Monday, December 10, 2012

And So....The Learning and Sharing Continues!

We Have a New Project!

Over the 2011/2012 school year, Pete and I have worked on a "Teacher Learning and Leadership Program" (TLLP) with the Ontario Ministry of Education. Our project has focused on the inquiry approach to teaching. We developed a website and I started this blog. It was an amazing year of learning and teaching for us and for our students and we thought that the project had come to an end.

...That is until we learned about the "Provincial Knowledge Exchange" (PKE) project created by the Ministry of Education at the "Sharing the Learning" Summit, in November.  All TLLP participants gather at this Summit for an opportunity to share their year-long learning and accomplishments.

"Sharing the Learning" Summit in Toronto - November 2012

The Ministry wants to continue to share the growth and learning that the TLLP participants have gained throughout the year.  This program provides funding for teachers to get together to share their expertise and refine their practice! We's the missing link! Please visit the following link for information~ TLLP  and PKE ~ Maybe we can bring our learning to you by visiting your school. Check it out!


Our PKE project has been approved and we are now able to continue working with teachers and on our own project. With the support of our board, we will be able to share our learning about inquiry-based teaching and learning with teachers and their students. We're hoping to visit classrooms for "A Day of Inquiry" and we will explore with teachers the 'Steps to Inquiry.'  Pete and I will also be available to continue to support through our website, email and perhaps more visits. We are very excited about being able to continue our learning and appreciate the professional development opportunity.

 Thanks to the TLLP team for the creative and open-minded thinking.  Their willingness to allow teachers to take their Professional Development into their own hands, deserves to be congratulated. 

It's PD that is revolutionary!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Reading in Kindergarten!

Students love to read in Kindergarten. The bean bag chair is a favourite spot!

The bat cave is another great place to read.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Vimy Ridge

The students had an opportunity to Skype with a staff member from the Vimy Ridge, Canadian Memorial Site in France. To prepare the students for the chat, we discussed the... who, what, where, when and why we have monuments and memorial sites.

We traveled to Northern France using Google Earth and studied the area. We also looked at the city of Arras, where the Canadian staff and university students live.

Our students had a chance to watch a slide show of the site, clips of culture and war from the BrainPop app and video clips from the National Film Board (NFB) app. Once they had a basic understanding they were able to ask effective questions.

The students were well prepared for a great Skype chat.

Do you Skype with your students?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Steps to Implementation!

The iPads are here!

We have 10 iPads in our school. They are being used in classrooms as supplement to the school's laptop (20) cart.

There were so many things for us to consider when setting up iPads for the school. Our beginning steps started with:

  1. Set up with school network
  2. Purchase covers to protect the iPad
  3. Purchase a rack to store and carry iPads to classrooms
  4. Open a school gmail account and a iTune's account
  5. Assign a number to each iPad
On each iPad in settings, under general, we changed:
  1. Restrictions- Installing Apps-off and Deleting Apps-off
  2. Accessibility - Speak Selection - on
  3. Location Services - Find My iPad-on
Apps purchased:

Keynote for presentations
Pages for word processing
iMovie for movie making
ComicLife for writing and sharing

Stay Tuned---More to Share!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Inquiry Learning in a Primary Classroom

This inquiry began with a read-aloud about animals in winter. The students had many questions and while their teacher had other plans she decided to let the students drive the inquiry. It turned out to be a successful week long investigation with lots of learning!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Twitter - My Virtual Staffroom!

Funny thing about Twitter, you either love it or well, snicker at it! I must admit, I once thought it was a trivial tool...who cares about what I've had for breakfast? But that's not it at all!  I now consider it to be one of the most valuable and powerful tools, that I use for personal and professional development. 

Twitter is my virtual staffroom! It helps me keep up with the latest trends and ongoing professional discourse. A quick skim through my tweet thread can lead me to more relevant Professional Development than a day or two sitting in a workshop. This online community provides me with a unique opportunity for quality learning that is ongoing, timely, interactive and personal. It is where I find great links, resources and ideas. It's where I share my work, communicate and collaborate with amazing and inspiring people from around the world! 

While I continue to build my network, I enjoy following and learning from:   @dougpete @Stephen_Hurley @shareski @cybraryman1 @tomwhitby @heidiSiwak @tonyvincent @techieAng @acampbell99 @royanlee @SNewco @whatedsaid @web20classroom... 

