Implementing Our Electricity Understandings

We have been working very hard in LC5B learning about electrical mechanisms, circuits, batteries and just how electrical circuits operate.

This is a fairly in-depth unit and the students and I have approached it with inquiry in mind. We are surrounded by electricity, but just how does it work and how dependent are we on it? LC5B had come up with so many questions which we have taken the time to research and learn about what we wondered.

Last week we had failed attempts at implementing a working circuit, but our focus at that time was on the process and how to continue to try alternatives when coming face to face with a failed attempt. This week we focused on applying the skills and knowledge we had learned about functioning circuits and attempted to put them to test with our circuit boards.

Students chose partners they felt they could work best with and each group was provided with an operating circuit board and the cell batteries students were asked to bring at the beginning of the year. I didn’t provide them with any further instructions other than to make their circuit operate. We had built the foundations of what an effective circuit requires in order to function, and now they had to apply this knowledge. This was the best piece of assessment of learning as students were quick to begin and were incredibly focused and determined on getting their circuits to operate, and they applied their understandings of insulators, conductors, switches, cells and voltage. They were also 100% comfortable in explaining how and why their circuits were or were not working, which allowed me to see their understandings in a natural setting.

They explored, they pushed, they clipped, unclipped and re-clipped….and may have burnt some bulbs…but they were learning!

I hope you can see and hear their excitement below:

What happens if.....
What happens if…..
Let's see what this does...
Let’s see what this does…
So excited about his group's completed circuit!
So excited about his group’s completed circuit!
Is this going to work...
Is this going to work…
Concentrating in their groups
Concentrating in their groups!
We think we got it!
We think we got it!
Thumbs up and all smiles!
Thumbs up and all smiles!
Success and pride!
Success and pride!
What happens with more voltage?
What happens with more voltage?



Building Readers

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 10.03.38 PM

Our goal this year is to build a community of readers. In order to build strong life-long readers, we must foster a true love of reading. Very often students are told which books they must read and when the power of choice is not balanced, students will disengage and reading will become yet another task that needs to be completed. There is a time for structured reading to learn the skills necessary to delve deeper into text, however our end goal is to build a love of reading so that students will continue to read out of enjoyment which will also grow the amount of reading they do.

One of the very first steps in this process is to introduce students to the endless amount of resources available to them and guide them in choosing books that are suitable based on interest and abilities. We are so very lucky to have access to any book in the entire world whether through our local and provincial libraries to thousands of online resources. We have been talking in our classroom about how and where we can find books well as how to know if it’s a book we are interested in and are able to read. This learning process is very important as I don’t want students to be at frustration levels when reading. The end goal is for them to read and read and read.

I’ve begun to introduce them to books they may have never read or even heard of before. The Global Read Aloud that we participated in chooses the top new books by authors from around the world. Students then share their thoughts, reflections and connections with peers also reading the same book. The books chosen resonate with their readers and I continue to read these aloud to the students year long to build that connection and model for them that deep love of reading. When I close a chapter and hear “Awww…no!! Keep reading Miss Ariss, keep reading,” thats when I know those connections have been made. This is the feeling we need to build with our students.

In our classroom, reading is an integral part of everything we do. We have dedicated DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time where students can choose to read independently or with a friend any book of their choosing. We will also be starting Literature Circles as well as focusing on individual strengths and areas of growth for each student in fluency and comprehension.

However, reading doesn’t end at school or in our classroom and so as a class, we created our own private reading community on GoodReads.

For those unfamiliar, GoodReads is the following:

“Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love.

A Few Things You Can Do On Goodreads:

  • See which books your friends are reading.
  • Track the books you’re reading, have read, and want to read.
  • Check out your personalized book recommendations. Our recommendation engine analyzes 20 billion data points to give suggestions tailored to your literary tastes.
  • Find out if a book is a good fit for you from our community’s reviews.”

