Student Activism at Work

Call to City Hall

In response to a project I was involved with last year at Ancaster Meadow, I received a call from the office of City Councillor Aidan Johnson. They offered me an opportunity to bring the students to City Hall to speak on behalf of the environmental impact of water bottles. I explained I am no longer at Ancaster Meadow but could probably round up some interested students.

Several students from our class expressed interest and took home a note last week. On Friday I reminded them to please get back to me ASAP (regarding transportation), so I can  confirm numbers. We will be collaborating with a few of my last year students for a short presentation on May 14th. What a great opportunity!

G7 Summit

On Friday, we took the opportunity to send an email to a government site looking for feedback on issues discussed at this year’s G7 Summit in Quebec. After our research on plastic pollution, we felt we wanted to express our support for talks and action on environmental issues.

Tomorrow, we will be sharing our work through a slide show presentation at the school’s Earth Day Assembly. 

Happy Earth Day!


Congrats! and More

So to start, we want to congratulate our classmate S.M. for her success at the Oral Communications Festival at AM Cunningham School today! She came in second place and will be moving on to the next level of competition at the Board Office. We`re very proud of her.

Monday is when the school will be holding its Earth Day Assembly and we have been asked to share our work about straw pollution. (Very timely, if you`ve listened to the news today!) We are preparing a slide show, and each of us will have a speaking part during the presentation.

We have started work on Data Management this week, discussing the differences between reading, interpreting, and drawing conclusions. To go a little deeper with our thinking, we also tried to determine what information or data was NOT provided. We noted that Tetley included an easy to read graph on their tea box with a specific purpose in mind: To persuade people to avoid high levels of caffeine consumption by switching from coffee to tea. However, we also noted (after some discussion), that decaffeinated tea was shown but decaffeinated coffee was not. Suspecting that perhaps the information might not serve their purpose, we did a bit of research and, sure enough. The amount of caffeine in decaf coffee is less than in a regular cup of tea. Not information Tetley might want to highlight. The fact there is caffeine in `decaf anything` was a whole other question!  


Author Visit, Trip Forms, & Homework

Thanks to the support of School Council, we enjoyed a session with author Kenneth Oppel today. Mr Oppel gave us some insight into his writing process and the inspirations for some of his 32 published books. Students had an opportunity to ask questions of him and have books autographed. Teachers enjoyed the, “I told you” moment, when he reinforced the need for planning and revising!! 

We also updated our agendas with many upcoming events, one of which is a trip to McMaster’s Planetarium. Forms were sent home, and we’ll be looking for a volunteer with a Police Check. Thanks again to the support of School Council, transportation costs have been covered.

Homework: Students were given an outline to prepare 2 oral presentations. They will be responsible for booking a time slot, but both presentations should be done by the end of May.  

Research, Reviews, & Read Alouds

Our current media challenge is to design a logo and slogan to accompany our No Straw initiative.  In addition to analyzing logos used by other campaigns, we found some helpful design tips online to guide our ‘creative juices’. 

We have been reviewing what clear communication looks like in regards to describing transformations and have had several opportunities to practice. Some students showed initiative by bringing their homework in early so they could get feedback. 

Over the years, I have come across many great picture books that are clever, entertaining, communicate a meaningful message, and, utilize many of the writing strategies we talk about in our Gr. 6 class. So, as another form of oral communication, we have begun taking turns presenting a read aloud to our classmates. Before reading, each pair of students present an interesting fact about the author and illustrator, strategies used in the writing, and, what they feel the author is trying to communicate (big idea). While listening to see if they agree or not, classmates also use the opportunity to collect and record interesting words, that could be used in their own writing. Having students appreciate a good picture book, practising on their own time, discussing writing strategies, and asking to go next, is a pretty good ‘problem’ to have!!

Homework Reminder

Happy Weekend! Just a friendly reminder that students should be spending some time reading their Kenneth Oppel book. We held our first book talk on Friday, and not everyone had met their agreed upon goal. So….. we will be meeting again this coming Friday, where we will be expected to have half the book read to we can contribute actively.

On Friday we also sent home some geometry practise – transforming polygons and describing their movements. The task is open ended, so students can use regular polygons until they get more confident, or if they are ready for a challenge, select more complex/irregular shapes and movements. The descriptions are to be clear, specific and use appropriate vocabulary. This is due on Thursday.  

‘Straw Inspired’ Learning

From our discovery of the number of drinking straws disposed of each day, to the United Nations’ declaration of the level of plastics in our oceans as a crisis, we generated 2 main questions to explore: What is being done around the world to help keep straws (and other plastics) out of our oceans/waters? How can we use the information to help us take action in Waterdown?