If you’re resisting Twitter- DON'T- give it a try. Open yourself up to the possibilities of what a professional online community has to offer. You won’t regret it. 

Tweet Soon! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Steps to Inquiry

Step 1: Teachers gather and collect as much information as possible on the subject in order to help students with research, investigations and inquiries. Our grade one teacher gives each group, small clip boards to take notes, a basket to organize material and sticky notes to post information on charts.

Finding great websites for research
Step 2: Teachers help to develop background knowledge for students. Creating a graphic organizer such as a Know-What-Learn-Find (KWLF) chart can help build knowledge. This process helps a student develop questions and helps to develop a curiosity for the subject.

Gr. 1 What I know & Questions I have
Grade 5/6 KWLF
Step 3: Teachers share mentor texts and model lessons. Pete and Danielle spend a good deal of time building background knowledge, asking questions and demonstrating the inquiry process through mini-lessons.

Mentor Text
Teacher Models

Step 4: Teachers give students a choice of what they would like to learn more about. In the grade one class students were learning about animals. They brainstormed a list, then each student selected the animal they wanted to investigate. 

Student selects an animal for inquiry project
Step 5: Students explore and track their thinking around their understanding and learning of a subject. During the grade one animal study, these boys were focused, engaged and very excited about working on their inquiry project. It's interesting to note that even though the text was beyond their reading level, they were able to use charts and graphics to learn about their animal of study.

Step 6: Students collaborate and work together to gather and share information.


Engaged and Motivated

Step 7: Students present and share their learning. As peers listen to presentation, they take notes and list their questions on post-it notes and prepare to give positive feedback.

Listing questions for presenters

 Step 8: Public sharing! 

Sharing our learning!
Check out the movie clip I made about the grade 1 inquiry using the Animoto app -

Inquiring minds want to know! Please share your steps to inquiry!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Our TLLP Experience!

Pete shares his thoughts about our year long project with the Ontario Ministry of Education's Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP). The TLLP is an annual project-based professional learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Year End Bulletin Board

Great way to reflect on a year of learning together in a grade 1 & 2 class!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Persuasive Writing

Should There Be Zoos? A Persuasive Text by Tony Stead is the mentor text we used to introduce our students to persuasive writing. The students listened carefully to the book and took up the challenge to write their own class book. They were inspired by the young authors in Stead's book. You could almost hear them thinking...."I can do that!" They worked in teams to write their piece and will publish it soon, using iBooks Author. 

iBooks Author is an amazing app that lets you and your students create beautiful Multi-Touch textbooks for the iPad. Check out the app...You can be an author, too!

Here Pete is modeling reading strategies and teaching text features in order to help students understand how to write a persuasive text. 

We worked together to establish the Success Criteria for writing. Students generated a list of questions and ideas for writing a persuasive text. 
Working on Success Criteria for writing persuasive text. 

The students created a long list of ideas!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Social Studies/Geography/History

The Ministry of Education in Ontario will soon be releasing the new Social Studies/Geography/History curriculum document. Byron Stevenson (OESSTA) explains that the document will explicitly promote the following conceptual frames: significance, continuity and change, perspective, patterns and trends, interrelationships, cause and consequence. The curriculum will focus on the Social Studies inquiry model. There will be a shift from content only to disciplinary thinking. You can find the latest OESSTA newsletter on under the blog tab.

Stay tuned...more to come!


The new Social Studies/Geography/History curriculum is arriving soon! The September 2012 implementation will be optional for school boards however full implementation across the province will be in place for September 2013. 

The Ontario Elementary Social Studies Teachers' Association (OESSTA) is composed of teachers from Public and Catholic School Boards with members from different regions in the province. It is hoped that when the document is released, the association will be involved in activities and events that will support teachers and promote student achievement. 

The following article was posted in the Ontario Elementary Social Studies Teachers' Association (OESSTA) newsletter. (Please note, you can find the newsletter on our website @ under the blog tab.)

We welcome the opportunity to share our website ( and project with OESSTA. The focus of this Teacher Learning and Leadership (TLLP – Ministry of Education) is inquiry-based teaching and learning. We created a website and blog to share our experiences with educators, in the hope that the ideas and strategies noted could be put into practice right away.

