Last night we welcomed 25 + parents to join us to experience the changes we are making to our math program @BelfastCBE (yes this is a twitter handle). We started the evening led by our Assistant Principal @Janaelguebaly. She set the stage for why visual, experiential and challenging learning in math is so essential to student learning.
Afterwards our parents rotated through 3 learning experiences meant to highlight 3 aspects of our math program ( See Diagram Below).
First up was #MrUrsenbach, @D_Boud and @D_C_Fraser teaching ways to sharpen the saw using games that help students to build their skills with math facts and concepts. We have been focusing on what we call “Sharpening the Saw” activities as an important component of our math program. These practice activities are meant to increase student automaticity and flexibility. We have learned that it’s important that students don’t think of these activities in isolation as math, but rather the tools that make math easier and more accessible. Currently our staff are exploring 3 different ways to build math muscles through computational fluency, visualization and reflection (eg. writing about math).
At the end of the night I have to say I was so impressed by the confidence and the leadership that was shown by all of our teachers! It has been a few short months that we have been thinking about math differently but it was clear from watching that each of our teaching has done so much learning already! It was also a privilege to take a step back (to get out of the way) and be part of the learning with everyone else. I am a very proud principal and very grateful to work with such committed and passionate teacher / learners. I have the sense this is only the beginning of a renewed conversation with our community about how math is living in our building!
Ps In case you missed it, teachers names are represented with their twitter handles. Also check out @BelfastCBE !
"Thank you for this, I'm never really sure how I can help my daughter but now I feel more confident sharing what I know and helping her the way she visualizes the math."
I'd like to send a HUGE thank you to all of our Belfast Casino Volunteers who gave their time to make sure that we had the opportunty to bring significant funding into our school.
Thank you to the following people,
Thursday (and into the wee small hours) Tammy L, Lorraine, Andrew G, Steven B, Leslie S, Rick W, Cheryl D, Keith S., Gaby V. Patti W., Ian D., Rob R., Dean Mc., Lisa M. Ashlee-Raye G.
Friday (and into the wee small hours) Tammy L., Lorraine, Andrew G., John M., Jeff L., Wendy C., Rob M., Lori K., Nannette F., Amber A., Sonya R., Mireille, Michelle P., Beth R., Pat P., Bonnie S., Jeremy L. Lori K. Amber A.,
You have made an incredible contribution to our school, our resources and our programing! In the past our Casino's have raised between $60 000 and $80 000! There is no other fundraiser that raises so much in as short a period of time!
On behalf or our students and staff thank you all so much!
Have you ever heard your child (or yourself) say " I can't do math because I don't have a math brain" or "I don't like math because I am no good at it?" Well, Belfast staff and students are working this year on changing their mathematical mindsets! All staff completed a course this summer through Stanford University called Mathematical Mindsets, offered by researcher and educator Jo Boaler. In this course we have learned that:
As an art-centered school, we of course have attracted many art-centered staff! For many of us looking at OURSELVES differently as math learners has been incredibly empowering, and shifting the mathematical mindsets of our students is truly an awesome experience. There are no better words for a teacher than hearing, "Oh my gosh! I totally get it now!!!"
We are hoping to share our mathematical mindset with you, our parents, at our #belfasty Parent Math Night this Tuesday Nov 28 @6 pm. If you can't make it, here is a slideshow that offers a quick overview, plus a truly awesome video from Jo Boaler herself. We hope this opens the conversation for how we can all create the best math learners that your children can be!
Today was a GREAT day! It was so much fun to see so many of our students get into the spirit of Halloween and dress up as a favorite character. Students were treated to a very special lunchroom set up too! Our Lunchroom Ladies set out Halloween Decorations and Table settings at each lunchroom. Spooky-Chic!
After lunch we broke into our #belfasty Houses and spend the afternoon thinking and creating. During our #belfasty days we organize in cross grade groups to learn together or participate in challenges. Today students participated in a S.T.E.A.M. challenge. After doing some research about how spiders spin their webs students were tasked with creating giant spider webs. One group even coated their web with syrup to test whether it could "catch" the insects students also made.
These challenges give students the opportunity to learn from each other, take risks, plan and revamp their plans as they go along. Every #belfasty House approached the challenge slightly differently and the results of an afternoon of hard work were enjoyed by all at the end of the day.
At the end of the day we students paraded through classrooms to show off their costumes AND to see the webs that had been created! It was a great way to tie real learning to our Belfast Traditions!. Throughout the afternoon, music was randomly played encouraging students and staff to drop everything and dance. Interestingly, many groups didn't drop everything and dance. They were too engaged in tackling their challenge!
