These are two stories from students in Division 7 who participated in a song writing workshop with Lowry Olafson.
Today, Lowry Olafson came to our classroom to teach us songwriting. I thought creating a song would have been quite hard, but it turns out songwriting isn't that difficult. It was exciting and we got the chance to be creative.
We formed the song name and chorus before recess, and we titled our song “Give it a go”. Before we named her song, Lowry got the class to brainstorm words and a title in both groups and alone.
After recess we created two verses to go with our song. We mixed the words and titles, we brainstormed, and twisted them into better words to get the melody right. The verses weren't that long, as the chorus had a long length.
After lunch we practiced song for a few minutes before the assembly, and when all the classes were in the gym, we sang Give it a Go. When we finished our performance, Lowry sang a few songs and got Mr. Mitzel and Mr. Prasad to dance to one of them. The last thing we did was put the lyrics on the screen and teach them the song.
Before I started the workshop, I was expecting the process to be harder than it actually was. For example before we started I thought coming up with the theme for the song would be challenging and would take a long time to get ideas down. Although since Lowry helped us through and taught us some of the tools we needed to write an amazing song, we were able to come up with a song together.
Something that I was able to take away from the experience, was that if you put your mind to something you can really excel at it. The reason I think this is because Lowry told us he started writing songs in Grade three and now he is a great musician and songwriter.
I found that during this workshop Lowry was a brightening spirit, a fascinating character, he also has a funny and happy personality, and is also a great teacher.
Take a listen to Give it a Go HERE.
I read a recent article in Connected Principals that made me think about one question, What do parents want in their schools? In particular, what do our parents want at MacCorkindale? As a parent of two children in the Vancouver School System, I would be asking the same question of their school.
Although this study of K-12 parents was done in the United States, it does create a conversation around our own school and those within our community.
Have a read and see if any of the categories resonate with you. Do you see any correlation with MacCokindale? What category are you?
The Fordham Institute completed the research via an online survey of over 2000 parents in August of 2012. The results were disaggregated by the authors into six categories of school parents:
These parents see the purpose of school as a passage to a career. College is not as important in their child’s future; they see school as a venue for their child (mostly boys) to gain the skills necessary to be successful.
Parents in this category want schools that “emphasize instruction in citizenship, democracy, and leadership”, the vision that Thomas Jefferson certainly had for public schools. What is interesting about this group is that these parents match the overall demographic of the survey.
Test-Score Hawks (23%)
The “Hawks” search for schools with the best test scores. They are not as concerned with school culture; they want their children to attend graduate school someday and achieve mightily. These parents are apt to change their child’s school if they are not satisfied.
These parents want their children to experience students of other nationalities, races, and religions. They are more likely to be African-American, politically liberal, and be from an urban area.
Parents in this category care most about the arts. They want a school that “emphasizes arts and music instruction”. They are less likely to be of the Christian faith and in fact they are three times more likely to be atheists. Charter schools might be an option for these parents too.
These parents appear similar to the “Test-Score Hawks” but they are more concerned with their child being accepted at a top-tier college regardless of the school’s test scores. African-Americas and Hispanics dominate in this category and these parents are not more likely to be college educated than the populace at large.
In a recent article posted by the BC Confederation for Parents Advisory Councils(BCCPAC), the parents of Victoria schools have now lifted their moritorium on the use of wi-fi in their schools. It was noted that many of the parents failed to fill in the survey because they weren't worried about the use of wi-fi. You can read the article here.
We at MacCorkindale are extremely lucky in that our school has full wi-fi capability. Every area is Internet accessible; from the gym to the far corners of each classroom Area. This was evident during the recent Grade 6/7 sleepover when all the students had the chance to roam around looking for clues using the school iPads. This type of mobility allows students to work in any area of the school without being tied down to a desktop computer. MacCorkindale will also be receiving an improvement in the speed of the Internet coming into the school. By the end of December, our speed will reach almost 10 Mb/s. This will help cut down on the furstration many students and staff are feeling when they do try to access some of the rich content available on the Net.
This is an exciting time for the future of education and our students are reaping the rewards as our staff are committed to ensuring students are ready for the 21st Century and beyond.
We are getting close to that time of year - goal setting conferences between teacher, student and parent. This is a great time of the year as it has been almost a month of school and most students are adjusting to their new class and routines. It is important that you do schedule a time to come in and meet with the teacher to ensure the year will be a successful one.
During your time with the teacher, here are a few questions you may want to consider asking:
1. What can I do at home to help my child?
2. What skills will he or she be expected to learn this year?
3. Are there any changes in the way my son/daughter acts, such as squinting, tiredness, or moodiness?
4. How much time should my child be spending on homework?
5. What are my child's specfic strengths or weaknesses?
We look forward to see you all at conference time.
"What keeps me going is goals."
