we study words.  Their meaning, how they are built, the stories that explain them, their connections to one another, their pronunciation.  It helps.  We are word scientists, and we are good.  Collectively and individually we have made discoveries about words that you have never known; answered things you probably always wondered (or complained) about.  We know why <know> and <knot> have–not a “silent k” but a <kn> digraph–denoting its Old English origin.  We know why <have> (and Olive) are spelled with a final non-syllabic <e>.   We can look at words like <denominator> or <numerator> and take them apart, which helps us understand them better.

In recent weeks, we discovered that words can have a base that is “bound”.   One such base is <hap>, that connects words such as <happy> and <happen>.  We have since found bound bases in words such as <erupt> and <interrupt> or <produce> and <introduce>.

I believe to my core that doing this work supports our understanding and our reading ability, and makes us stronger learners generally.

Yesterday, we looked briefly at the word <solstice>.  We found the likely base <sol> also found in <solar> and saw the connection the French word <soleil>.  What we did not do is spend time hypothesizing word sums for the structure of that word.  Feel free to play about with that over Christmas dinner!  I’ll just say that there are surprises and a lot of learning hiding in that word.

Please feel free to challenge my assertion that English spelling is highly ordered and sensible!  Please send us questions!  Start by doing the analysis together with your child, see what they can observe and hypothesize.  In January, we’ll have individual “word projects”, just to flex and stretch our skills!


  • On Friday, January 11th, the St Lawrence College Women’s Basketball team is playing the Georgian College Grizzlies in the new St. Lawrence gym at 6:00.  Our wonderful St. Lawrence placement student, Kylie Moyer, who just finished in our class two weeks ago, is a key member of that team.  She has arranged for our class and families to get in for free!  Just say you’re from Centennial!  I’ll send a reminder in the first week.
  • We’ll be doing a whack of Science in January.   I am still deciding what.
  • We’ll also be working our way into an extended study of Early Civilizations–probably beginning with The Greeks.
  • We’re booked to go to Gould Lake on January 18th!  Details as soon as we return–we’ll hike or snowshoe and cook out.  (I have a new hatchet I’m dying to try!) Pray for lots of snow!  Plan to come.

If you read all that, thanks for making the time!  Have a great holiday!  See you in 2019!

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Last Week, This Week

Hello folks at home,

Well, last week got a bit weird!   The whole mess at other schools on Wednesday and then for us on Thursday…there was both an emotional and a practical toll.

For the kids, the emotional toll was hard (for me) to measure.  For the most part I saw what we’d all hope for:  reasonable questions, moderate worry, but generally expressions of trust in the adults around them that our precautions would keep them safe.  It’s a tricky path–isn’t it, parents?–giving our children enough information that they are comforted and reassured, but shielding them from too much information that will make them anxious, unsettled.   Even before we got the call on Thursday, our class was engaged in a conversation about the rumours flying around regarding Wednesday.  Social media and social reality make it hard to shield our kids from the world.  The challenge I was trying to tackle was helping them believe in the rarity of the terrible things which are so present in the media.  Please let me know if you think your child has ongoing worries from all this.

At a practical level it meant we had kids away Thursday and Friday, and the plan kept changing every ten minutes on Thursday!  Gym, then no Gym.  Recess, then no recess.  And, we’d all prepped for a Substitute for the afternoon, as I had to take my mom to an appointment, then I couldn’t leave, then I could, then it was a different sub, etc., etc.   Frankly, was rattled!

But I have to say that throughout the week and throughout Thursday, all the students were highly engaged with their “Province” projects (as well as other stuff we did).   I was so proud of the kids for their focus and thankful for their trust and flexibility.  (I brought donuts on Friday to say thanks, and then forgot about them until ten minutes before dismissal!)

So, this week:

Library Books!  

The books we signed out at the Calvin Park Library are due this week.  I said that I would take back books for anyone that wanted me to on this first round.  Books in by Tuesday will get a free ride in my old car.

