Our Term 2 Learning Update

Each time that I listen to the students talk about their learning, I am amazed and proud at their growth and their ability to explain their learning using the vocabulary that we use in class. Seamus and Cailynne had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Cameron about feedback and how it helps us grow in our learning. When Mrs. Cameron told me the story, I was so impressed with their description. They described like climbing a staircase and each feedback loop allowed them to move to the next step. It was phenomenal to hear. I have since used that example to explain to teachers in other districts about the work that we do.

For this video, the students put together their ideas. My job was simply to hold the camera still and put photos and video together in a format we could share.

LC 5A learning for term 2 from Courtney Albrecht on Vimeo.

I am so proud of the students and can’t wait to see what Term 3 brings in our #bestyearever

March 9 – 13 Learning update

Before I start our learning update, I just wanted to pass along compliments from Ms. Sontag, our substitute teacher on Monday. She said that LC 5A showed a huge amount of respect for her as a teacher in our room. They were kind to each other, supportive and willing to work hard. I am so impressed! I know we have an awesome community in our class but it is great to hear other people.

Language Arts:

Writing –  We have been working on our introductions to our original stories. I have some students who are only writing 1 paragraph, a couple writing 2-3 and one who has written me an introductory chapter. It is awesome to see students push themselves in their learning. We will wrap up our introductions this week and start our rising action. The kids are very excited about their stories and putting in a lot of work. We are taking it one step at a time to make sure we are adding good details that will help our grade 3 buddies are engaged in our writing. We are currently using Click Clack Moo as our group writing piece to model expectations and create criteria for our own writing. Here is what we have written for our introduction. You can follow along with our writing here.


Reading – We are working on our read aloud of Sideways Stories at Wayside School. As we read, we will be getting into collaborative writing groups to write our own Sideways Story. We so far have talked about them being short, related to each other and only about 1 thing. Students are very excited to share with the other classes doing this.  Here is our shared doc if you would like to find out more about the project.  We will be getting into our book club groups next week and picking our books. Any suggestions for books would be appreciated! Here is our brainstorm doc.


Mathematics:  The kids have been working with Mr. L on area and perimeter. They are doing really well with this and I saw great work from both classes on Friday when we had Math together. The students spent some time this week looking at how we measure area and perimeter and also how area and perimeter are related. The students had some time to use unit cubes to build various rectangles with a given perimeter, various rectangles with a given area and various rectangles with a given perimeter and area. On Monday they will be moving on to volume.  One of the coolest things I heard this week was one of our students teaching another student what area and perimeter were. When I asked how it went, she told me “By teaching someone who didn’t know what we were doing and having to come up with a way that would make sense to them, I realized was teaching myself and making sure that I understood. I think I taught myself as well!”  As a class, we have become so awesome at helping each other and sharing, it is awesome to see all levels of learning come together and work to make sure we are all participating and understanding to the best of our abilities!




Students will be asked to record the high and low and a brief description of the weather outside until the end of Spring Break.  I will provide a sheet for this. It will be really awesome to see them temperature in different places on vacations as well!

We are also going to start Cloud Art to learn about the different types of clouds. A few of the students came up with the idea to use cotton balls to create the clouds and then use things like rain drops, sun beams, ect. to write about the clouds as a mini student-led activity. I thought this was awesome so we are going to give it a try. I will be getting cotton balls on Tuesday after school. If you would like to do this please email me and I will pick up some for you as well.

Josh Classen was in to talk to us about weather and being a meteorologist. He was fantastic at talking about the concepts we will be learning and explaining them in a way that made sense to everyone. Now that we have this background knowledge, we will have a better understanding as we discuss in class!


Social Studies:

Students just wrapped up compiling their group’s information into a nifty handout for their jigsaw. We are going to create our listening activity on Monday, Jigsaw on tuesday and rank the regions on Wednesday and Thursday. We’ll talk about Socratic Circles on Friday and we’ll do a practice one. On Monday and Tuesday next week we’ll prepare to do ours on the Wednesday blocks 3+4! If anyone would like to come and observe them, Please let me know and I can let you know times and details of when your child will be doing their persuasive discussion. I would love a volunteer to film them for me.



The students and I have been talking about healthy choices such as not having a slurpee for breakfast and that Ms. Albrecht shouldn’t wait until nutrition break to eat her breakfast. We are going to be starting an inquiry into the food we eat. Ms. Ariss is working on a letter to send home to parents explaining our inquiry and how to support your child’s learning.



Art Fridays are becoming quite popular in our class. Every Friday afternoon, we are going to be doing art to finish off our week. This week, we were lucky enough to have a special guest. The kids loved working with Mrs. Morris (Ms A’s mom!!) on our Falling Backwards art. Most are getting started on painting, a few are finishing drawing and a couple have completed their art. I will be getting a ladder to put them up on the moveable wall this week.