Students have already joined the community, learned about privacy settings, searched for books of interest and set their own reading goals from now until we come back to school in January. Goodreads can be accessed from anywhere at anytime, it can even be downloaded as a free app on your mobile device or iPod. Students will require the use of school, local and at home libraries to obtain their books/reading materials as Goodreads is not an online reading program. The reasons we will be using Goodreads to track our school and at-home reading are as follows:

  • It’s real and connected to the world. Students can share and reflect on what they’ve read with millions of others so that reading isn’t just happening in a vacuum. They learn about differing opinions and have access to titles they may never have had a chance to see.
  • They will read and write reviews and recommendations alongside other avid readers. Their opinions will matter and the amount of writing and reading they do will grow.
  • They can recommend books to one another after completing them. We all know that when a teacher or parent recommends something students don’t respond as favourably as when their best friend recommends it.
  • They will build independence and ownership of their own reading. They will be required to independently provide page updates as they read at home and at at school. Goodreads provides them with a visual to help aid their growth and progress. This will be monitored by me weekly so I can have individual discussions with students. I ask that they read at home and be provided with access to record in their Goodreads account. They can do this at school the following day as well if access is not available.
  • Students are very visual and often times pictures will grab their attention faster. Goodreads provides photos of each book so students can look at the cover and even read the first few pages of a book before deciding if it’s one they want to find.
  • They can create their own goals and share that with me. I have stressed continually that reading is NOT a competition between them and others. They read for themselves and they share that growth with me. We will have whole group and classroom reading goals that when reached, we will celebrate, however we are a team made up of individuals.
  • Our private Goodreads community also allows for group discussions about what we are reading. I have modeled a discussion question and will encourage students to start their own about their reading as we get going. We have also connected our community to other classrooms on Goodreads, one even being in our own Grade 5 team.
  • Students will also be asked to create book trailers to review a chosen book they have completed and will post completed projects to their blogs.

I have also stressed that for this, reading material can be of the student’s own choosing. It need not be purely fiction or restricted to just chapter books. The possibilities are endless and I will allow any reading material that can be recorded and students provide evidence of the why and what to me during our individual reading discussions. We want to build the excitement over reading and connecting and that means different things for different students.

As always, I rarely ask my students to do something I myself haven’t done, and so I, along with two other teachers have connected and shared our own accounts and reading goals with them on GoodReads too. We’ve also extended the information to our parents in the hopes they would join us too.

Students need to see, know and understand that reading is life-long and not just a task to be done at school. Are we modelling this to them?


Classroom Learning – November 3 – November 7, 2015

We have had quite the event-filled weeks leading up to our current Fall Break. I sincerely hope everyone is resting and gearing up for the next few weeks of learning!

Here is a brief update on the learning activities happening in our classroom:


We continue to review and reinforce the three estimation strategies of FrontEnd, Compatible and Compensation. These are new concepts to students as most are familiar with the use of compatible which allows them to estimate or round to the nearest 10, 100, 1000, 10,000 or 100,000 but there are still struggles with rounding beyond 100 and we will be continuing to review and apply. Students will need to know when and how to apply these strategies when adding and subtracting whole numbers up to 1,000,000. They have demonstrated growth and understanding with addition, however subtraction across multiple place values is an area of focus.

Students are also completing their final place value and estimation project which they will have on They will be posting these to their blogs very soon. Here is a video made by Nate and Ashley describing this project with photos of Ian’s completed project.  It also features a student from Mrs. Krefting’s grade 5 classroom sharing about the Language Arts learning we are doing as well:

Language Arts

We have been focusing heavily on the writing trait of Ideas. Students observed a random object within their environment and listed the details. Then as a group we wrote a descriptive paragraph imagining ourselves as that object. Students then showcased their creativity as they assumed the role of their object and described themselves from its perspective. They posted these on their blogs and were so happy to see your guesses in the comments section. Some were very tricky but also quite descriptive.

We also read the book called Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street and had a group discussion about whether things ever happen at our school. We discussed how we can observe things in our everyday environment so that it may help to spark ideas for our writing. Students then each chose a staff member in our school to visit and observe as they taught their class or worked in our front office. As they observed, students had to write what this person does and says. If this person required specific tools and what their working environment was like. They also had to imagine what superpower they would gift this individual and why and how it would affect them.

Students also had the opportunity to watch a short video called Ideas Are Scary and write a reflective piece on their observation and comprehension of its basic idea. I am trying to push them out of their comfort zones this year so that they can bring out their creativity and showcase their understandings in deeper more meaningful ways. These blog posts were truly inspiring to read.

Our Global Read Aloud is coming to an end as well. We are almost done reading The Fourteenth Goldfish together. The discussions and questions that have come up from this book have truly allowed for us to have very informative discussions surrounding Science and famous scientists. We will be sad to finish this book.


