October 23, 2015
by Alie Quinn

Tuning In

This week we tuned in to our new Unit, Where We Are in Place and Time.

Our central ideas is People’s understanding of science has evolved over time, and shapes the future.

We began tuning in by looking at Sir Isaac Newton’s quote, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” We had a discussion about what we thought the quote might mean.

Polina said it sounded like Newton was being interviewed and this was his response to why he was so smart. Taka added to her idea by saying the ‘Giants’ in the quote represent the people who came before him and whose ideas he built upon.


Later, we came back to this quote and talked about an article The Atlantic ran a few years ago, called “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel”. In the article, experts across the fields of science and technology ranked what they felt were the most important discoveries and inventions over the past 6000 years. The Atlantic staff compiled and sorted the data to come up with an overall ranking based on the experts’ ideas. I gave ten cards to each group of three children. Each card had one of the inventions from the article, without their ranking. I asked each group of children to rank the discoveries and inventions from most important to least important. They had to research any discoveries they were unfamiliar with, and had to justify their reasoning.


They presented their findings to their classmates, who challenged their thinking by questioning their decisions.

I sent the children the article via email, so they can compare their thinking with the experts.

We will come back to this article and continue the discussion after the break.

We will also order the inventions and discoveries by when in history they happened and place them on a timeline.

In the coming weeks, the children will choose a breakthrough that interests them and write an essay on that discovery and the person who made it.

September 21, 2015
by Alie Quinn

This Week in 5Q…

In Language

We continue to look for inspiration in choosing topics for Free-Verse poems. This week we mapped our hearts. This practice comes from Georgia Heard’s Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. It encourages children to find topics for poems that are important and meaningful to them.


We are looking forward to sharing our poetry. We will continue to talk about the best way for us to publish our finished writing pieces.

In Math

We continue to delve into the mindset videos and challenges from youcubed’s Week of iMath. This week we watched a video that explained that math is all about finding patterns. It used Fibonacci’s sequence as an example. We then looked at Pascal’s triangle and found all sorts of amazing patterns.


This task is an example of what youcubed calls ‘high ceiling, low floor’ which means children can access the material no matter what their mathematical background and be successful. Feel free to look at the Pascal’s triangle activity with your child and work together to notice all the patterns within.

In Unit of Inquiry

We have been focusing on the Learner Profiles as attributes to help people solve conflicts peacefully. We matched each profile to it’s definition. We also did a ‘Bus Stop’ activity where each child went around and wrote how they demonstrate each profile, or how someone they know demonstrates that profile.


In Other

Grade 5 Camp

Ms. Finnimore, Ms. Pender and I visited the location of the Grade 5 Camp over the weekend. We met with some representatives from the company that will be running our camp activities.
We looked at Ms. Pender’s photos and talked about what we can expect at camp this year.

Grade 5 Camp Scout Sept.2015(JP)

The children were all very excited and shared their thoughts and feelings about camp. We represented our thinking using the Compass Points Thinking Routine.


Learning Buddies

On Tuesday, we met with our Grade 1 Learning Buddies. Since both Grade 5 and Grade 1 are learning about and writing poetry, we decided to read our poetry with each other. The children then collaborated together on a poem and wrote it on the playground with sidewalk chalk. Grade 1 teacher Ms. Zoe titled it ‘Poetry on the Playground’. Ms. Pender snapped some photos of the children in action.

poetry buddies 1&5 (JP)

Ms. Zoe took some video and wrote about the experience on the 1P blog. Check it out here.

Elementary Student Council Elections

We had six children interested in running for Elementary Student Council. As a grade level team, we decided to introduce the children to Preferential Voting. We watched a video to introduce us to the process and begin our understanding. On Friday, election day, we had a pretend practice vote – where we voted for the Alien Student Council representatives for Space School. We then counted the votes together to see how the candidates with the lowest number of votes had their second choices redistributed to the remaining candidates.



Finally, our candidates made their speeches, and after recess, Polina and Karthik were announced as our class representatives to Student Council. Congratulations!


September 6, 2015
by Alie Quinn
1 Comment

Using Generate, Sort, Connect, Elaborate to Create Our Class Agreements


Every year my class makes agreements about what we want our learning community to be like. We refer to these agreements throughout the year in discussions and reflections about our learning community. YIS has a comprehensive set of values that serve unofficially as our school community agreements, and largely influence how we see ourselves and how we interact with each other. 


I wanted to base or connect this year’s class agreements on our school values, but I wasn’t sure how to do it without the resulting agreements being a copy of the YIS Values, and not reflecting the children’s ideas and voice.

Luckily, a neighbouring teacher had the same idea, and after an impromptu professional conversation, he placed me on the right track with the Visible Thinking Routine that he was using to serve his purpose and help document the process:

Generate, Sort, Connect, Elaborate.

Mid-first week of school, I split our class into groups of four and began with the question: What can I do to make school a good place to be and learn? I gave each group a piece of chart paper and a stack of sticky notes, and asked the children to generate as many ideas as possible. We agreed that there are no bad ideas and that quantity was more important than quality at this stage. The children could choose to think to themselves or discuss their ideas with others in their group.


The following day I challenged them to sort their ideas into categories and give each one a name that represented the concept or ‘Big idea’ of that group of stickies. The children came up with categories such as; responsible, caring, helpful, safe, respect, etc.


Their next step was to draw physical connections between their concepts and the YIS Values. I gave each group a copy of the values and asked them to connect their ‘Big Ideas’ to the concepts embedded in the values. Our pieces of chart paper were now beginning to look like concept maps.


Finally, I asked each group to discuss their connections, and elaborate on their ideas to help us form our class agreements. They recorded their thoughts, adding them to their maps. 


Once everyone was happy with how they elaborated on their connections,  each group took turns sharing with the class. When a group shared a connection between their ‘Big Idea’ and the concept from the school values, I asked questions to clarify their thinking and recorded their ideas on the whiteboard. These elaborated connections became our class agreements:


I’m thankful for the professional conversations I have on a daily basis with dedicated colleagues, like the one that put me on track to the perfect Visible Thinking Routine for my purpose. As a result, we now have a powerful set of Classroom Agreements for the 2015-16 school year that are personal to 5Q and yet reinforce what we value at YIS. We also have the whole process documented, which is just as important.

5Q Class Agreements

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