Storymaking & Leadership Essays Continued…

Yesterday in division two we took some time to really focus on the structure of a well-written story. We analyzed “A Team Like No Other” and mapped out its key elements on a “story map” template. Together we identified the setting, the characters, the main events in sequence, the problem, the solution and the ending. Students had a chance to practice retelling the story in their own words both at school and at home later as homework in order to continue building confidence as skills as storytellers.

Later that day, students used their creativity in teams to create and present new mathematical versions of the story from the morning during our Math Stories block. The challenge was to find ways to embed at least 3 math questions (using a variety of operations) into a story retelling in a way that was natural and faithful to the plot.

In the afternoon we focused on editing our “Leadership Essays” with peer support. Students practiced using editing marks and offering constructive feedback. The wonderful Ms. Holman joined us for this lesson to provide support and new helpful ideas to grow our writing practices. Students were challenged to decide upon at least one new big ideas to add and develop into a full paragraph for our next editing session. We will continue to edit and build upon these essays until they are polished examples of our best work—then we will read them aloud in class for public speaking practice. Some students, with parent permission, may choose to go on to create a video version of their essays in the style of a “TED Talk”.

Leadership Essays & Athletics

Happy Friday, everyone! Today in division 2 the students enjoyed listening to and reflecting upon their recording of yesterday’s leadership dialogue. Then they made their own notes of points they felt stood out, and then organized their ideas into thoughtful instructive essays on the topic “How to Be a Leader”. Next week the students will edit and develop their essays further by adding more examples and stories. Eventually students will share their advice for leaders as speeches, which they may present live or on video depending on preference and permissions.

During PE today students had a fun mix of hockey, invented fantasy games, basketball trick practices, skipping and gymnastics presentations.

Leadership, Divisibility & More Math Stories

Highlights of the wonderful thoughts shared by our young leaders in div. 2! (Privacy Note: No names, no faces, and no identifying comments or sensitive content are ever shared to protect anonymity.)

Today in division 2, the students had a powerful dialogue in response to this question: What is a leader? I was so moved and impressed by the maturity of everyone’s reflections. We are beginning to think more about leadership as it connects to our Career Education curriculum, especially as we look for ways to practice leadership skills though our Personal Interest Projects. As well, students made connections to past Social Studies learning by naming notable historical leaders.

Moving towards sharpening our storytelling and speaking skills, we also considered some leadership story frameworks. For example, we played with a “mentoring” story framework called “When I was Yoda” that is one of the classic plot archetypes discussed by storyteller and business writer David Hutchins in his book, “Circle of the 9 Muses: A Storytelling Field Guide for Innovators and Meaning Makers”.

In math, we learned about divisibility rules and some students chose to explore an enrichment lesson introducing exponents. Then in the afternoon we continued on with making and sharing math stories. There were also a few fun chess games played today!

Making Math Stories…

We joyfully advanced our storytelling unit today: making math stories!

To start, I shared some ways my sons use their collection of storytelling bits and bobs at our house. Our collection includes animal and people figurines, rocks, shells, fabric and felt, string, crystals, various counters, dice, and more.

Then we discussed ways to source and create new story props, using free and recycled materials.

Next, we discussed and modelled how even the simplest things can be transformed into magical objects of wonder—especially when presented in a compelling narrative by an engaging speaker.

We reviewed story structure and conventions, and then spoke about the pros and cons of creating stories within constraints.

Then I asked students to create mathematical stories with a clear beginning, middle and end and at least 3 math questions, preferably using different operations. Our story making constraints were for students to select from a limited supplies list, which included just chess pieces, paper, base ten blocks, and counters. The purpose of such constraint was to force more creativity within the limits to prove to students that stories depend more on imagination than fancy materials. (Another constraint we used was that stories must be “school appropriate”.)

How did it all go? Amazing! There was so much meaningful discussion, thoughtful planning and a demonstration of whimsy and humour. This may have been my favourite math session of all time.

Next Thursday, we continue math story making, taking it to new levels with increasing demands on the quality and complexity of math questions they work into their stories. Students are invited to bring in any small props of their choosing, so long as their props can all fit into their new wooden math stories boxes that I will provide for storage.

In addition to learning about storytelling traditions across cultures, our goals this term are for students to develop their story-making lexicon, increasingly apply literary devices, create their own “Story Banks” drawing upon of a variety of narratives types (such as a hero’s journey), and to practice storytelling frequently in order to increase their skills and build their confidence as speakers.

