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Celebrating Inquiry Fall 2014

Welcome to the inaugural issue of our online celebration of learning and achievement by University of Lethbridge intern teachers. Below you will find profiles of all projects presented at the Fall 2014 Professional Inquiry Project (PIP) Symposium. These projects were completed by by pre-service teachers in their final twelve-week practicum. Please be aware that external links are supplied by contributors and are not maintained or monitored by the University of Lethbridge.

Digital Citizenship (Be Aware… and Beware)

I have been working in collaboration with the staff and students of D.A. Ferguson Middle School on Digital Citizenship. As part of a project-based course, students prepared and hosted D.A. Ferguson’s first ever student-led Digital Awareness Evening.

Digital Citizenship is predominantly a project-based course covering eight over-arching themes: Internet-Safety; Privacy and Security; Relationships and Communication; Cyber-bullying; Digital Footprint and Reputation; Self-Image and Identity; Information Literacy; and Creative Credit and Copyright. A key component of the program revolves around the students sharing and presenting what they have learned with the community at large. During the term the students worked to complete various projects, which helped them better, understand and summarize what it means to be a digital citizen. At the end of the term, the students (grades 6, 7 and 8) were able to share what they had learned on the topic by hosting an information night for parents and community members. The students advertised the event, invited keynote speaker Robin Bright as well as members of Horizon School Board, parents and community members. Students presented their work through round table presentations as well as a Digital Magazine.

Students today live in a technological world where everything is instantly at their fingertips. As we grow up, we learn how to be good citizens. We learn what is socially acceptable and what is not! Knowing this, why do we assume people are born knowing what is acceptable online? We should not assume that because we live in a technological world, that we know and understand the rules and expectations that encompass citizenship in a digital world. The 21st century learner is expected to have an Entrepreneurial Spirit, become an Engaged Thinker and be an Ethical Citizen. In order to prepare the 21st century learner, we need to acknowledge the role of technology in our students’ lives and recognize the importance of identifying with them, the qualities of an Ethical Digital Citizen. Over the course of 13 weeks, the students defined what it means to be a citizen, in a digital world. The students recognized the role of technology in their lives, identified their digital footprint and explored the impact their actions online can have on themselves and others - on and offline. After much discussion and exploration, the students prepared and hosted D.A. Ferguson’s first ever student-led Digital Awareness Evening. This event reinforced students’ learning by allowing them to share their work, both visually and orally. Digital Citizenship is not restricted to the young and adults would benefit by learning from the students. We need our students, as much as our students need us. With our support, the students will lead us into a new Digital Age. Let’s be honest… Kids are more digitally aware then most adults. Thanks to this event, now more then ever, students, parents and community members are becoming digitally aware. They understand citizenship in a digital world and know the positive and negative impact their choices can have online and off. When given the opportunity, our students easily stepped into the teacher role and taught parents and members of the community what it means to be a citizen in today’s constantly changing world. Without our students, this event would not have been successful.

Rita recently earned her BFA/Bed from the University of Lethbridge. She believes that teamwork is the key to success, which is why she chose to collaborate with the staff and students of D.A. Ferguson Middle School on Digital Citizenship.

http://ritaabougharib.weebly.com/digital-citizenship-7.html

Soccer Team

I took on the opportunity to coach the boys’ soccer team at Tom Baines junior high school. We assembled a group of 21 boys and played a total of six games. Though we weren’t a highly ranked team, we all learned important lessons along the way.

What was significant about the experience was that we always had the student body and administrator support, regardless of the game’s score. At the end of the day I think the experience had a tremendous impact on the students and school for the fact it built up community within the school, which is ultimately the main purpose of school sports.

