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!