Hummingbird Lessons

Welcome back, division 2! It’s wonderful to see you again. Today we began with discussing important reminders about how we can keep one another healthy through social distancing in class, wearing our masks consistently and washing our hands frequently.

Parents and guardians, we thank you for helping students to do their daily health checks and to remember to bring to their masks (and keep 1-2 back-up masks in backpacks at all times).

Please stay home if you have signs of illness. I will provide catch up work for students if desired. Please check in with this blog on days you are absent to see what we explored in class. I will not post every day but I will try to post more often now to keep students who are at home feeling connected.

Today we read aloud the story “Flight of the Hummingbird” that features illustrations by Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. Then we watched this video illustrating the book:

Students also read some interesting science facts about these small, mighty birds and completed some connected language arts activities. Then, they painted their own beautiful hummingbirds.

We also introduced cursive writing today. Students were challenged to write their own first and last names in cursive in a clear and legible way. We discussed how there is literacy value in being able to read scripted text and how a unique cursive signature may develop over time.

TODAY’S HOMEWORK: I asked students to retell “Flight of the Hummingbird” to a family member at home this evening and to share what they believe the message of the story is. We will be focussing more on oral language skills in term two (public speaking and storytelling), and so it’s helpful for students to begin practicing these skills at home.

Starting the P.I.P. Journey: Identifying Our Multiple Intelligences

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” -Pablo Picasso

I believe that every child has infinite gifts to discover and share with the world. Empowering my students to apply their gifts to make meaningful contributions is my passion in life. So I am so excited to announce that students in our class is are about to begin Personal Interest Projects!

When doing a Personal Interest Project (P.I.P.), a student identifies an area of passion for the focus of a long term inquiry and that process culminates in the creation of a special product of learning. Students in our class will have time each week to work on their P.I.P.s, and they will present them during our class “P.I.P. Fair” in June.

Each student will choose his or her own topic and create something unique. For example, perhaps a student will work all year to write a graphic novel, create board game, start a small business selling artwork, create a podcast, design a line of fashions, invent a gadget, present a speech in a “TED Talk” format, or start a charity. Whatever a student chooses to do, the goal will be to take that project to the highest level of quality possible in the timeframe. Students should choose a topic and project idea they love and can feel truly represents who they are and their best work.

This P.I.P. journey will be a fun way for students to develop their core competencies and explore the learning standards all across the BC curriculum in personalized and meaningful ways—with powerful connections to the topics in grade 4 and 5 Language Arts, Career Ed., and Applied Design, Skills and Technology (ADST).

This sketch helps me explain the 10-step P.I.P process to my students.

While a P.I.P. is an independent project, students will be well supported in class throughout the process. I will teach students to move through a structured ten-step P.I.P. process that I developed over the last 16 years as an educator. (I used to teach my P.I.P. course to students in private online gifted enrichment classes, so I have lots of instructional videos to correspond with each step of the P.I.P. process. I am happy that I will be able to share many of those videos with you here on the blog so you can follow long with our learning.)

*Here is a link to a video that I use to introduce the P.I.P. process:

There will be more information about P.I.P.s and the 10-steps process in future blog posts.

For now, I wanted to let you know that this week our class will begin the first step of the P.I.P, and that is “Step 1: Find Your Passion”. This step helps students narrow an area of interest or passion, and we start by taking inventory of our areas of particular ability: our multiple intelligences. Here is a video I made to introduce the theory of multiple intelligences to students.

Video Link if the above embedded link does not work:

Watercolour Painting, Writers Workshop, & Handball

We had a fun and busy Monday! We started our day with Language Arts, analyzing and evaluating four samples of writing using our new Proficiency Scale rubric. We had lots of great debate about what makes a quality piece of writing, and we checked our understanding against the rubic. We also practiced how to give one another constructive feedback and editing advice in ways that are honest, helpful and kind. (More on this in the future!)

Then, in Art, we experimented with creating gradations of colour and we created a colour scales using watercolour paint.

After a game of Handball in the gym, we returned to our Art lesson to try applying a “wet on wet” watercolour painting technique to create realistic looking apples. This is a continuation of an interdisciplinary unit exploring the uses, biology, history, and cultural significance of apples. Last week we researched apples using a variety of online sources, and we also began to build vocabulary in preparation to write “5 senses poems” about apples.