This week will wrap up the Falling Backwards piece. Those who have completed it will be working on “Eye see” art.


Trickster Theatre – Artist in Residency:

We have a very passionate class. They really poured their hearts into our theme development. After a lot of discussion, and going back and forth on Women’s Rights and Child Labour, our class realized that we really just wanted to make sure that everyone has equal rights.

Our Sub -Theme : Everybody Has Rights

Our Guiding Questions:

  • Why do some people think that they are more important than others?
  • Why do we let people take advantage of other people?
  • Isn’t this like an extreme case of bullying and we are all bystanders if we don’t create awareness?

Possible sub-topics to explore:

  • Women’s Rights
  • Children’s Rights
  • Minority Rights


What does it mean to be a citizen?

Last week, I made a comment to the students that they were all citizens in our classroom. I forget what the reference was about but the students accepted this and continued on. As I was writing something down, someone called out “What does it mean to be a citizen?” The dictionary definition of “a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.” wasn’t entirely all that helpful to us. As their teacher, I wasn’t even sure how to explain that definition. so I wrote the question on the board and asked the students to think about it over the weekend.

I had the fortune of being at a fundraising event with a number of politicians, so I decided to ask them what their ideas were so I could bring back thoughts and quotes from them. We also reached out to Cst. Lucas to see what his ideas were on the subject of citizenship. I posted the question on social media, and here are some of the answers we received:

Be a participant, be involved, educate yourself on the rules, the game is bigger than you and know what you are doing. The ultimate is not win or lose but to be a part of it. In voting, vote no matter who you vote for.
– Richard Feehan, candidate for Alberta NDP, Social Worker

Belonging, community, people who are born here and the people who choose to come here. As we braid together the two stories that is how we build our new country and our Canada of tomorrow. Responsibility to be a citizen and be an active citizen. Voting and knowing what you are voting for. Keeping up on current affairs, let your elected representatives know how you think. Relationship and have to tell because they don’t read minds.
-Laurie Blakeman, Liberal MLA

Have a responsibility to each other and you can get done more together rather than alone.
– Ben Henderson, Edmonton City Council

Contributing to the community you live in, interested in the voting process and voting when you have the chance
– Michael Phair, former Edmonton councilman

To me a citizen is a member of society.  Citizenship is being recognized as that member. To me we should all strive to be “Contributing members of society”.  You can still make an impact on a larger scale even though you have never left Spruce Grove.  You need to think about what you want the world to look like.  I always think of the golden rule.  “Treat other the way you want to be treated”

If I was to use the example of cleaning up the environment.  Your impact at home, in school and in your community will effect the rest of the world.  It may be on a small scale but it will impact the other citizens around you.  We cannot control what others do, but we can control the example we portray to others through our actions.

We are all citizens and role models for each other whether we choose to be or not.  The only question is “Are we a good role model or a Bad role model?”

– Cst. Lucas, Community Liaison Officer, EPS

Actively involved, taking responsibility and providing input into anything that would affect their daily life. Maybe not all the definition, but an important piece I think.

– Danna Hawkes, Broxton Park Teacher

With all of these answers, we then pulled out some key ideas. (Shown in purple in the picture below) We broke into groups, discussed and added our own ideas of what citizenship meant to us as Grade 5 students (shown in blue in the picture below).

Citizenship Brainstorm

Mr. Petchel also joined us to talk to us about the importance of voting. We talked about how not voting means that you don’t have the right to complain and that not voting means that you could allow 1/3 of the population to pick someone to represent you that 2/3 of the class disagreed with.

Here is how we represented this:

We have 23 students in our class with 2 students who were away today. Those 2 students represented the people who were not eligible to vtoe.

We had everyone wearing blue jeans sit down. These represented the people who were “Unable to make it to the polls” – too busy, mobility issues, out of the country, ect. We then asked the students who did not have their shoes on to sit down. These represented the people who “don’t care” or “didn’t want to vote”.  This left 13 people. 1 student chose to spoil their ballot because they didn’t like either candidate (represented by the only person wearing a hat).  7 people decided to vote for Mr. Pechtel and his promise of Ukulele music (represented by the people on the right side of the room) and 3 people decided to vote for Ms. Albrecht who promised to try to make sure we have Art every Friday (represented by the people standing on the left side of the room).

12 people voted for a candidate, 1 person expressed their thoughts – that makes 13 people in our class who voted and 9 who did not. For voter turn out, 62% (13/21) of the eligible voters is higher than recent voter turnout in Alberta.  We also found out that 7/23 people in our class made the decision for us. That was less than 1/3 of our class who chose someone to represent us even though he had the majority or the votes that were cast.