Ian recently completed a five year combined degree program majoring in Drama and Education at the University of Lethbridge. He loves playing sports and watching movies.

http://iancookeportfolio.weebly.com

Community Through Music

I started a Guitar Club at Winston Churchill High School that met at lunch every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The purpose of this project was to foster a sense of community among a diverse population of students through the study of guitar and popular music. Students had the opportunity to receive musical instruction, share their passion for music with other students, and musically collaborate with other students. I taught fundamental skills for playing with others, facilitated collaboration between musicians, and guided music appreciation discussions. The club gave students an opportunity to feel successful in an environment that was less formal than mainstream education. Students will have the opportunity to showcase their skills at an Open Mic performance taking place on Dec. 9th.

Students responded positively to the club and attended regularly. We started with one meeting a week but soon expanded it to two and then three lunch hours a week. We created a community where we shared our skills and experience. I taught my students how to play chords and read tablature but I also learned from them and more importantly they learned form each other. I responded to the needs of my students by creating a student directed atmosphere. I incorporated an “Album of the Week” discussion into the club after a student suggested it. One student would pick the album and drive the discussion about it. Students determined the direction of our study and helped each other learn the material we selected as a group. The club has helped students develop their musical skills and gain tools they can use to express themselves artistically. Students who might not otherwise have had access to guitar lessons have had the opportunity to learn from me, and from their more experienced peers. Their collaboration skills have improved as they have worked with each other to create short compositions and learn music. They have connected with each other over a shared love of music. I have made important relationships with my students through the club. I have made myself available as an additional adult role model to help guide them in their pursuits. The club will put on an Open Mic performance on December 9th. This event will give students the opportunity to perform covered and original music. Students will show off their skills and gain valuable experience playing in front of an audience.

Andrew Crabbe is a teacher, musician, writer, and actor. He has a BA in Theatre from Thompson Rivers University and recently completed a BEd from the University of Lethbridge. He believes the acts of giving and creating are of the highest calling.

Grade 8 Science Finds

I created a blog for my students to post current articles about science. At first, we used the blog I created, but we quickly switched to using the blog one of my students made. Each week, a student from each class finds an article and posts it to the blog. The other students then read the article of their choice and add comments to it. Comments must include summarizing of the article and a relation to previous knowledge in order to get full marks.

This blog has allowed students to take some ownership of their learning. They get to choose the article and topic they research, and get to choose from two articles to comment on that week. They broaden their horizons of knowledge and expand it beyond the classroom walls. The students love that it is open to the entire realm of science, meaning they can learn more than just the curriculum. This blog enriches their knowledge of science, but also literacy. They learn to summarize thoughts and relate it back to something they already know. They get a chance to see what their peers think about different topics and can agree or disagree. Students also learn to be digital citizens. They don’t always agree with each other and it is important they reply in a respectful manner. Some students who usually say the least in class typically say the most on the blog. This gives them a voice in the classroom and it makes them feel more included. Some of them even start conversations with each other in the comments. I mark these on a rubric, and they are graded as a project. For many students, it gives their marks a boost.

Alyssa is a general math major, with her other streams being chemistry and kinesiology. She completed her Internship at D.A. Ferguson School, teaching math and science to two grade eight classes and “loving every second of it”. She believes each student is unique and capable of learning.

http://msgaudet.weebly.com/grade-8-science-finds

Masked Theatre Performance

Masked Theatre was a project that I came up with in hopes to bring dramatic arts to elementary school students. My project has been designed for 10 grade four students and 10 grade five students. I will be mixing reading levels together to create 4 groups of 5 students. The students will be given the flexibility to choose a readers theatre script as a group and then they will be expected to choose a character suited for their reading ability as well as performance comfort. After the students have chosen their scripts and characters they will get to put their artistic skills to work to create a mask that suits their character. The students will have lots of freedom with how they create their masks as long as they follow a few guidelines. After the masks have been created the students will be then taught how to perform while wearing a mask or holding a mask. After a few hours of rehearsing the students will then be performing in front of their peers at the weekly school assembly.

This project will be beneficial to the students and staff due to being cross curricular and achieving many objectives from the program of studies in the subjects of art, language arts, drama, and health. This project will also help students build confidence as well as social skills with their peers that they will hopefully obtain for the rest of their student careers.