Province (and Territory) Projects!

The projects were meant to be a first real “research” experience:  how to take notes; how to organize sub-topics; as well as a chance for us to focus on the fine art of paragraph building.  We’ll have more this year, more open in their structure.  The point was to learn about Canada, and learn about learning, hopefully have some creative fun.  I think that’s happened.   I’ve learned lots!

Tomorrow, Monday, we’ll check in and see where everybody is at and give people as much time as they need .  My plan is still to have a class project sharing time on WednesdayThursdayyou are all invited to school!  (Hopefully you knew this).  Sing-along in the gym at 9:15, then a little visit in our class until 10:15 or 10:30.  We’ll have our projects up (this was the reason for the due date) and hopefully play some ukulele for anyone who can come!  (There may be some extra ukes if you’d like to join in).

Hope to see you this week!





Exploring Canada

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Hello Folks at Home!  We have been studying Canada‘s Physical Regions for the past while.  You can hopefully see from this little slideshow that the students became “experts” on one region, and then became “teachers” of the students from other regions.  As a process, I think there was good learning around working together.  In terms of content, I think they each got a flavour of at least most of the regions.   Last week, we “flew” across the country via a film called Over Canada, just so we could have a look at this big, beautiful, diverse land of ours.  (Here’s the link if you’re interested of if your child was away).  We then explored a cool mapping website that looks at the traditional Indigenous territories and languages across the land.  We were all amazed at how many there were.

Launched today, each child is going to do an “independent” project on one province or territory.  It’s a pretty short timeline, partly because it would be great to have them up for December 13 when families are going to be invited in for a pre-holiday visit.  (More information on that should be coming home today).

We will devote lots of class time to this!  But I have said students may work on the projects at home if they choose.  This does not mean you, parents, have to spend the next two weekends cutting and pasting and colouring.  But your kids can.  I’ll be assessing them based on the knowledge they can convey in our sharing sessions, as well as the writing they do at school.  All the fun artsy bits they can work away at wherever.  I will make bristol board available to kids when they have enough bits ready, but I will encourage them not to attach anything until late in the game.

Here’s the outline/checklist, which they have a copy of at school.

Province Project

Over the next three weeks, you will produce a short project on a Canadian Province.  Your project will be displayed in poster form, and is meant to teach others about the province.  Here is your checklist:

Illustrations *(at least two of these)

  • Map showing some of the major towns, cities, waterways.
  • Animal from that province.
  • A scenic picture that shows some of the natural features of the province (you may do more than one).

*At least one of these illustrations must be done by hand (pencil crayons are recommended) as opposed to printed off the Internet

Facts (you can arrange these in boxes or lists, or however you like)  

  • A few quick facts, arranged as you like:  population, area (size), name of Premier, average temperature, famous people or events, any other interesting facts you think are worth sharing.
  • Some of the Indigenous groups that are represented in this Province.  (You may want to visit the “Native Land” website we looked at before)
  • Environment:  How does the environment affect how people live? (What do they do for work and fun?).  What environmental problems does the province have?

Short persuasive letter

  • Imagine you’ve been hired by the provincial government to promote the advantages of living in this province.  Try to convince someone of the opportunities and advantages their life would have should they move to your province.  This should include details and facts that might describe:
  • Industry:  what kind of work might someone find here?
  • What languages are spoken?
  • Climate:  What’s the weather like?
  • Festivals or other special events unique to this province
  • Recreation:  what do people do for fun?

Have fun!  Be original and creative!    

Due:  December 12th

Claymation workshop at the Library

Hello folks!  I see that it is a full month since I did a blog post!  I am sorry about that.  I’ll confess that my available time has been hugely crunched in November for family reasons.  And there is so much I want to share about all that’s been going on!   I need to find a way to create shorter or faster posts.  The key, I know, is to get the kids doing it, so I’ll work on making that happen over the next week or two.