It has been almost two weeks and all is well at MacCorkindale. Our students are settling in nicely to their new classes and working hard at building new relationships and following new routines. Our staff have been rejuvunated from almost 60 days of beautiful sunshine and are ready to once again take the students on a fantastic journey of learning.
Over the past year and a half, we have implemented some new learning strategies, in particluar the use of technology. It is now time to move even further by creating an environment that allows our students to be innovative, creative and curious about their learning. This will not only increase student engagement, but bring a greater relevance to what is being taught; thus a better understanding.
Take a look at the following clip of a secondary science teacher who's philoshphy is student engagement.
Have a great year!
On Saturday June 1st, every person who walked into the Dugout Drop-In Centre came out a little happier, thanks to the efforts of Division 8.
The class of grade 6s have been working on a project to help homeless people in Cancouver for many weeks now. It all started when Ms.Boots (Div 8's student teacher) began teaching us about homelessness in Vancouver during Social Studies. Soon, we began orgainizing the project. We decided to cook some chili for the homeless, with a side of fruit and bread. We set up fundraisers (Remember the bake sale in May?) and requested food and money donations from various businesses in the area. On June 1st, most of Division 8 spent their morning at the Dugout Centre serving the food to the homeless. It was great to see the homeless people enjoy all the food we worked so hard for. Even the people who didn't go to the Dugout had lots of fun with the project. Of course, this project could not have happened without some fabulous people! So thank you to Ms. Cadlick and Ms Bosma for helping us cook the chili. Thank you to the volunteers who drove us to the Dugout. Thank you Mr. Mitzel for all the help you've given us. And finally, many thanks to Ms. Milevskaia and Ms Boots for organizing this entire project! This life-changing experince will be remembered for a long time. The event was incredible, and many of us would love to do it again.
Lilian, Div. 8
Over the break we had our iPad and iPad Mini's all reconfigured to match that of the standards now being applied within the Vancouver School Board. It makes for an easier way to keep the devices up to date and when teacher leaders in charge of them move from school to school, managing them is an easy transition. Bottom line, it keeps these mobile devices in the hands of the students.
We are very fortunate at MacCorkindale that we have built up a fairly good supply of mobile devices, both iPads and Chromebooks. In fact we now have over 30 Chromebooks and they are in constant use from Grades 2-7. So what is a Chromebook? In a nutshell, a Chromebook is a laptop that runs solely on the Chrome OS - an operating system that is completely accessed through the Internet. It is very fast when turned on (8-10 seconds) and if you already have a Google account, you can access your apps on any of the machines. So far it has been very popular with many of the students who are using them.
In a recent article by Beth Holland on the online blog, Edudemic, she asks the question: iPad or Chromebook: 4 Questions to Ask before Buying. The four questions are Why?, What will best support our students for learning?, What do I want my students to do?, and Where does my school/District want to go?. All valid questions and ones that I considered when I purchased the Chromebooks for our school. One of the biggest advantages for our school was cost. For the cost of one iPad, I can get two Chromebooks. For the cost of one Dell laptop or Macbook, I can get 3-4 Chromebooks. This again puts more of these devices into more of the hands of our students at one time.
Our greatest need now, both school and District, is a larger bandwidth and optic Internet access. With all the devices we have at our school, access can tend to be extremely slow; therefore frustrating to actually get online. In the meantime, our students are utilizing the Internet and many of the tools it has to offer. We are leaning more and more to the 4Cs of 21st Century Learning - communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.
You can read the full article HERE.
We have been working hard at MacCorkindale over the past year in making this school a place that provides students the best opportunity to access tools and resources on the world wide web. So far the students have found the projects and activities very engaging in all areas of their study. Most importantly, however, has been the increased level of problem solving and/or working together to figure out some of the tools that they have been using.
I'm proud to say that every student and staff from Kindergarten to Grade 7, to Resource, to French and Music have been able to utilize the tools we have in place in their classrooms and complete projects using technology on an almost daily basis.
Some examples inlcude:
- using iMovie on the iPad to produce movies all in French
- Grade 2 & 3's using the KidBlog platform to work on novel studies
- Grade 6's using Chromebooks to complete Prezi's on a specific country
- Kindergarten using the iPad to work on printing and fine motor skills
- Grade 3 & 4's publishing their own stories on iBook
This is an exciting time for our students and our school as we continue to move in the direction of increased problem and challenge based learning. We are hoping our students move more towards the area of asking questions and then looking for the answers themselves. It's a vital skill that is required in all future professions and our jobs as educators is to facilitate those questions and guide the students as to where they might find those answers.
I was reminded the other day that there is more to learning than just using technology. Watching students stand up in front their peers to read poetry, Grade 3 presentations on salmon, making paper masks as a summary to their novel study, beautiful foil art by Grade 7's, hands on sushi making and origami- all were done without the use of technology.