Megan recently graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a BFA/B.Ed, majoring in Dramatic Arts with a CTS minor.

Collaborative Creation with Students

Within a four-week timeline, students at Raymond Jr High School developed, built, rehearsed and performed an original haunted house project. They began by creating a storyline with a fully developed narrative to suit the performance space and actors. They followed that by creating lists of performance needs, assisting with character development, scripting, casting and finally rehearsing. Many rehearsals were student-led with a director as a guide who would establish expectations. Students would then split into groups and learn how to work with groups of students on a common goal. When the chance for performing came around, students built the haunted house in the hallways of the school and performed for small audiences at a time throughout the night. After the performance, students were given a chance to reflect on their project and its importance to the community.

The community has found a new love for drama. We had an unexpected turnout of over 200 people. The students got a great reaction from the crowd and began to find a love for the performance aspect of building a show. Parents were waiting for over an hour to get into the performance and I heard many times that the wait was worth it. Students were given time to prepare for different kinds of audience members and put that preparation to the test when they were asked to supervise their own sections of the haunted house. Students learned the high intensity of a live performance and are now prepared to take on bigger productions. The school itself was astounded by the level of performance that these students were able to achieve. Raymond Jr High is not known for its drama productions, but I think this made the community see that with the right drive behind the students, they can perform miraculous things. Students now have the capability, drive, and the knowledge to create dramatic pieces and have been encouraged to continue looking for ways to be artistic. I look forward to seeing what Raymond Jr. High has in store for the theatre community in coming years.

Bret recently graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a BFA/B.Ed, majoring in Drama with a minor in English.

http://mrbretjesse.weebly.com

Entrepreneurship

I chose to develop a project around my past experiences in life, and goal setting with my students. I am a mature student with a lot of life experience and I am also developing a small business outside of the realm of education. The purpose of the project was to inspire students to set goals, as well as understand that if you want to achieve something in your life it takes dedication and a positive attitude.

I was quite surprised with the impact that my project has had on the students in my school in relation to attitudes towards goal setting and achievement. As mentioned, my idea was to get kids thinking about different opportunities in life and to realize that pushing yourself towards a personal goal, regardless of how big or small, is possible. I come from a colourful background and the students that benefited most from this background were the Dash 2 students, as the project really addresses the thought process of feeling inadequate in today’s education system. It proved to be something that helped kids look at themselves and their possibilities in a different light.

Todd graduated as a Social Studies Major and is excited to share his project.

The LAma Project: Beiseker's 100th Anniversary Heritage Play

From September to December, I taught units of amalgamated Language Arts and Drama which the students and I referred to as LAma. This was my Professional Inquiry Project. Students drafted, scripted, and wrote the content of the 100th Anniversary Heritage Play with my guidance. For the first two months students spent most of their time creating the material our show consisted of. For the next two months the students were in full rehearsals. This project-based learning experience focused on 21st century competencies my school places a high priority on: collaboration, critical thinker, and communicator. The debut performance of the LAma project will take place on Dec. 10, 2014.

This project not only impacted my students and me, but it impacted our school and the community. Our goal was to create a community within a community, and this goal not only was accomplished, it exceeded expectations. The students fell in love with their work and wanted to include members of our school and community in everything we did. They became innovators of their learning. In all honesty, I do not know if I would attempt this project again– it became an experience of a lifetime with a group of amazing students. To replicate this experience and the joys that came with it would be impossible.

Brittany is from a small farming community, and describes herself as an outgoing, energetic person with great determination. She has been passionate about fine arts from a young age: singing in particular. She is particularly interested in bringing drama experiences to small rural schools. She loves to travel and hopes to teach internationally.

http://msbmiller.weebly.com/teacher-professional-growth-plan.html

Erring On The Side of Comedy

This project examines the process of creating a middle school production of William Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors". This project takes the participants on a journey from initial discussions about the play, through auditions, and into rehearsals. It examines the dos and don’ts surrounding working with a cast of 25 eleven to fifteen year olds. Time is a consideration, with regard to limitations, student hours of rehearsal, student technical hours, teacher hours of rehearsal, and teacher technical hours. The presentation will touch on the importance of tackling important works of literature with Middle School students, as well the benefit of such a production to the students, the school and the greater community.