I will share that our trip to Calvin Park Library yesterday was lovely.  The kids were delighted to get library cards and borrow books on their own, and I was delighted to see that!  (We’ll likely go to the library again, maybe the downtown branch when it opens in the new year).   Sarah, the librarian who presented to us, sent me an email commenting upon how great the kids were.  Also, because Eric asked, she also added information about a workshop that is beginning soon.  It’ll be fun, and it’s free!  Three Tuesdays in December–registration this weekend!


Tuesday, December 4 – December 18, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

kfpl.labs (make – learn – discover) • Children

Calvin Park Branch, CP Community Room

Registration starts on November 24 at 9:00 am

Make animated Claymation movies! Over three weeks, design and create clay figures and sets, and film stop-motion animated movies. Filming will be done in small groups of 2 or 3, with one iPad per group. Bring your story ideas and we will provide the rest! Register for one or both sessions. For kids ages 8 to 13.


That’s it for now.  I’ll do a longer post with pictures soon.

Voters in action!

Quote of the day:

“When I went to mark the little circle on the ballot, my legs were shaking from excitement!”

No point in me saying much more than that.  I am so proud of how maturely and seriously the students approached this whole process this week and today.   A Municipal election is so much more relevant for the kids in some ways, but is also so complicated!   Good for them!

And not only were we voting, we were running the vote for all the classes participating.  So: checking voter lists (“Name please?”) scrutinizing ballots, counting and tallying votes.   Official name tags!

The Student Vote results are published following the release of the official election results.  So we’ll have a look at all of it next week.

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Votes, fractions, pickles and other stuff

O.K., tomorrow is the vote!  I’ve been so impressed with the conversations we’ve had this week, and the maturity and seriousness the students have brought to investigating the various candidates.  Today, in addition to scoping out the candidates for Trustee, we discussed whether kids even should be thinking about this “grown-up” stuff, and why it might or might not be a good idea to participate.

And we did some cool exploring and reasoning and explaining about our representing in mathematics.  The task:  create (at least) six models that showed “half”.   Very interesting for me to see what they see as half and what they are not intuitively seeing as half.  Gives us some places to go (including one quarter and five-eighths), which is good!

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Also, we ate pickles.

I’ll leave it to your children to explain why we ate pickles.  Suffice it to say, it had everything to do with this lovely book, which we are almost finished.   It will be available for borrowing for students who wish to read it on their own or bring it home for family reading.


Student Vote this Friday, October 19th

Every election in Canada, and currently for the municipal elections in Ontario, there is a parallel student vote.  This was begun by people who recognized that voter participation was low, and especially so among young people.  The reasoning is that by engaging kids even earlier than they can officially vote we may create more participation for life!  If you are interested in knowing more, here is a link.

But figuring out who to vote for is complicated! 

So today we began to look at the websites and media interviews for various mayoral candidates.   (Tomorrow we’ll look at councilors and the next day try to make sense of the trustees–it’s a lot!)

Our general questions in forming our own views are:

  • What would you keep the same? 
  • What would you change?
  • What could be improved?
  • What needs to be fixed or built?

We were also on the lookout for the candidates’ opinions about jobs, taxes, housing, roads, environment and development.  Obviously these are pretty grown-up ideas, but hey, we’re growing up!

To give you more chance to discuss this at home–and especially for those who were out of class today for the Fort Henry race or any other reason–here are the links we looked at today.   The very first one may be the easiest, as it has films of each candidate being interviewed.

Mayoral Candidates

All Candidates:

Bryan Paterson:

Vicki Schmolka:




Some artifacts from our week

Rather than me explaining everything, here are some pictures of things that have been a part of the last day or two.  (If you click on them, they should get big).  With your child, have a look at the pictures and see what they can (hopefully) tell you about what the picture represents, what the activity is that connects to the picture, and maybe what understanding or question remains.

As always, your comments are welcome!