Together with the modeling of our School Code of Conduct, the balance between 21st C skills and traditional hands on experiences, our students will be some of the most well rounded and prepared students in Vancouver.
To make my point on balance, take a look at this short video commercial - Paper is Not Dead
The Fraser Institute Elementary School Rankings for 2013 will soon be hitting the newspaper in the coming days. These rankings are based on the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) tests which were written last February (2012) by the Grade 4 and 7 students. The rankings coming out in the next few days put MacCorkindale Elementary at its lowest level since the Fraser Institute began reporting these results. This by no means reflects what the students, the staff or the school are all about.
It is normal for the School Based Team to exclude students based on Special Needs Designation, English as a Second Language, or parent refusal to participate. The total number of exclusions and students who didn't write or missed a portion of the assessement are still counted as Not Yet Meeting Expectations. In our situation, we had 42 students in Grade 7 (7 of which were excluded) who did not write the online porton of the Numeracy section; therefore the FSA scores indicate 83% did Not Meet Expectations. We know this does not reflect the work our staff does with these students and it is an unfair assessment of our school as a whole.
So why the big dip? The main problem during this particular assessment year was the lack of usable computers and not enough time to complete both the Numeracy and Reading portion of the test. It was the Administrators responsibility to organize and facilitate the FSA this past year and the challenge was getting through 6 portions of the test in both the Grade 4 (29 students) and Grade 7 (42 students) classes. The only portions of the test that were not completed were Numeracy and Reading (Grade 7) and Reading (Grade 4). When you look at the scores, this is main reason for the descrepency. In comparison, the Writing portion of the test, which all students completed, showed 80% of the students were Meeting or above expectations and this was an improvment from previous years.
The FSA is a snapshot assessment that is taken at one time of the year. The Fraser Institute uses only the scores from the FSA to paint a picture of a school and then rank them accordingly. This is an unfair portrayal of a school and does not include any of the other factors that make a school a great place to learn; extra-curricular activities, athletics, social responsibilty, or student leadership. MacCorkindale is one of those places - a great place to learn.
What makes us so great? Not only do our staff members work hard at providing the students with an excellent educational experience and prepare them for the future, but the climate of the school is one that is welcoming and accepting of others. Over the past year, we have become a true place of "21st Century Learning" with the addition of over 60 mobile devices such as iPads, iPad minis, and Chromebooks; Interactive Whiteboards; and wifi thoughout the school. More importantly than having these devices are the teacher's willingness to using them with their students on a regular basis. Not only has the excitement level risen, but the opportunity to engage in 21st Century learning activities has increased the student motivation in all areas of the curriculum.
MacCorkindale also has other components that make our school a great place to learn. We have a strong athletic program with students participating in soccer, track and field, volleyball, basketball, and cross country running. We have a District Band program for Grade's 4-7, a passionate teacher who uses guitar to teach music, and a Primary dance program. Our school Code of Conduct is strong throughout and teaches students to "Be Their Best" in being Responsible, Safe and Respectful. We have an involved Student Leadership team that develops a sense of school spirit and awareness around issues in our local community. Finally, a strong Parent Advisory Council that provides funding for all students to participate in such events as week long Hip Hop classes, a number of school performances that empasize our school Code, and the purchase of ongoing technology.
So take the recent Fraser Institute rankings with a grain of salt knowing that MacCorkindale offers more than any other school in Vancouver. If you're not sure, come in and see for yourself or speak with the many parents who feel the same way. MacCorkindale is no doubt a "great" place to learn.
Gung Hay Faat Choi; Sun Neen Fai Lock, and Happy Lunar New Year everyone! 2013, Year of the Snake. I realize the actual day or weekend of Lunar New Year took place back on February 9, 10, & 11, but the official New Year festivities take place over a 15 day period.
This year is the Water Snake, which are influential and insightful. They manage others well and tend to be good for organizations to utilize as staff. They are quite motivated and intellectual, very determined and resolute about success. They will have what they desire, despite the conclusion or outcome they generate because it is worth it to them to not only be recognized for their efforts, but to be rewarded as well. They are affectionate with their families and friends but do not show this side of their personality to colleagues or business partners.
I attended the Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown this past weekend with my family and was amazed at the turn out. The streets were lined with so many people from all different cultures, races, ages and socio economic backgrounds. This was a true coming together for the single purpose of sharing a culture that has strong roots in our city. One of the most amazing sights was the presence of the different cultures that were participating in many of the traditional Chinese displays such as the Lion Dances and Chinese performances. This is what makes our city, our schools and our country such a great place to grow up. Opportunities to experience each others rituals and build on a level of acceptance that is centred around respect and understanding. At MacCorkindale, this is not only a strong aspect of of our Code, but our teachers and students try their best to live it everyday.