Thanks; signing off for now…

Here we are with Annie behind us on the screen!

Hello Folks at Home,

Here is one final post to cap off my infrequent posts this year.  Lots here.

The question that titles this blog and that has to some extent guided us all year is “Who in the World Am I?”  While I don’t think we have an answer (and didn’t expect to) I do think we have done some work to see the world, and ourselves in it, and to think about who we are.  What I know is that I have been very, very lucky to get to this bunch in this configuration at this age.  Hooray for Grade 4 and 5!  Thank you for trusting to me this wonderful bunch of people.

I must express in this public space my gratitude to the sunny and magical Sarah Hogan, our venerable EA.  Her work to support Kalifah was amazing (and often highly aerobic), but she supported the whole class in many ways, not least me with her wisdom and insight.  We are lucky to have her!

You will likely know that I’m slated for a 5/6 next year.  Allowing that Everything Can Change over the summer, this will certainly mean I’ll have some of these kids again next year.  Hopefully that reality should it occur will not be too tramatic for them in September.

Last week, we spent some time reflecting and remembering.  Two questions–“What did we do?” and “Where did we go?”–are represented in the next picture.  As for “What did we learn?”  I suppose the report cards have something to say about that…  But what I most hope we have learned–and what several students identified a couple of week ago after our Early Civilization projects–is how to learn.  How to ask questions.  How to follow pathways of inquiry.  How to make connections.  How to use resources.  How to find new questions.  How to find help.  How to collaborate in our learning.  How to celebrate and learn  from misunderstandings.  And a sense that the learning journey doesn’t have an end (the journey being the point!).  If your child grew in this way this year, and feels more confident and capable in driving their own learning, then I am delighted.


Independent Orthography Projects

To this end, I have one more project to share.  To round off the year, I asked students to choose a word they would like to investigate–any word.  It was a chance to flex our orthography muscles that we’ve been building all year.

As usual, most jumped in with enthusiasm.  The variety of words was delicious–from the everyday to the relatively rare:  zoom and aquamarine; dog and preposterous;  divide and ghastlypencil and cynical; alone and illumination…and so on.  The reasons for their choices were their own.  The pathways their inquiry took were unpredictable and full of surprises.  (For me also, as always).

For instance, when Irene announced she was going to look at the word pencil, someone called out, “Like penicillin!”  We were all pretty dismissive of that possibility.  But it turns out they do share a root, related to the Latin for “paint brush” (because the mold that makes penicillin looks like paintbrushes under a microscope).  And that pen–which we assumed would  be related to pencil due their similar function and spelling–is not related at all!  (It also comes from Latin but is from the word for feather–get it?).

Eric’s investigation of the wonderful word preposterous revealed it to be a kind of Latin joke word–meaning “before-after”, and one, it seems, that has no base!  It is made solely of affixes!   This led him to also discover that there are three distinct post homographs in English.  And, in looking at the word posthumous discovered that human comes from the word for “Earth”.

Lettuce” is related to galaxy, Kylah?  Yes, because of its “milky” juices.  (If that made you say,”Huh?” check out what the root of galaxy means, and then look up lactose!).

Lenore, wondering about the gh in ghastly, discovered that in Old English it had only a g, but that the h was added because of the spelling of ghost.  This reminded her of an earlier investigation she’d done about the spelling of island where a long-ago misunderstanding gave us a spelling oddity.

Isla looked into the word illuminate, and discovered the word luminary–meaning “someone who shines”.  (Which later made me think about how we will call an expert or pioneer in a field a “leading light”.  These are not coincidences).

And so on!

Does any of this matter?  Well, I think so.  Again, a big part is the “learning to learn.”  Additionally, I believe that continually realizing that “words have stories” helps us all to have faith that there are reasons behind our spellings, and digging in like this exposes us to new vocabulary.  I wonder how long it will be before Isla encounters the new word luminary?

And finally–or perhaps most importantly–we learn about relationships between words that help us understand them better.  A big discovery for me–that I could hardly believe I’d never noticed before–was that divide is the base of individual!  Of course!  Knowing that deepened our grasp of what the latter word means, and will always help me spell it correctly.  If I asked a student to “sound out” individual I can see many pitfalls.  But knowing that divide is the base (and understanding the “connector vowel” element also found in use + u + al) makes it much simpler to discern the structure.

Mostly, it’s cool to know cool stuff.