All in all, a great day, with great students and staff!
Happy Halloween everyone!
And a little shout out to our staff who aren't afraid to show their Emoji's !
We had the best turn out yet for our Reading Coffee talk today. Thank you all of our eager volunteers and parents who are really interested in helping children get better at reading.
For the benefit of parents who would have liked to attend but weren't able, I'm posting more detailed information that was covered in the session today.
We can certainly offer this discussion again if there is interest. Please email me and let me know that you are interested.
For now, here are the notes from our discussion. I'm told that the handout loses something in translation so I am considering videotaping future Coffee Talks. Thanks SR for the suggestion!
Click here for the Reading Coffee Talk Hand Out!
What is useful homework?
This question is one that we revisit often in schools. There are different beliefs about the role of homework and much research has been done on whether or not homework is effective. In a nutshell the amount of homework a child is doing should be reasonable (the 10 minutes per grade rule is common) and it should be used for one of 3 purposes.
One area that is a go-to for reinforcing students skills at home is home reading. There are many ways students can engage with books and online reading and all of them benefit their overall reading proficiency. Here are 3 suggestions:
Just right reading - Children are taught in class to choose books that are interesting to them and an appropriate level. We call these iPick books. If your child has a book that they are reading themselves it is helpful for them to have support as they read. Try some of the following:
Read Alouds: Often we think that read alouds are only for younger children but older children enjoy them too. One of the biggest benefit of reading aloud is that it gives you and your child quality time together. Another benefit is that it provides modeling of reading behaviors that a child can emulate in their own reading. It also helps them to start to experience more complex language, plots, vocabulary and ideas than they would be able to explore on their own. When you are reading to your child consider these suggestions:
Raz Kids - Our fundraising council has generously paid for licences for our students to use this online reading program. This platform offers many leveled texts that your child can choose from, and provides supports with new vocabulary as well. Children can check their comprehension at the end of each reading by taking a quiz. For students who are not quite independent yet there is an option for books to be read to them. This builds their awareness of story and auditory comprehension skills.
This week we are hosting a coffee talk about how to read with your child at home. It is geared to helping parents read with their early readers. Join us Friday at 9 am in the learning commons.
Our first two weeks at Belfast have been wonderful! Teachers welcomed students back on September 5th to our playground surrounded by more than 20 beautiful trees! What a beautiful backdrop for an amazing year!
Additions to our Team
This year we welcome five new staff members - three teachers and two support staff members. Mrs. Medland joins the grade 1/2 team, Mr. Ursenbach joins the grade 3/4 team and Mrs. Austman rounds out the 5/6 team. In addition we welcome back Mrs. Zinken who has returned to the grade 3/4 team after her maternity leave! We also welcome Mrs. James who will be working in our Learning Commons on Mondays, Wednesdays and alternate Fridays, and Mrs. Carter who will be completing our lunchroom supervisors team! Welcome to Belfast! We are so happy to have you with us!
Some of our teachers are in different spaces and on different learning teams. I would like to say an enormous thank you to Mr. Sangster and Ms. Knight who both volunteered to change grade assignments this year. Our teaching culture at Belfast is very special, highly collaborative and interconnected. Both these teachers demonstrate through actions what it is to move from "me" to "we" in putting the needs our our school and our students first! Thank you both for helping to support teachers new to Belfast in your new roles!
Getting to Know You!
The staff refers to first few weeks at Belfast as "cocoon time" during this time, we keep limit the number of interruptions or special events to allow classrooms to settle, to create routines and to allow students and teachers to come to know each other. This year we also included release time for teachers in grade 3 - 6 to interview their students one on one. Some of these interviews are ongoing and will be completed this week. Teacher and student feedback following interviews was incredibly positive.
We are looking forward to a very busy week at Belfast next week. We celebrate the contributions of Terry Fox on Monday with our Terry Fox Assembly and run during the lunch hour! Earlier in the day we will host our first #belfasty Day! Our #befasty Days are exciting times for us to build community through learning that we do together as a school. In past #belfasty Days we have explored creative challenges, engineering challenges (STEAM) and indigenous cultures. On Monday we will community as we form our "family" groups and team identities that will last the year. Students from K-6 are placed in family groups for #belfasty Days. This allows our older students to demonstrate and develop leadership and our younger students to build connection and belonging here at Belfast! For this first #belfasty Day our kindergarten students will not participate as they are still becoming used to their own classroom and the routines coming to school.
