Students have been writing to their French pen pals. In the first letter, they shared personal details about their family and friends, their likes and dislikes.
In keeping with Term 2’s focus on informational writing, they’re now writing about school in their second letter.
Some students are sharing details about a typical school day. Others are sharing details about special events, like Hip Hop Week or Sports Day. While others are sharing details about their favourite subjects and how we study them.
Students have been practicing to write a rough draft, revise, then write a final copy. We practice the routine “trois avant Madame” (roughly translated to “three friends before the teacher”). They need to have their work read by three classmates before coming to me for a final conference.
We try our best to catch and correct all errors in punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary. We’re practicing to also offer respectful and constructive feedback on the ideas put to paper. We ask ourselves, “Is this interesting to read? What questions do I have? What details could be included?”
It’s hard work, but the students are beginning to understand the importance of reviewing one’s writing before considering it ‘done’.
Last week, students collected leaves and pinecones from a nearby cedar to add authentic and local plants to our in-class salmon story. Together, we observed the colour and texture of both parts of the tree. We sorted through pinecones and flower buds from a neighbouring (magnolia?) tree.
In class, we identified the cedar tree in a field guide, noting the small round pinecones in a photo for a Yellow Cedar or Alaska Pine. We noted that its average height is between 20 and 40 metres. We then tried to estimate reasonably how many metres tall our tree was. We used a metre stick as a referent.
Finally, we added to our salmon story. Students were encouraged to imagine our school’s eggs (and alevins) in the wild. What could their natural environment look like? What outdoor elements do we find in the Pacific Northwest?
Our salmon story will continue to evolve as the fish develop next door in Mme Turcios’ classroom. Here, Kai and Claire built a story that shows the diversity of animal life in our region.
Claire says, “Les oeufs sont ici. Ils cachent dans les roches. Il y a les étoiles de mer, les crabes, un [homard] et une pieuvre. Les saumons adultes nagent. Il y a un requin qui cache et mange les saumons. (The eggs are here. They hide in rocks. There are sea stars, crabs, a lobster, and an octopus nearby. The adult salmon swim in the ocean. There’s a shark hiding in the waves eating them.)”
This term, we’ve started studying salmon. École Westridge is participating in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Salmonids in the Classroom Program. Mme Turcios and her class are raising 55 chum eggs which will develop into alevins, then fry, before being released into a nearby stream.
Division 10 students have been practicing to be scientists. They’ve been tracking the salmonids’ growth through observation and discussion. They record what they see – and what they wonder – through writing and drawing.
In learning about their life cycle, we’ve been using loose parts to help us understand science concepts. Loose parts also support writing. Students use them to develop vocabulary and elaborate on ideas.
Here are some scientific facts that we’ve learned so far:
Les saumons ont des oeufs oranges. Salmon have orange eggs.
Les saumons peuvent voyager les grandes distances. Salmon can travel great distances between their birthplace (rivers) and the Pacific Ocean.
Les saumons retournent où ils sont nés pour faire les oeufs et mourir. Salmon return to their birthplace to spawn and die.
Voici le cycle de vie d’un saumon – oeuf, alévin vésiculé, fretin, tacon, saumon adulte et géniteur. Here’s the salmon life cycle – egg, alevin, fry, smolt, adult, and spawner.
There’s more to discover as the fish continue to develop!
Division 10 has been working on increasing its spoken French in the classroom.
Recently, we’ve launched our bocal de français (French jar) project. We add a glass bead every time we hear some French. We do the same when we hear English.
Speaking in French can be hard, and sometimes frustrating, but it requires daily practice. It also means being brave and okay with making mistakes.
To gain perspective, we read JoAnn Deak’s Your Fantastic Elastic Brain. This science book explains the parts of the brain and its development. It also speaks to the importance of having a growth mindset – especially when challenged.
Students will be able to reread the French version on their own time as we’ve recently gotten a copy for our classroom library.