Checking in with Annie

Most of you will know that our dear friend Annie has been going through a tough time, medically, and has been at Sick Kids’ Hospital in Toronto for more than a month now.  We tried to stay in touch with her during that time, through video conferences and a software called “Padlet”.  Here’s a link to a Padlet that she sent to us, giving us a sense of how she’s doing.

I was lucky enough to get to have a little visit with Annie last Saturday, the 29th, as my partner and I had to be in Toronto.  It was so great to see her, such a sunny kid!  What a time she and her family have had, their lives turned upside down!  She’s getting great care, and is going to be fine–the road to diagnosis and getting her liver functioning is just a slow one.  In the meantime, they believe at this point she’ll be in the hospital for another month or so.

Sick Kids is an amazing place, but even with all they do the days can be long.  If you would like to send a letter or postcard to Annie, I can promise you it will be welcome!  Here is the address

Annie Mastorakos

c/o Sick Kids Hospital

Unit 6B

555 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 1X8

End of Year Pictures from Melissa

Thanks one more time to Melissa Hudson for being our unofficial official photographer this year.  Here’s a link to a bunch more photos from our last weeks in Google Drive.









Two Cool Events this Weekend!

Hello!  Busy time of year (to say the least).  But there are two things happening this weekend that are directly related to our class, so I am sharing them for your consideration!

Bioblitz 2:  The Fossil Edition

This Saturday, June 15th, there is a Bioblitz at the site of the Lennox Generating Station, out near Bath.  Students who enjoyed our time at Wintergreen two weeks ago may enjoy another opportunity to pond dip or learn about bugs, bats and other critters.

But the main reason I know about this is because of fossils!   When we went to Miller Museum a few weeks back, I met with Professor Noel James,head of the Geology Department.  I’d been asking him where we might go for a rock field trip and he said, “There’s this great fossil site at the generating station we take the Queen’s students.”  He kindly helped connect me with folks there, but in the end it was going to be complicated and expensive to do it.

But Professor James will be at Bioblitz!  He’ll do a guided walk to check out this particularly awesome fossil site, normally closed off to the public!   Noel’s walk/talk starts at 9:00 a.m. but there is a whole day of nature stuff!  Here is a link to the full schedule.

The Lennox Generating Station is here:,-76.865716,14z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x89d7dd9542eb3355:0x9c623529c91d978f!8m2!3d44.1442375!4d-76.8482065


Saturday afternoon and evening:  “Mine” at the Isabel Bader

And our own Wylder is in a show!  A rather special show, based upon the relationship between a parent and a child who plays Minecraft.  This has come up very quickly–he only auditioned in the last few weeks and rehearsals start tonight!  Check it out: the Friday show is sold out but as of this morning there were tickets for both Saturday shows.  They are going fast!



Sharing Our Music and Our Learning

Hello folks!  Not much to say about these videos.  They don’t compare to being there live, but they will give a taste of what these awesome kids have achieved over the last while.

Our Uke Concert was completely sweet.  I am hesitant to share the video, with it’s not very good sound and non-thrilling filming angle, because my main interest is in the students’ having enjoyed the learning process and the experience of sharing music.  But here it is for your enjoyment.  I was totally proud of them.



And proud?!  Oh my goodness, these projects were/are fantastic!  Thanks so much to all those who were able to make it in for our Open House.  Again, here’s a taste of the Symposium that hopefully captures how seriously the kids took it all, how proud they are of themselves.  And, by the way, how much they learned!



P.S.  Turns out these two events are orthographically linked:  we figured out last week that <music> and <museum> have the same roots!

Field Trip Photo Blast from the Past

Thanks to Melissa Hudson for accompanying so many trips this year and recording with photos!  I have been slow to get these on the blog because, frankly, it’s been a time-consuming task.  Melissa suggested this new approach in which she just puts the photos in Google Drive files and I provide the links.  You may have to cut and paste the links.  Please let me know how this works for you.

I loved looking back at all the things we’ve done this year–from way back in September to last Friday!

Little Cat Conservation Area: 

Bowling (December):

Gould Lake (January):

Miller Museum (May):

Wintergreen (May): 

Led Zep at LC

Here we are soaking up the Led Zep at LCVI yesterday.  Why did we do this?  Because two weeks ago I went to the LCVI Evening of the Arts and there were three of my former students onstage playing with the Beginner Music Class!  I was so inspired, and wanted our younger students who are likely headed that direction to know that this could be in their future.  Afterwards, I spoke to Mr. McCann, LCVI’s amazing music teacher, and he said, c’mon up!