Our original project proposal was to use the inquiry approach in a grade 5/6 social studies classroom. Soon, we discovered that the move toward inquiry was by no means restricted to one subject area.  Needless to say, our project has grown in ways we never considered. First and foremost, it was our own attitude and pure enjoyment of working with small groups of students as they explore and collaborate, and letting go of the idea that we are “the keeper of knowledge” to now  “facilitator of learning”. Our enthusiasm spread across the school, so we started a book club, using “Comprehension & Collaboration, Inquiry Circles in Action” by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels. Soon, a few classroom teachers were using the inquiry approach, so we started a blog to share the school experience ( Second, the management of ‘covering’ all strands of curriculum throughout the day is easily accomplished because the inquiry investigations are embedded in our everyday learning and thinking.  Thirdly, it is the total engagement and motivation that the students display during their investigation that has been the most rewarding. Finally, the quality and caliber of student work and, their level of thinking and understanding has far outreached our expectations when we started our inquiry approach to teaching and learning.

If you have time to visit our website, please leave comments and/or feedback. We are interested in knowing what you think. Also, we’d like to open the site in order to share ideas and lessons from you, too… that could be a powerful inquiry resource.

Yours in Education,
Louise Robitaille & Peter Douglas

Sunday, May 20, 2012

News Report

Students had to write a “Natural Disaster News Report” for our next inquiry project. Each group picked a natural disaster – Mudslide, Earthquake, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Tsunami, and Volcanoes. Each group was assigned a breaking story from the news desk. This was their big chance to make it in the world of news reporting, so the story and presentation had to be just right. Their task had many parts including research, organizing information, writing scripts and producing a fantastic newscast, complete with graphics and in-depth commentary. The following is the student activity card that we provided students to guide their learning. As always, our students amazed us with the quality of their work.

Student Activity Card:
  1. Begin by researching your topic area in detail. Learn how your natural disaster is caused and have a look at similar events in the past. You may want to watch a rival news organization’s telecast to get ideas for your own. Be sure to understand the underlying causes before you begin. Charts, pictures, videos and raps are always helpful.
  2. 2. Take you graphic organizer and begin organizing your points under topic headings –Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. (Remember, this is a fabricated natural disaster story by your group it must be as real as possible_ Include lots of details about what caused the disaster, who it affects, where it occurred and son on.
  3. Begin writing your script using the notes gathered on your organizer. Remember that a good news story begins with a LEAD and uses the INVERTED PYRAMID design. Your lead gives all the important information up front and then provides details as the article continues.
  4. Using your computer, begin searching for a good background for your report. Select a great news desk background using the ‘effects’ in Photo Booth. Next, find some video footage of natural disasters and insert that into the effects. Your ‘reporter’ can be filming live from the event with interview with various scientists who try to explain the causes of the natural disaster and ‘impart statements’ from the victims.
  5. Get into production! Assign roles to your group members, plan your work and work your plan. Use iMovie to complete the finals newscast. Have fun and learn a ton!

What kind of "News Report" are your students writing? Feedback and comments are welcomed!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Natural Disasters

Our grade 5/6 students had a great time, learning about natural disasters. Their interest and curiosity about the 'how' and 'why' of disasters inspired them to investigate and learn as much as they could. The six teams researched: Earthquakes, Mudslides, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, Hurricanes & Tornadoes.

Each team had to research their natural disaster and they had to present the information to their peers in a unique way. One group presented and created a newscast (using iMovie and PhotoBooth) about a fictional community that had been destroyed by a hurricane.  They had a reporter, an expert, survivors, and video clips of a hurricane embedded in the news clip. This group learned a lot about hurricanes, how they work and about the damage that can occur to the land and buildings.

Hope you will stay tuned for our inquiry about the environment! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PD for Teachers!

While reading twitter,  @dougpete mentioned an article from the National Post by Tristin Hopper called “Is the PD Day Broken? Professional Development Days May Do Little to Improve Teaching.” It talks about Bill Whelan’s  (a Medical Physicist at the University of P.E.I.)  recommendation as co-chair of a one year commission tasked with modernizing P.E.I.’s school system. His prominent call was for PD reform! He told the P.E.I. Ministry of Education to have a “long, hard look at PD, or ‘professional development,’ days.” Hopper’s article,  continues to share what he learned about PD in B.C., Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan & the Yukon, all comments suggested that many teachers/administrators are unhappy with PD days provided in their province.