Connecting with Parents
On Thursday we will welcome parents during parent teacher conferences on Thursday. This year students from grade 1-6 will come to school for a half day on the Thursday*. Teachers will take a break for lunch then start interviews at 1:30. We have reserved 2 days to meet with parents (Thursday and Friday). The first day is for parent bookings and we encourage parents to book an appointment on this day. The second day (Friday) is reserved for longer parent meetings that are required for students who have Individual Program Plans (IPP's) or other personalized learning plans that have carried over from the year before and need to be revisited.
Over the years a number of fads have come and gone. One such fad is fidget spinners. Fidget spinners are marketed to children and parents as focusing aids. Well intentioned parents are purchasing these objects and sending them to school with their children. Unfortunately, the reality is that fidget spinners are distracting to learning.
Some of our students use tools that allow hands to be quietly in motion thereby helping them to focus their attention. Many different objects can be used for this purpose including small bits of modelling clay, squish balls or other tactile objects. Our teachers are very good at identifying which students could use this kind of strategy and providing options that are successful. The key to remember is that these objects are tools not toys. Our grade 1 and 2 teaches have a good way of distinguishing between a tool and a toy. "A tool is for learning and is intended to keep the eyes and brain open for learning." Indeed I have been present when teachers have reminded students to keep their eyes up even while they manipulate a tool in their hands. A toy on the other hand takes the students attention away from learning. A fidget spinner is not manipulated by the student it is simply watched while it spins. This is the primary reason that we do not recognize fidget spinners as an attention aid. It is our opinion as a staff that fidget spinners are toys not tools.
I am encouraging parents not to send these items to school as they are a distraction to learning and often create behavioral challenges in the classroom and on the playground. Further, the design of these spinners is varied. Some of them light up, others resemble weapons. Fidget spinners should be considered in the same category as other popular fads such as Pogs, Bey Blades, Pokemon Cards etc. They are fun to collect but don’t belong at school. As per our student handbook, teachers may collect these items and hold them for students until the end of the day, but the school is not responsible to ensure that they are not lost or stolen.
At Belfast we are always striving to make learning engaging for students. The essence of Arts Centered Learning is engagement through active participation and creative tasks. As teachers we are learning new techniques and strategies all the time. We are getting better each day at making sure that students are actively engaged in their learning rather than sitting for long periods of time waiting for their turn. That said, If you feel that your child needs an attentional aid at school please do not hesitate to contact your child’s teacher. We would be happy to collaborate with you to set your child up for success.
Appreciation for our teachers...
It is Teacher Appreciation Week and it's a time for us to appreciate the work large and small that teachers do with children in their classroom. Many of us will receive such open appreciation this week. And it's likely to make us feel very good - warm and fuzzy. What I've come to realize is that for me, Teacher Appreciation Week is less about receiving appreciation myself, and more about pausing to reflect about amazing individuals who have touched me deeply and have helped to shape me into the person (and the teacher) that I am now. In truth teachers come in many forms and from many walks of life. Many of the best teachers don't have official certifications. Many of them have never been to a University or even expressed an interest in becoming officially “a teacher”. Yet , the lessons they have taught us are profound. It's not because of our occupation that we are teachers. It's in the act of teaching that teacher help the learner to discover something more about themselves than was apparent before. Teaching, in this sense, is not a noun, it is not a profession, it is not a qualification… it is not an entitlement. Teaching is a verb. Without action, there is no learning, without learning there is no teaching. My most influential teachers have been from many walks of life. Some have been present for long periods of my life and others just a moment. Each came into my life for a purpose - the lesson. The truth is my best teachers changed me.
Over the years I danced in competition but the medals and trophies were never important to Mrs. Shaw. She’d sometimes downplay our individual accomplishments and teach us all the meaning of humility (often sharply). For Mrs. Shaw dancing gave us an opportunity to give back to our community. Many times a year we performed at Senior’s Residences, mental health facilities and community festivals. We learned to be generous with our gifts and to give without receiving anything in return.
I’ve been lucky to have amazing teachers in my life and while I appreciate the sentiment of Teacher Appreciation Week, I ask each of you to consider reaching out and connecting with the people who have been your most important and influential teachers. Teacher Appreciation Week isn’t special in and of itself, arguably it loses its meaning if it is an obligatory or sparks an entitlement in those of us that carry the title of “teacher”. I challenge you to reach out and reflect back the contribution your greatest teachers have made in your life. It’s often said that teachers plant seeds that they may never see bloom. It is truly a generous act to allow someone to see the “flowers” - to see how their actions have had an influence on another’s life. You spend every day as parents and teachers paying it forward to our own children and students, for just one day this week, see if you can’t pay it back.