Saturday, February 28, 2015

It's All About The....

...relationships we build in our classrooms!

It's important that teachers create an environment that fosters a sense of community, where all students feel included, appreciated and where their ideas are treated with respect.

One way to do that is to start the year with an amazing project/inquiry. In this grade 4/5 classroom students had the opportunity to build go-karts! This classroom turned into a workshop and let the students know that learning in this inquiry-based classroom would be different. Students responded immediately and couldn't wait to come to school everyday. Building go-karts helped to motivate and engage the students and it helped to build a community of learners, where they learned to listen to each other, collaborate, problem solve and become critical thinkers. 

Classroom workshop!
More pictures and stories to come!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dinosaur Exploration

This kindergarten class had a choice to make! Will they be learning about planets or dinosaurs?

The majority of the kindergarten students decided that they wanted to learn about Dinosaurs. The next step of learning for students was to build their background knowledge. What do they know? What questions do they have? 

Their teachers provided lots of books, showed pictures, showed video clips,  read informational texts, provided fun learning activities that included mapping skills and following directions. The students were able to discover and learn about the life cycle of dinosaurs!

Discovery Table

Follow directions
The students had to follow these dinosaur prints to find a dinosaur's nest and her eggs!
The Nest!
Once they found the eggs, the students had to take them to the water table to learn about melting ice and to discover what was inside the egg!

Melting Eggs

This kindergarten classroom was buzzing with excitement, interest and curiosity.

What has sparked your interest and curiosity lately?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

OESSTA Newsletter

Check out the newsletter for Ontario Elementary Social Studies Teachers' Association (OESSTA). The following was compiled by Byron Stevenson:

OESSTA News #8

Hello teachers , I have included a variety of materials that support the teaching of Social Studies History and Geography focusing on the 2013 Revised Curriculum. There are a variety of professional learning opportunities available to you that will enhance your practice.

We have also completed most of our projects related to the roll out. They are posted on our temporarily on our blog Do visit and see what we have created. In addition our new website will be ready shortly. The main feature of the website will be a forum to promote sharing and collaboration. Please share with your colleagues.

Professional Learning Opportunities
Please promote the conference within your district school board.

A) Ontario Elementary Social Studies Teachers Association Conference - OESSTA in conjunction with OAGEE will hold a conference at Ryerson University on October 17 & 18, 2014.

The conference will highlight teaching/learning approaches and resources related to the 2013 Revised SSHG curricuum document.

Registration has just opened:
Select the OESSTA section for registration. There are session relating to : inquiry, spatial technologies, using primary sources, teaching an African Canadian perspective , leading teachers with the revised curriculum, and working with the concepts of thinking.

B) Connecting with your colleagues across the province using twitter!

Teachers and administrators are invited to participate in the Ontario Elementary Social Studies Teachers Association (OESSTA) social media network to explore the New Revised SSHG on twitter @oessta1 using the hashtag #ontsshg for discussion. There will be a twitter chat on Thursday nights at 9:00-10:00 PM to discuss, share ideas and strategies. Hope you will follow!

Upcoming chats:  October 9/14 - Sharing effective practices for SSHG

(PLEASE CONSIDER facilitating (or co-facilitating) a #ontsshg Twitter chat on Thursday at 9pm - DM your email address to @Robitaille2011 - thank you)

C) Webinar - Heritage Minutes (register today) - Heritage Minutes, also known officially as Historica Minutes: History by the Minute, is a series of sixty-second short films, each illustrating an important moment in Canadian history.

Presented by Historica Canada in conjunction with The Ontario Elementary Social Studies Teachers Association (OESSTA) - October 8, 2014 3:45-4:30 - OPEN TO ALL

D) OTF Connects… small, frequent doses of valuable PD designed to fit your needs and your schedule

Registration opens -  October 7, 2014

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation cares about supporting your learning and is pleased to continue to offer OTF Connects. The OTF Connects program is online, ongoing support developed by teachers for teachers. A wide variety of session topics are available in the 2014-2015 calendar, including 21st Century Learning, Critical Thinking, Environmental Education, Financial Literacy and Violence Prevention.


1) What is Inquiry-Based Learning? (read this article about two OESSTA members)
“Inquiry-based teaching is an approach to instruction that begins with exploring curriculum content and providing a framework for the students to ask their own questions which builds interest and curiosity,” says Louise Robitaille, an elementary teacher in Midland.
Visit the inquiry website for more ideas at

2) The Thinking Teacher
The Thinking Teacher highlights ideas, strategies and resources for teachers and educational leaders who are working to support critical thinking in K-12 classrooms.