Students are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in an important piece of Shakespeare’s literature. Students are learning about the history of literature and gaining an insight into the brilliance of Shakespeare’s words. Acting skills easily translate into life skills such as gaining confidence, accountability, and teamwork skills. Students are encouraged to challenge themselves to feel confident speaking in front of a crowd. Acting on stage allows the students to feel a sense of accomplishment. Memorizing lines increases vocabulary and accountability, as they are solely responsible for their own lines.

Being in a production teaches the students about commitment and reliability. Students are required to dedicate time outside of school to learn lines and blocking. Students will also learn organizational and prioritizing skills in order to ensure they are succeeding in all of their classes. Working with a cast helps students work as a team, and to garner an understanding of how their actions can positively or adversely affect others. As a cast, students will create and maintain friendships that sustain after the production. Being part of a production creates a community and culture where the students can feel they belong. As student schedules need to be coordinated around a range of other extracurricular activities, the teachers in involved in those activities must work together. Teachers are given the opportunity to participate in an area they may not have before. Productions can also impact a school by positive coverage in the media related to the play. It is also a means of advertising to the parents of prospective students.

Students have provided concrete feedback about the experience:

#1 – Entertainment: “I love having fun with the crew”; “loving every second and it’s something I think has let people learn to make friends”; “…memorization, voice projection, acting and having fun!”; “ IT’S SO FUN”; “… fun to be on the stage and let the audience see their inner actress or actor”; “It lets you be you!”; “I love it, again I say I love it! “; “You also learn to speak crisp and clear with Shakespeare”; “This play is hilarious, giving laughter to every single one. So I think school plays are such a good idea?”; “Thanks for letting me have fun”.

#2 – Adds to the School: “Plays in school improve the school in many ways. Some examples are how it encourages kids to do theatre in the future. Some people may object putting plays on because we’re too young or may be too disappointed if they don’t get in but my argument is plays can help kids with confidence, overcoming stage fright and much more. Shakespeare is a real challenge for kids. But even though it may have its challenges it is a great comedy. My conclusion is Shakespeare plays for middle school are great”.

#3 – Shakespeare rehearsals have provided a new opportunity: “There is a greater variety of extra-curricular activities at school as long as we have the play productions. These rehearsal improve the students’ acting abilities and entertain them after a long day of school. Rehearsing Shakespeare has taught me how to comprehend old-English literature”.

#4 – Growth: ”I’ve learned and started to understand old English. It is a very unique opportunity that I have never experienced before. I think the school will think somewhat the same thing”.

#5 – Community: “I find that Shakespeare makes me go out of my comfort zone and really get into my character. And I think that when the play comes together people get involved and it makes a sense of community”.

Keith completed his Professional Semester III at Gilbert Paterson Middle School, teaching Drama and Health. He previously taught Grade 2 at Mike Mountain Horse, and 7/8 at Alexandra Middle School. For the last two years Keith has worked as a Program Leader at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre, running programs for schools as well as summer camps and teaching children about the local environment and its inhabitants.

http://mrginganinja.weebly.com

Using Moodle to Maximize Student Learning

There are two reasons for choosing a study of Moodle for my inquiry project. First is that Moodle is a great tool to enhance the learning process for students. Also it creates timesaving organizational methods for teachers if implemented correctly. The second reason is that many teachers have a desire to integrate Moodle in their classrooms but lack the technological background to do so. For that reason I have made a Moodle “how-to” guide and gifted it to the school for such teachers.