Today we spent time gathering, recording, and sharing pertinent information to help answer our questions. As we find places in the world where governments or non governmental groups have taken some sort of action, we are adding  latitude and longitude points to our map, using colour coding to indicate the type of action being taken. Did you know…  in Kenya you can receive a $40 000 fine or jail time for producing or distributing plastic bags? Seattle is one of the the first major cities to ban plastic straws and utensils? Several communities around the world have stopped using plastic drinking straws at the request of local school children?  We are inspired to take action, but we also know we have to gather enough facts in order to communicate effectively. So, we will continue to track the usage of straws at our school, visit or call restaurants to estimate the use of straws in Waterdown, look at media texts like logos and slogans, read and interpret graphs, and then, plan our next steps. To be continued…  

 Image result for no straw logo


HOMEWORK REMINDER: Students are to be reading their Kenneth Oppel book to be ready for their first book talk on Friday.

What’s Up? Wednesday

So, what have been up to this week?

Geometric work in math: measuring and identifying angles, sorting polygons using geometric properties and proper vocabulary.

Reading: First we followed up on a summarizing activity from last week, and then we were introduced to the idea of signposts. ‘Signposts’ are signals in a text that readers can use to determine which parts they need to pay close attention to (as outlined in a resource called Close Reading). Quickly summarized, the ‘signs’ include: characters facing a Tough Question, Contrast/Contradiction (when a character does something out of character), Memory Moment (a pause in the action for remembering/flashback), Again and Again ( a repeated action, phrase or image), Words of the Wiser (a character receiving advice from another character, usually older), and, an A HA moment, when a character makes a realization. With author Kenneth Oppel scheduled to visit our school in April, students have been asked to select one of his books to read, looking for signposts along the way. Today they formed their own groups, and met to set a reading goal for when they meet next. Commitments were written in their agendas.

Writing: In addition to working on a draft of a style of their own choosing, students have been working to strengthen their skills at writing complex sentences. In writing warm ups, students are given a few informational sentences about an issue, work to combine the ideas to form a complex sentence, and then offer their opinion on the issue.

Social Studies: Weeks ago, we came across a statistic about the number of plastic straws that were being used and found within the oceans. We generated some questions at the time and wondered if there was anything we could do to help. Knowing I only see the class for a portion of each day, I looked for ways we could incorporate their interest into our day, and be accountable to the curriculum. Since we are generating questions, researching a variety of sources to find answers, looking at ways governments and non governmental groups are addressing environmental issues, and, locating places in the world that have already taken action, Social Studies is an ideal ‘ávenue’ for our wonders . In addition to researching, we are designing ways we might take action ourselves. We generated a list of restaurants in Waterdown, wanting to ask them how many straws they use in a day/week. A few students have already taken the initiative to gather some data, which we will be using for further calculations. The challenge is on for others to do the same. We also placed a cup in each of the classes in our school, to get an idea of the number of straws thrown into our garbage bins each day. We’re not sure how far we will get with our plans, but are excited by the possibilities.

Reminder: Last skating day tomorrow!

Thursday Update

This has been a week of fine tuning some skills…

Building vocabulary using root words and and a good old fashioned dictionary

Locating cities with United Nation offices and identifying their latitude and longitude

Using a protractor to measure angles

To get a bit more practice in, students have some angle homework (Due: Monday), as well as some Social studies research to do (for Monday as well).

Tomorrow: A bilingual theatre company will be coming to perform. 

Popcorn: We Have Questions

Welcome Back Everyone!

Just before the break we generated some mathematical wonders about popcorn that required further time to investigate. So, today we did just that.

Presented with a jar of kernels, a box of microwave popcorn and a bag of popped corn each with a $2.99 price tag, students asked many questions: 

Which product is the best buy? What is the ratio of pooped kernels to ‘not popped’kernels? How many kernels in each package? Which fills the bowl? How long does it take to prepare each of the products? How many would fit safely in our classmates’mouth? Which popcorn do people like best? Which popcorn is healthiest?

Of course, these questions needed answers, so we just had to make popcorn,  I mean, investigate!  

We counted kernels, before and after popping, we timed the process, we compared the the amounts of generated popcorn, and of course, sampled the products. We concluded the kernels on their own was the best buy based on price value. To ensure each person (present that day) received a cup of popcorn it took:

microwave popcorn: whole package – $2.99

popped corn: 2 packages – $5.98

Kernels: 2/9 of package – $0.66 

So, what is the purpose of such an activity? To foster curiosity,  problem solving skills, be a smart/informed consumer, and as one student put it, to make math fun.

Speech Success

Today we spent the morning listening to speeches from students in Gr. 4 to 8 and were very proud of our classmates who both demonstrated very strong speaking skills. During a follow up discussion and writing task, many students recognized the quality of presentations and what it must be like to be in the contestants’ shoes. They also mentioned the difficult task it must be for judges to select one junior winner and one intermediate winner. In the end, a decision was announced at the end of the day, and we’re happy to say the junior winner is one of our very own classmates who will now move on to represent the school at the next level of competition in April. Congratulations!!

And now that we are good and inspired, the rest of the class has booked a day to present their own speech.