Deep Learning in Inquiry (Part 2)

In reading part one of my inquiry blog, one might think, “That’s all lots of fun, but building a bee house isn’t exactly something that I can write on the report card.”  You would be absolutely right.  The learning is imbedded in the exciting things.  It is intentional and it is authentic.  Connecting with a local expert, using technology for research and having hands on activities with students engaged scratches the surface of inquiry.  Our deep learning with this unit began with the types of questions that we were asking.  I noticed that when the students began asking questions on Padlet that Siri could have easily answered many of their questions with one or two word answers.  This lead to a series of lessons on “THICK” vs. “Thin” questions.  We added better questioning to our goals.


The students also noticed that I had included a lot of infographics on the Padlet.  Infographics are seen everywhere in social media to communicate information efficiently and visually.  However, students need to know how to use this information, how to synthesize it, how to put it into their own words and how to source it.  We spent a significant amount of our language periods on reading and interpreting infographics.


Our learning goals and success criteria went way beyond making houses for bees and honey tasting.  Students wanted to DO something to help bees.  We created our learning goals and criteria together:

 D9EDA370-1138-49B8-965E-051FCD44D0A4     8AB3D3E8-C7F1-4B2B-8E49-BD8E4FE8068F     CD26AF15-F831-470F-9522-D17D415D0A33

Early on in the inquiry we watched an informative YouTube video called, We Can Save the Bees Together.  Sarah Red-Laird, bee enthusiast and scientist, gave us a number of ideas of actions that we could take.  The students decided that one of the things that they wanted to do was to call for stronger legislation about mono cropping and pesticide use in farming.  They wanted to write letters to politicians and change makers.  In addition, when Susan Chan, local bee researcher visited, she “planted the seed” about creating a non-stinging bee friendly garden in our school yard.  This prompted students to write letters to local school officials to solicit assistance and guidance.  One of our students from Curve Lake First Nation decided to write the Chief and Band Council to ask them to consider building a bee friendly garden in their community. The desire for letter writing lead to a series of lessons on how to write a professional letter, how to proofread and how to edit in a meaningful and authentic learning context for students.  The students also felt that educating others about conservation of  bees was important so they are now working on developing presentations that they can take to other classes as well as media advertising to share their learning and call others to action.

In math, we had been focusing on data management.  It fit in perfectly to what we were doing with our inquiry!  There is an incredible amount of data about bees on the Statistics Canada website.  We read real graphs with information that the students cared about, we labelled the important parts of the graphs and we will be creating our own surveys and graphing the information from different areas of our inquiry.


Statistics Canada

Honestly, the best part of inquiry is when the students start to direct their own learning.  I guide them.  I provide thought provoking questions and “what if” scenarios.  They make choices and feel good about doing something that is affecting real change.  Inquiry is empowerment for students.  This students aren’t done with this inquiry yet-they have many more plans ahead!  Stay tuned.

Learning something new! Uses for Google Classroom in the music room

I am not a very technologically-oriented person by nature. To give you an idea, my partner had to talk me into getting a cell phone a couple of years ago as I couldn’t imagine life without my land line. However, this year, a couple of teachers from another school presented the idea of using Google Classroom to enhance their music program. I really wanted to try it out, so I assembled a group of five students who helped me get Google Classroom going in my music room. The whole process was so invigorating and exciting. I found myself excited to come in every morning and see what videos the students had sent me the night before. It really pumped me up throughout this past month.

To start using Google Classroom from a planning time teacher’s perspective is very easy if your board is connected to Google programs. I created a class for each one of the classrooms that I teach by going to the plus sign at the top of the 1

Next, I clicked on each class and began to add students.

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To add students to the classroom, simply go to the student section and either invite them by typing in their names or by giving them the class code to join.

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Once all of your classes are set up, add assignments to the classroom by clicking on the small plus sign in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

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I am using Google Classroom in my program for two purposes right now. It is being used to allow students to take videos of their learning at home, and for students to be able to access the music that we are using in extracurricular activities.

For the first purpose, students take videos at home and upload the video to their Google Drive. They then click on the assignment that I have created and upload the file. Finally, they hit submit to send their video to me. I open up the video and I can listen to the student playing their music.

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It has been a great tool for my students who are still working towards playing in front of other people. It also has been fantastic for students to receive feedback between classes.

For my choir and recorder clubs, it has been a tool for them to access the music that we are singing at home.

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I find the program very user-friendly and I appreciate the tracking of student progress. It is a little electronic portfolio for each and every student I teach.


Bitstrips – Incorporating Technology in the Core French Classroom

Using technology in the Core French class sounds like a good idea but, in reality, is fraught with difficulty. Despite a ton of great online resources and programs, I find that in my experience, one of the following scenarios takes place: 1) your classroom (if you’re lucky enough to have one) is not equipped with a functioning computer 2) frequently, the school’s equipment on the whole tends to be unreliable and you end up being stuck with a class of 30 kids waiting as you frantically try to get your program/media to play 3) Core French is not deemed high priority in terms of getting access to equipment such as smartboards and projectors.

This year I really lucked out by booking our Librarian for a two week block of Partner’s in Action sessions and thus gained access to the computer lab in the library. Since we happened to be working on a dialogue, I chose to have them convert it into a comic using the program Bitstrips. They offer a free subscription to teachers and is available at the website

As with any assignment, you must be careful to properly set it up so that you aren’t left with 30 google translated abominations (chances are, you’ll end up with at least a few of these no matter what). Below are some couple of suggestions that will hopefully be helpful.

  1. Begin with a story/poem/dialogue which can be altered by students using familiar language structures and vocabulary (see attachment of dialogue Vouloir, c’est pouvoir- Addison Welsley).
  2. For those students needing accommodation, I provide them with a copy of the dialogue with certain sections highlighted along with a reference sheet from which they can modify and create their own version. Something else I’ve done in the past is to provide them with a choice of three things written in and they must choose accuratetly.
  3. Provide a sample level 3 text and then, as a class, show how to extend sentences and incorporate more advanced structures for a level 4.
  4. Make sure to provide ample time to complete project (which usually takes much longer than expected) and make sure students are accountable for completing subtasks to keep their project moving along.

In my next blog, I’ll talk about some ideas for what to do once projects are complete and provide some examples so you can see what the students were able to accomplish.

Vouloir, c’est pouvoir text