I received feedback from my students that they enjoy using Moodle and find it very helpful in learning curriculum objectives. Many students requested that I create online Moodle resources for them to help study for summative assessments. One reason they enjoy using Moodle is the instant formative feedback it provides. For example, I would create online formative quizzes students could work through. After each response, students can receive feedback if the answer is correct, with the correct answer provided. This allows students to instantly tell if they are on the right track. Also, I can provide students with a variety of online resources to support learning. The "how-to guide" allows teachers to easily create and add resources, projects and ideas they have onto the Moodle platform.

Spencer recently graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a B.Sc./.Ed, minoring in Mathematics.

http://spencerwenzel.weebly.com

The Bottom Line: Literacy in the Science Classroom

The Bottom Line is a student journaling project. On a bi-weekly basis, students are given prompts which address big questions and main ideas. They are responsible for submitting a meaningful response electronically via the class website. The topics given are open-ended and require students to provide explanations for their answers. The submissions are marked on a pass-fail basis which takes pressure off of coming up with the ‘correct’ response and allows for critical thinking and risk-taking. The Bottom Line allows for regular integration of literacy and technology as well as an opportunity for students to demonstrate various Attitude Outcomes from the Alberta Education Programs of Study. The Bottom Line also provides me with regular feedback from students regarding their own interests and opinions which can be used to guide future planning and instruction.

The Bottom Line has had a positive impact on students as well as me the teacher. What I enjoyed most was getting to know the students better as they incorporated their own interests and backgrounds to the different responses. Providing personal feedback also accelerated relationship development with the students and I was able to speak with them in passing about interests or activities they were involved in.

Ray taught Biology 20 and Science 14 during his internship at Winston Churchill High School. He grew up South of Lethbridge and completed his B.Sc./B.Ed. with a General Science Major at the University of Lethbridge. 

http://rdwilde.weebly.com/professional-growth-plan--inquiry-project.html

Observations and Resources from a Restorative Classroom

The English Language Learners with Limited Formal Schooling (ELL LFS) Program at Winston Churchill High School is a very unique approach to education. The program has 16 students, the majority of whom were born in refugee camps in Nepal. It is designed specifically for students who are brand new to Canada and are unable to function in a mainstream classroom. Through the use of restorative educational practices, the program focuses on creating safe places, building healthy relationships, healing through sharing, and generating self-esteem through recognition and respect. My project focused on the literary and digital resources that were most effective within the program, while studying the philosophy of restorative education. I created an online resource that chronicled my reflections on the program and detailed techniques that could assist any classroom teacher in working with their ELL students.

The need for this program is particularly apparent to any teacher that has had an LFS student in their classroom. While some differentiation is effective, many of these students end up falling between the cracks because they are lost in the complicated curriculum and in-depth discussion that the Alberta Program of Studies requires. This ELL LFS program is designed for those students and assists them in getting to a point where they are able to enter a mainstream classroom with confidence. It provides a safe space where they are able to discuss their past and plan for their future without the threat of failing or falling behind. This program is still in its inception stage, but its effects are already becoming apparent. Students that have graduated from the program have been able to enter mainstream classes, transfer to the college and continue on with their education. They have grown in their identity as Canadians while reinforcing their native cultural pride. My project allows teachers to get a glimpse into the program and see the techniques and resources that we found most effective. They will be able to use these resources to further their connections with their own students, ESL and English speakers alike.

Michael completed his B.A./B.Ed. with a major in English Language Arts and a minor in CTS. His focus is on high school education and he has a particular interest in world cultures.

http://teachingrefugees.weebly.com

Experiencing Through Games

To what extent can student engagement and learning be increased by the use of games and simulations in the grade 11 social studies classroom?

Through exit slips, assessments and, mentor teacher input I have been using games at key points to introduce key social studies concepts. Thus far success has been achieved as students are having fun, getting a break from the same routine, and learning. In addition this has been a great way to engage kinesthetic learners.

Steve recently graduated from the University of Lethbridge. He describes himself as an “Educator, husband, father, with a little sanity left”.