Electricity and Magnetism is really bringing out the student’s love of experimentation. We have discussed quite a bit of information so that students have a strong foundation of content to apply to their experiments. They have learned about conductors and insulators, cells, open and closed circuits, switches, symbols and components. They also are learning how to use the Scientific Method when conducting experiments ensuring they have documented the following: Question, Hypothesis, Materials, Procedure, Observations and Conclusion.

Their very first experiment was to build a circuit and conduct electricity through the use of acidic vinegar, copper wire and metal nails to light a single LED bulb. I didn’t provide students with the exact way to conduct this as I wanted to observe their initial understandings from what we had learned previously about circuits. The objective in this first experiment was to see whether students have fully grasped the concept of an electric circuit, how to apply the Scientific Method when experimenting and what they do when and if they should fail. We have had numerous conversations about scientists in our classroom and how they are continuous learners who fail, but learn from each situation to make their following experiments better.

Not a single group was able to get their bulb to light, which I expected, however every single group continued to change the variables within the experiment and learned from every situation they had attempted. Only one group from Mrs. Krefting’s class got their bulb to light and they came in and shared their findings with us. Students documented their experiment and shared with me.

Here are a few photos and videos of their experiment:

Working together on creating a functioning circuit.
Working together on creating a functioning circuit.
Reconfiguring their circuits numerous times.
Reconfiguring their circuits numerous times.


Our next step is to create fully functioning circuits and applying the skills learned.

Social Studies

Students have brought back their information from the interviews they conducted with you and their extended families. This was the very first step in our inquiry project into finding out more about our histories and backgrounds. Every student has brought varying amounts of information ranging from a few short answers, in-depth multi-person interviews to detailed family trees. Our next step is to review their content and provide one another with feedback as to how they can get deeper answers so that their information starts to build a complete story instead of random short facts. Once this feedback has been provided, please expect that students will come back to you with more detailed questions in order to improve on their first attempt. Once completed, they will be required to organize and assess their information in order to bring it together into a presentation to share with our other LC5 communities. Students will be provided with various methods of presentation and will have the opportunity to choose which method suits them best.

We have also reviewed our country and its location in the world. We also looked up our family names to find out what they might connect us to. They are very intrigued by the fact that their last names are connected to so many things in the world and have an extensive amount of questions as to who their relatives might have been. These would be wonderful discussion questions to have and learn together about at home.

Stay tuned for more updates this break!

Miss D. Ariss


Delving Into Dewey – A Book Club

John Dewey By Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935) [Public domain]
John Dewey
By Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935) [Public domain]
I’m reading a textbook for fun! No…really…I am; and whats more is that five other educators: Michelle Cordy, Sharon Moskovitz, Dina Moati, Deborah McCallum and Shelly Vohra are reading and discussing it with me. What amazes me most about our John Dewey’s Educational Philosophy in International Perspective book club is that this is not a required read. We are dedicated and passionate educators who live across Canada coming together to learn, connect and better ourselves and our practice out of intrinsic motivation.

I’ve always loved reading books with depth and content; Stories and ideas that can transport me and shift my perspectives. I need to be able to connect what I’m reading to relevant experiences in my life in order to find enjoyment in it. This is something new I have learned about why I enjoy reading and why certain texts at different times in my life appealed to me more. I am finding now, five years into my profession, a better love and appreciation for the ‘educational’ texts I was told I had to read during both of my university careers. At the time, they were unattached to any real teaching experiences and therefore reading them then meant I was to memorize for the future, whereas reading them now allows me to connect, reflect and apply to my practice.

For those unfamiliar with the work of John Dewey, he was truly ahead of his time in regards to educational reform. His philosophies and publications are by no means considered easy reading, but they are of such high importance and relevance to the current changes occurring in education today, that I was drawn into reading more and more.

Our book club has been meeting bi-weekly using Google Hangout and sharing parts of the assigned chapters that have spoken to us and to our practice. We have engaged in discussions as to how Dewey’s philosophies still resonate today and how poignant some of his work has been. We are currently on Chapter 5, and I wanted to share some of the learning from the text that has struck a chord with me below:

“What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the inside? We want to do certain things and not just have the experience of doing them.”  – Robert Nozick  This to me is about that intrinsic feeling we get when we are truly engaged in constructing and creating something that will have an impact on the world and the lives of others. It’s not about just simulating life experiences in the classroom for students, but about actually doing these things in the here and now. I must have read this over more than I can count, because this is an area that I want to grow my practice in. I want the learning in our classroom to have an impact beyond our walls and beyond simulations of the world, but to transcend and become an active part of it.