Mr. Pechtel then made a decision to take is promise of Ukulele music further and said everyone had to sing a song and play all the information in every class. A lot of students complained. If they were sitting down, they had to stop talking. This left the 3 who voted for Ms A, the 1 who spoiled their ballot and 3 Mr P voters complaining. 7 people who had a right to complain wasn’t very much and now we were stuck with no Art at all, we had to hypothetically all learn to play ukulele and listen to Mr P sing about regions of Canada. That wasn’t a good thing but we let a minority pick someone to represent the majority who disagreed with this rule.  The students suddenly realized that this was not good and why we need to take advantage of our right to vote and  perform our civic duty to do so.

We decided that if there is an election called this spring, even if we can’t vote, as citizens, we need to be informed about what is happening and help inform people who can vote such as our parents.  As their teacher, I am excited to see an election plays out in a room of grade 5 students but as a voter and citizen, I am excited to see a room full of engaged and active citizens who know more about voting and being citizens than some adults do.

This all lead up to what was going on in the world and the start of our inquiry into global issues and global citizenship but this lesson that started with the frustration of a terrible dictionary definition was one of the best conversations we have had as a class – and we have a lot of powerful conversations in our room.

Welcome back learning update

Welcome back everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas break. From reading the blog posts and listening to the stories, it sounds like everyone was quite busy. Here is what we did this week and where we are headed.

Language Arts – We started out reading groups. Students are reading either Dork on the Run or Doghouse Blues  and will be responsible for a specific role within their group each time they meet. Students will then have a chance to blog about their reading. I will be rotating through the groups and reading with one or two groups each time. Two groups will be recording their reading on the iPads to monitor their fluency. The rest will either read individually or aloud as a group. The students worked well within their groups for their first times. I was quite impressed.

We will begin our Organization writing trait this coming week. Students will end up with 2 major pieces of writing at the end. We will alternate Reading and Writing days.

Math – Mr. Letendre is currently teaching math while I teach 5F Science.  The decision was made to allow consistency between classes for Math and Science and take advantage of the teacher’s areas of expertise. The movement between classes has been good for the students as well. A chance to stretch and move.  Students are continuing to work through our Multiplying and Dividing Whole Numbers unit, and are currently working on developing strategies to multiply 2-digit numbers. The students have been practicing strategies such as lattice method and using base ten blocks to multiply and will continue to do so the beginning of next week. We will then be moving on to division.  Here is what the lattice method looks like  for the question 35 x 52 = 1820.  If your child is using the lattice method, ask them to explain it to you. The best demonstration of understanding is the ability to teach someone else.


Social Studies -We have all had the chance to present our family history presentations. The students were broken into groups of three and presented to each other. They recoded their presentations on iPads that I watched afterwards. This gave the students a chance to practice, redo or perfect their presentations in a low risk environment. I am beyond impressed with the work that has gone into these presentations and how well the students worked together. I love small group work and feel it has been extremely beneficial to the students. The iPads provided accountability and a unique perspective to myself as a teacher. Students will finish up their peer feedback and personal reflections as I put in my feedback. Each student has a google doc with the criteria in it that the feedback and reflections are entered into. I will be printing these off and sending them home with the students by the end of the month.


We are moving into our study of the geographical regions of Canada. I have created a passport that is broken into each of the regions. The first region, I will model highlight key information from the textbook, creating jot notes and sketch notes in response to the guiding questions for the region. In groups, students will be assigned a region that they will become the experts in. Once they have completed their regions, we will Jigsaw with the other groups to learn about the other regions. Once we have each of the regions filled out, we will rank them as to livability based on selected criteria and collaborate with the other classes to host socratic circles as we discuss and debate which of the regions is the best to live in.

Science – The students are well into their study of Electricity and Magnetism. So far, the students have begun to explore different types of circuits. This coming week, the students will look at simple circuits, bulbs in series, bulbs in parallel as well as batteries in series and parallel. The key is for students to learn from exploring, trial and error. We will look at switches by the end of the week or early next week, which will lead to a review and a short check-up next week.

Other news and updates:

  • With the extreme windchill and cold this past week, we have had a lot of indoor breaks. The students have been awesome about this. We will continue to monitor the weather. Students are given a choice of where to be during the cold weather but it is expected that they do go outside if the weather is appropriate. Please ensure that students are sent with warm clothes for outside each day.
  • Field Trip – We have been invited to go to the Spruce Grove library to be one of the first sets of students through their new innovation space. We will be going Wednesday, February 4, 2015 in the afternoon.  If you would like to come on this field trip, please let me know. I would appreciate 1-2 volunteers, however it is not needed.  The cost to cover transportation is $2. Please return the form and payment by Wednesday, January 14, 2015. Thank you! The form went home yesterday. If you need another copy, I will be scanning and posting one this week.
  • We are fortunate to welcome Haley into our classroom. She is an EA practicum student from Grant MacEwan University. She will be working with us a few hours on Wednesdays and Fridays until April. Mr. Letendre is her supervising teacher, however, she will be working with us in Science to help with our exploration of Electricity. She is a former Greystone student herself and is excited to be back and start working with the students.
  • If you are going on vacation. There is a form that you do need to fill out and it needs to be submitted to the office prior to your vacation. I have copies of the form or they can be picked up at the office. Also, if you can send me an email as an FYI, that would be appreciated. I rarely send any work with students for their vacations besides a journal or a photo scavenger hunt but it allows me to plan for how we will catch up for their return.  I will be scanning and posting the form this week as well.
  • Innovation Week 5 made international headlines…sort of.  Emma L. and Cailynne W.’s research for the latest instalment of Innovation Week lead them to the company called Tile based out of San Mateo, California.  Their company liked the girls so much, they were featured on Tile’s blog.   Pretty Cool to see an innovative company such as Tile see the value of what we do in Innovation Week .