History? HERstory! Daily life of a pioneer woman - October is Women’s History Month. Invite students to determine what daily life was like for pioneer women at the turn of the 20thcentury using photographs, interviews and even a letter-to-the-editor. The set of History Docs,Daily life for pioneers 1890-1914, contains source documents, an image viewer, student tasks and teacher notes.

Targeted grades: Middle

View the History Doc

Find out more about the History Docs collection.

See more resources in The Thinking Teacher archives.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What Happens When....

...the eggs don't hatch!

Our classroom of grade two students, were very excited when their teachers introduced the idea of learning about the life cycle of a chicken. Their class would watch and care for eggs that would be in the incubator, those eggs would hatch and they would have baby chicks in their classroom. And so, the inquiry began!

The teachers rented an incubator, bought fertilized eggs and waited for the eggs to hatch. All of the students could hardly contain their excitement. It turned out to be a school wide event. Everyone was counting down the days for the big hatch! We even had a team of staff members that came into the school on weekends to turn the eggs over twice a day.

Students started researching, asking questions and wondering about the life cycle. Their teachers gathered books, read stories, explored other life cycles and compared them. This group of grade two students were writing, reading, learning, asking questions and wondering. It was perfect!

Except, day 21 came and went, still no chicks! WHAT HAPPENS WHEN...the eggs don't hatch! What would you do?

Well, our teachers jumped into action, and called a local farmer to order 6, day old chicks. But first, they would have to set the stage. They drew cracks on the eggs, made little holes, and spent the day talking about how the eggs would probably hatch during the night. The students were so excited when they left school that day, and we heard from parents, that many of the students could not sleep that night.

Once the students were home for the evening,  our teachers "planted" the chicks! Yeah, the chicks had arrived, and the next day, the class spent most of their time sitting and watching the chicks.

The chicks stayed at school for two days, every classroom came to visit the chicks. The grade two students shared their learning and observations. They started a survey, "What is your favourite name for a chick?" Just so you know, the name Fluffy, had the most votes.

On the night the chicks were going to be delivered to the farm, our students left the school, crying and talking about how they would miss the chicks. This inquiry will be an experience these children will never forget!  Check out our 'Animoto' movie here!

What would you do? Please share!

P.S. Don't let your students google "chicks" in images!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Importance of Sharing!

One of the important pieces of the inquiry-approach to teaching and learning is the sharing part. No longer, does students' work sit on a teacher's desk waiting to be marked. Students are constantly sharing their work and we have noticed that the quality and the pride that our students show in their work have increased 100%. In the previous post, we looked at the work that was being done in a grade one class. Below you will find photos of students sharing their finished product.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Busy and Active in Grade One!

Our Grade One teacher always organizes the day for active learning. Students are engaged, motivated and ready to learn in this classroom! Students have been learning about money and working in centres that were developed by the teacher for hands-on learning. The following are pictures of a Grade One classroom in action.

Computer Centre

Interactive White Board Centre

Stamp Centre

Puzzle Centre

Making a Book Centre
Writing a Menu Centre

This group of students were also busy learning about simple machines. They worked in centres throughout the inquiry and their culminating task was to design and build a simple machine. Most had never touched a hammer or nail before this project. They loved it! 

What kind of active learning is happening in your classroom? Please share!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Twitter Hashtags

Starting a New #Hashtag

Twitter is my virtual staffroom. It helps me keep up with latest trends and ongoing professional discourse. The benefits of this tool as PD inspired me to start the #ontsshg hashtag that would focus a discussion with fellow educators around Social Studies/History & Geography (SSHG). Specifically, the chat was created to have a professional dialogue around the implementation of Ontario’s SSHGcurriculum document September 2014.  Using hashtags on twitter is a way to search for tweets that have a common topic and it’s a great place for people to connect,  share ideas, questions, and resources.

The tools and strategies presented in the SSHG document are for some of us, a shift in teaching and learning.  The focus is on: the inquiry process, concepts of disciplinary thinking and the citizenship education framework.  Using twitter and the #ontsshg hashtag is a vehicle to support the shift in pedagogical thinking with educators. 

#ontsshg meet on Twitter every second Thursday at 9:00pm with a variety of topics related to Social Studies, History & Geography. This has opened up a whole new way of sharing, not just with Ontario teachers but also with teachers from around the world. At times, we’ve even teamed up with other professional discussions that are connected to our topic and created the #inqsshg hashtag. In general, the use of #ontsshg has provided educators with great discussions, ideas and resources related to the document. Topics such as; the inquiry approach (which continues to be a hot topic), historical thinking concepts and citizenship education have generated links to resources, questions and ideas from a variety of people.

Please consider joining #ontsshg for a rich discussion around Social Studies/History and Geography -SSHG on alternate Thursday at 9:00 PM EST.