“Coming to know others who are different from ourselves draws us out; we are educated. This is because only those different from ourselves have the vocabulary, grammar, and style we need. Those who are most like us can only tell familiar stories.” – Jim Garrison How often is it that we surround ourselves with others of differing opinions, views and life experiences? Not very often because it can be uncomfortable. Yet, this is where learning and education can occur and only if we are open to it and only if we are open to realizing our own deficiencies and needs.

“We only experience ourselves within a community, and we only create ourselves within a community. The kind of self which is formed through action which is faithful to relations with others will be a fuller and broader self than one which is cultivated in isolation from or in opposition to the purposes and needs of others. Playing lovingly with others is profoundly more creative than playing alone or playing only to win the war.” – Jim Garrison, Hans Joas Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration! Dewey spoke of self-creation and democracy and how these can be formed through active communities of individuals uniting for the betterment of all. We benefit and grow when our ideas, thoughts and actions are combined to create things we may have never even imagined on our own.

“The lack of imagination binds us to the conditions to which we were born. A failure of imagination chains us to the false choices dictated to us by our culture. It is the greatest possible slavery, for we experience our lives as free even as we choose among values dictated to us by others. It is by a sense of possibilities opening before us that we become aware of constructions that hem us in and of burdens that oppress.” – John Dewey and Jim Garrison Our roles as educators is to open doors of learning and experiences for our students. It’s to broaden their horizons, their goals and their worlds beyond that which they see or live in everyday. The possibilities are everywhere and it comes down to how and if we are harnessing them and the power we have to change our culture which binds us to our current states. Are we building the foundations for students imagine the ‘different’ or the ‘possibility’?

“Cornel West on Prophetic Pragmatism: The mark of the prophet is to speak the truth in love with courage-come what may. Given the fate of prophets, what often comes is humiliation, rejection, and even death. Prophets are not old men with beards; they are anyone who will speak the needed value in destitute times. I want to suggest that educators may become prophets and that frequently good educators must.”-  Cornel West and Jim Garrison Why is it that some educators feel like lone wolves or an island onto itself? How do they fuel themselves and keep going in what they truly believe to be in the best interests of their students? It’s not an easy task to pave the path to change, but we need to continue to share and speak to the learning that is happening in our schools.

I have learned more than I had ever thought I would when I first said yes to this book club, and all that I have read continues to permeate in my mind daily. It has caused me to shift my perspectives on many items and apply a different lens when self-reflecting on my own practice. There are eight more essays and chapters left in our John Dewey reflection group. I am looking forward to our next meeting so that I can learn and share with my fellow educators and adapt my thoughts from their understandings.


Classroom Learning – October 28, 2014

Students planning and presenting their businesses and needs.
Students planning and presenting their businesses and needs.

We had guests from Junior Achievement in our building this morning working with all grades on learning how organizations work, how to create a resume and conduct interviews for jobs. Our morning consisted of students working in groups brainstorming ideas and things they would need to operate their own business. Students focused on problem solving and communication skills until lunch.

Whenever we have a major shift in our regular daily schedule, I know that it will affect my student’s routines for the day and so in my planning for this week, I moved our Art project to this afternoon to ensure students are focused and engaged for the remainder of the day.

Our days and weeks have been flying by so quickly that it dawned on us this week that Halloween was only a few days away. In keeping with the spirit and the excitement of the kids, we decided to embark on our first paper mâché  project : Halloween Pumpkins.

Paper mâché pumpkins!
Paper mâché pumpkins!

The students were so excited that right after lunch they cleaned up the entire classroom, moved the tables and helped me set up the garbage bags on the floor and create the flour and water mâché  mixtures. For most, this was their first time ever making anything using tissue paper, balloons and mâché  mixture.

Success! We conquered the tissue paper over the balloon!
Success! We conquered the tissue paper over the balloon!

I’m not sure which part they loved more…..squishing the mâché  in their hands or making their pumpkins.

It was gross but cool at the same time!
It was gross but cool at the same time!

Our room was a buzz of activity: 

Once dry, we will pop the balloons and students will cut out their faces depending on how thick their outer layer of tissue paper was. This was a very tricky project as they had to balance the balloon, along with the appropriate ratio of mâché to tissue. There were frustrations along the way, but they persevered and we are all very proud of our efforts.

I look forward to seeing how our pumpkins turn out!

Miss D. Ariss