Whelan did look at a report from a team of Stanford researchers at education systems in Singapore and Finland, two countries that rank at the top of the charts in student aptitude. He found that a lot more time was spent away from the classroom than North American teachers. Teachers in Helsinki spend 40% of their time “analyzing lessons, meeting with students and going over new teaching methods.” Stanford’s recommendation for the U.S. was that schools needed a massive surge of resources into PD. Whelan’s final recommendation for P.E.I. PD for teachers was to build: ‘at-the-elbow’ coaching, weekly collaboration meetings and to allow for teachers to watch a more experienced colleague at work.

This leads me to the project that my colleague and I are working on with the Ontario Ministry of Education. It’s the ‘Teacher Learning and Leadership Program” (TLLP) and it is an annual project-based professional learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers. In the fall of 2010, we wrote a proposal centred around “inquiry-based learning and teaching with technology,”  that the Ministry approved and we began in the spring of 2011.

Our TLLP project has been the “Best Job-Embedded Professional Development” that any teacher could ever dream of. We built our own budget around the costs of reaching our project goals, including time for research, time for planning, and going over new teaching methods.  The TLLP recognized our experience and professionalism, thus providing us with the resource to help us solve problems that were particular to our classroom; student engagement and motivation!  It’s PD that is opposite to “One size fits ALL.”

Teacher PD

It’s ironic that our project is about student driven, “inquiry-based learning” since the TLLP has allowed us as teachers, to be inquiry learners…that is teacher driven not board/district driven. Our project included a budget that would cover supply teachers  for anyone interested in visiting our classroom, “a classroom in action” (  The response from teachers visiting our personally developed PD is “the best PD I’ve ever attended.”  It has been very rewarding for us, for visiting teachers, administrators and for our students. Our learning and effective practices have allowed our students to grow and learn in an “inquiry-based classroom” that have exceeded our expectations. Students are now, excited about coming to school and they are enthusiastic about learning.

Would this shift from a traditional style of teaching to an inquiry style of teaching,  have happened for us with a PD day at the school board/district level? Probably not! How do you engage in PD in your board/district? Could Canadian boards/districts model the Helsinki format for PD? I would love to hear how you meet personal PD, how your board/district provides PD and what you think would be the best way to offer Canadian teachers with PD that would make sure quality and effective practices are in place for our students to place at the top of the achievement charts.

Yours in Education,


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Professional Development in Action

It's kind of funny that we are trying to share with you a classroom in action because we realize that we are also trying to share with you "PD in action." For most of the month of April, many teachers from our board/district have been invited to visit our demonstration classroom. We've been working on a 'Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) from the Ontario Ministry of Education, that is a project-based professional learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers. For this project, Pete and I have been investigating and researching inquiry-based learning and teaching. We also included, through our budget, release days, that provided, plan, to build our knowledge and to share our classroom with teachers and colleagues from across the board/district. The classroom visits have been very rewarding. Many teachers have claimed that visiting our project was the "best PD they have ever attended." Yeah!

Classroom in Action
Teacher Collaboration

Teachers and Students Learning Together

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Curiosity Notebook


This grade one/two class started a "Curiosity Notebook" and immediately developed many interesting questions!  They also made a list of ways to find out information with one student suggesting that  they only need to..."Ask the teacher, she knows everything!"

Teachers sharing and learning

As a group of teachers interested in finding out about inquiry-based teaching, we continue to meet to discuss our learning.  The Curiosity Notebook posted above, was developed by the teacher after she read chapter 8 from "Inquiry Circles in Action, Comprehension and Collaboration" by Stephanie Harvey & Harvey Daniels. Another teacher, started a Wonder Board to list all the "wonders" of her grade one students. In the grade 5/6 class, we started with an Inquiry Notebook for each student. As they work through mini-inquiries, the students track their thinking and list their curiosities.

What are you curious about?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Opening Doors

It's an honour and a privilege to open our classroom door for colleagues.  Sharing our learning with teachers continues to be a very positive experience. We are expecting over 15 teachers to cross our doorstep to observe a classroom in action. This opportunity is made possible because of our involvement with the Ministry of Education, Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP).  Many of our guests have commented on the the power of visiting and observing a classroom and appreciate the efforts of our inquiry-based project.

Pre-observation Meeting

Opportunities For Sharing and Learning

Students Enjoy Sharing Their Experience

Our students continue to work diligently on our First Nations/Metis/Inuit project and are not distracted by our visitors. In fact, everyone has been impressed at the level of focused discussion and engagement.  The students love sharing and talking about their work and take pride in presenting quality products.

Comments and feedback are always appreciated. 
Happy Learning & Sharing!