Innovation Week at GCMS

There have been many questions regarding innovation week. One of our LC 5 teachers, Ms. Ariss wrote an excellent explanation on her blog had allowed us to repost it. You can find the original post here.

Innovation Week at GCMS kicks off tomorrow morning for all students interested in inquiry, project-based, problem-solving and the innovative creation process. We have a unique opportunity at GCMS to implement this incredible week-long program that challenges students to question, investigate, process, create and share in teams on areas of deep interest.

Here is a video from previous Innovation Weeks held at GCMS:

The theme for Innovation Week 5 is “How Do I Learn?” and students will be reflecting on this theme daily via their blogs.  This allows for the students to take away a greater understanding of themselves as learners and how sharing their learning while being open to receiving and providing feedback will allow for growth.

Tomorrow morning all interested students will be brought together to submit a proposal based on the following criteria:

  • What is your guiding question?
  • What is your plan for the project?
  • What will you do to prepare for your project? What research or preparation will you need to do? What resources will you access?
  • Will you connect with an outside expert? If yes, who will your expert be? How will your expert assist you? How and when will you connect with your expert?
  • What will you need to move from the preparation to the action phase for your project? How will you move from research to actually creating your project?
  • Materials you will provide
  • What will you create as a final product?
  • Who is your audience and how will you present your learning?

Following the completion of their proposal, students will be guided by teachers through the Ideation and Prototyping stages. They will use their guiding question that they developed and come up with 100 ideas to help answer that guiding question in a constrained set of time. Students will also need to produce a drawing of their prototype.

Students will have to submit their group proposal based on the above criteria however their projects can centre around any topic, idea or passion they have and would like to explore. Innovation week ties directly with Alberta’s Cross Curricular Competencies. Innovation Week provides our students with opportunities to experience one or more of the following competencies:

  • Know how to learn
  • Think critically
  • Identify and solve complex problems
  • Manage information
  • Innovate
  • Create opportunities
  • Demonstrate good communication skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others

Innovation week officially begins the last week before our holiday break from Dec. 15-19th. All participating students will spend that entire week working in teams with teacher and expert guides on their projects. On Friday Dec. 19th, we will host an open Gallery Walk to showcase their projects from 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. We hope to see you there!

Students who will not be participating will continue with alternate learning activities.

If you’d like more information or want to see previous student projects and learning from Innovation Week, please visit Mr. Mclean’s Blog: http://jessepmclean.com/tag/innovation-week/

Our November

Where did the month go? We have been very busy in our classroom.

Here’s a look at our month in review from Twitter.

The kids have had a chance to look at their report cards and ask questions. There really shouldn’t have been any surprises as Feedback is a big thing in our class. If there were surprises, we looked at their work and it made sense to the students. A few students were positively surprised, they had not pieced together how much growth has made. Make sure you read the curriculum letter about what we have done in Term 1 and where we are going in Term 2.

A world without Canada

Today we were challenged by the statement “A world without Canada”. It left the students with a number of questions. Here is our brainstorm:


We would love to hear about what questions come up for you or what might change for you in a world without out Canada. Please leave a comment or use the hashtag #WithoutCanada and on twitter.

Connecting our learning to our lives

Today we had a number of guests in our class.

This morning we had a FaceTime call (kind of like a skype call) with Cst. Lucas from the Edmonton Police Service. We talked about digital citizenship.

After, we reflected on how we can add the things we learned to our plan to be a good digital citizen.

This afternoon we worked through the inquiry model with Mrs. Rogal. We also talked about “what do good problem solvers do?” and problem solving strategies




Some students noticed that being a good problem solver is similar to being a good scientist and the inquiry model is similar to the scientific method.

This morning we also had a chance to explore Canada using Google Maps Engine. This gave us a good idea of the sizes of the capital cities. We will continue to build our maps as we learn about our country!

Mr. Letendre also led us in a discussion about how to pick a good book. We get to go to the library tomorrow so this will hopefully help us in picking a good book!