Following this visit, we practised for our own Uke concert, and the kids sounded so great!  Hope to see you at the assembly today!


BioBlitz this Friday!

BioBlitz is this Friday!  

The weather forecast is good!  It will help everyone’s day if everyone is well-prepared for the adventure.  Here is the information sent from Wintergreen:

Bearing in mind that Wintergreen Studios is in the heart of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, you should prepare yourself with anything you deem necessary for time spent outdoors. Below are our recommendations:

  • Clothing: long pants (light-colour is best), long socks to tuck pants into (+ extra pair), layers (t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, warm sweater/pullover), raincoat, hiking shoes/boots (+ extra pair), hat (**NO SHORTS PLEASE!)
  • Sunscreen, insect repellent, tick repellent (we suggest using natural products, such as rose geranium or tea tree oils, and ask that you avoid using products with DEET)
  • Reusable water bottle (there will be water available at all times for refills)
  • Food all participants are expected to bring a packed lunch and follow boomerang lunch etiquette. (We encourage you to follow the zero-waste initiative, to reduce waste generated by disposable, non-renewable packaging.)
  • Please leave all valuables at home/school.

May 24th Check-in

Click on this to see it big!

Well, hello!  Happy Queen Victoria’s Birthday!

We continue to rock!  Above, the first in our collection of Rock Art mosaics, in which students were invited to invent their own rocks, labelled either igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic.  (Were you to ask them, they should have some good sense of the differences; their art clearly demonstrates that understanding).

In Math right now, we’re looking at how to read analog (face) clocks and how to caluculate elapsed time.  I highly recommend practising this at home.

In Orthography, we’ve been discussing the concept of “twin bases”, which typically come from Latin roots.  The bases of <produce> and <product> are examples.  Keep your eyes open for others; discuss.

Here are some Important Things to be aware of:

Early Civilization Projects

The students have been doing a great job turning their research into paragraphs.  Next week will be a wrap-up week in which all students can put the finishing touches on their written work.  Some are already just about done; they’ll have other work next week.  At this point, I am not anticipating that anyone should need to do any of the writing at home.  My target deadline for the kids’ writing is next Thursday, the 30th.

I know that many artifacts are in production, some are done, while others are about to happen.  I have tried to check in with every student to ensure they are on track and feel that they have what they need to do this at home.  Where needed, I have helped to find materials or time here at school.  Please get in touch early next week if you have any concerns.

We will have our Early Civilizations Museum Open House on June 5th in the middle block of our day, from 12:00 to 1:00.  We will leave artifacts and reports on display until the next day, so if there is anyone who can’t make it earlier but would like to come by after school, this will be easily possible.

Field Trips

What can I say?  I like field trips.

  • LCVI:  Wednesday, May 29th.  We’ve been invited to sit in on the band practice at LCVI next week.  They are preparing for a peformance and could use the audience.  This came up because I was at LC last week and was thrilled to see the Grade 9 Beginner Music class perform, featuring three of my former students, two of whom are siblings of current students.  They were so great.  I did not know that this was an opportunity available (I hope it remains so in the future after all the current cuts) and want our kids to see it in their possible future.  Saxophone!  Trombone!  I spoke to Mr. McCann, the wonderful LC music teacher about this and he said, come on up!  We’ll walk up for 11:10 after an early lunch and return about 11:50.
  • BioBlitz:  Friday, May 31st.   You should have already seen the permission form.  Heed the tick warnings, but don’t panic.  Dress your child with long pants, maybe that they can tuck into their socks, and check them afterward.  Other than that, the day will be awesome and fun.  It’s a beautiful place.

I won’t give details just yet, but be assured I am cooking up at least one more off-site adventure this year.  June is going to need it!

Early Civilization Projects: home stretch

Hello Folks at Home:

I really, really, really hope you know about the Early Civilization Project we’ve been working on.  The students have been doing great on their research and writing.  I sent home a detailed description a month ago, but here is a reminder about the timeline.  Thank you to the many people who indicated they’d seen it.

I am hoping to create a “Museum” Open House in our class one day in the first week of June.  I’ll let you know the date this week and update this post.  That gives two more weekends to work on artifacts.  I’ve tried to check in with all the kids this week to be sure they are on track and have the materials they need.  But please get in touch if you have any concerns or questions.  The idea is simply to have something visual and tactile to go with their project.  It does not need to be a big deal.