Bridging the Generation Gap

Bridging the Generation Gap

RVS Teacher, Prince of Peace – I teach 23 wonderful Grade 1 students at Prince of Peace Lutheran School. Next door to the school is the Prince of Peace Manor, which is a senior care facility. One day, I ran into my former substitute teacher Jacqueline, who is now retired and lives in the Manor. We started to discuss how to bring my Grade 1 class (the younger generation) to visit with the residents at the Manor (the older generation). We worked out a plan with dates and times and what the two groups would be doing when they got together.

Our first meeting had our “adopted” grandparents helping the students with a primary colour booklet. About 12 seniors attended this meeting, which lasted about half an hour. The students were a bit apprehensive, but soon the two groups got introduced and started working on their booklet. They soon became fast friends. Our second meeting had about 22 seniors, that is about one senior to work with every child! They worked together on their secondary colours booklet. The seniors were very impressed with the student’s knowledge of identifying primary and secondary colours and how polite the children were to them. By the third visit, the seniors and students had developed a deep bond and were so excited to see each other again. You could see their happiness from their beaming faces and sincere greetings. Their faces just lit up! This time, the groups worked on numbers and counting. Prior to leaving, the groups were giving each other good-bye hugs and telling each other how excited they were for their next meeting!

This has turned into a weekly event. The talking and visiting is so appreciated by the seniors. Some of the “grandparents” do not get a visit from their own children or grandchildren. They are so happy for the little time they get to spend with the students. The students in turn experienced the positive interactions with a senior that may not happen in their own family. Both groups have become great friends and eagerly anticipate their next meeting.

To SWIPE or not to SWIPE?

To SWIPE or not to SWIPE?

Director of Transportation – That is indeed the question that has been asked, again and again in many different ways, of our transportation staff. Why do our children have to SWIPE their bus pass?

It is something else to remember along with lunches, jackets and homework.

After all, my child has been riding for three years; the driver knows him.

My child has lost three bus passes already this year; I really do not want to pay for another one.

My child is in Grade 6 and he knows very well where he needs to go and is entitled to ride any of the buses from his school.

So… why do students have to swipe?

Swiping is necessary because:

  • It is no longer common for bus drivers to drive a bus route for several years and know all their students. Turnover of bus drivers results in some students having as many as three or more different drivers throughout one year. It has become necessary for safety reasons to track students differently.
  • Swiping allows us to see who is riding a bus and where a student gets on and off the bus. In the case of a delay or breakdown, we can produce a list of student riders who have swiped on the bus. Students who do not swipe will not be on that list.
  • Swiping also gives us record of how many students ride a bus daily, so that we can determine if the student load on any bus is appropriate, or if adjustments to bus routes to equalize student loads is necessary.
  • Finally, finding and boarding the correct bus when there are upwards of 20 buses at some schools is not a simple matter for young riders. If a student boards a wrong bus, swiping helps us to find lost students. A student who has swiped onto a wrong bus can be located quickly and the driver contacted.

The answer to the original questions is a resounding YES! Everyone should SWIPE.

Is Anyone Paying Attention?

Is Anyone Paying Attention?

Principal, W.G. Murdoch School – This fall I’ve had the opportunity to transition into one of life’s most challenging roles: Hockey Dad. In between scoping out potential homes once my son makes it to the NHL (kidding) and running him around to rinks on Sunday morning at 7:00 AM, I’ve learned some important lessons.

Two times a week, Harrison takes the ice with 15 other keen five and six year olds to go through a variety of skating, shooting, and other drills intended to teach the little ones the basics of hockey. As parents, we’ve been encouraged to put our phones away and enjoy watching our kids play hockey. After a couple of practices, I see why. If Harrison got a nickel for every time he looked up at me or my wife for affirmation that what he was doing was special, he would be a rich man. Every circle of the ice, every shot on net, every time he catches a glimpse of one of us, the eyes go up to the stands, making sure we are watching.

Enjoying the groundbreaking ceremony at Building Futures

On one of those mornings, I reflected on how important giving students that same authentic audience is. As teachers (and parents) we’ve all been guilty of giving our kids ‘busy work’ to simply entertain them so we can have some time to ourselves. In my experience, the difference in the work received from ‘make work’ projects varies immensely from tasks that are designed with an authentic audience. Whether that audience is a potential client (like three of our students get to do this year with Building Futures) or an engaged classmate or teacher, ensuring timely, intentional feedback that occurs both during and after the task is critical. To relate it to the analogy of my son’s hockey, specific feedback about what I observed him doing on the ice, rather than “you did well son,” goes a long way.

No matter our age, we’re always looking for a level of affirmation that the work we’re doing matters. In the busyness of our days, let’s remember that our students care what we think about their work and that taking the time to show them that not only makes them feel validated, it also improves the learning environment.


W.G. Murdoch students learning about chemistry through hands on experiences with watermelons

Using Play Doh to learn about Plato in Origins of Western Philosophy

Start Them Young They Say!

Start Them Young They Say!

Students Hold Local Candidates to Task in All Candidates Forum

Amrit Rai Nannan and Anna Jensdottir, Meadowbrook School and Heloise Lorimer School Teachers – What better opportunity to get students interested in our democratic process than to let them grill local candidates? On October 11th, that’s precisely what grade six students from Heloise Lorimer and Meadowbrook Schools in Airdrie were invited to do. As teachers, we saw an incredible teaching opportunity, so we organized our very own political forum so that students would have the opportunity to interact directly with Airdrie’s political candidates and more importantly get their questions answered face to face.

We started off hoping to get one or two mayoral candidates and a few councillor candidates out. If we were lucky, the school trustees would be willing to join as well. CIVIX (a non partisan organization whose goal is to create civically engaged future voters) pitched in to provide our schools with the Student Votes Program. Scouring the internet we were able to scrape together contact information. The overwhelming response we received from the candidates was beyond what we imagined – three mayoral candidates, 13 councillor candidates and four school trustees. Excited talk about who was coming started to dominate the classroom discussion and students even started reaching out to candidates on their own. At this point we knew the students had taken ownership of their learning and we had succeeded in our goal of engaging the students in the electoral process.

Frequently, adults and students see candidates as foreign beings that are not approachable. We wanted to break down these walls and show students that the political process is accessible and relevant to them too. We have found that students feel that their voice is not heard because it cannot be translated into a vote on election day. This leaves them feeling alienated and frequently apathetic. After being involved in this spectacular day, students have gained a new appreciation for the power of civic engagement. Our students have been out and about in the community, discussing the issues with their parents and their aspiring representatives. Not only have they actively shown their own influence in our city, but they’ve also gained experiences that will follow them as they grow into our next generation of responsible voters.

They old adage says that “it takes a village,” and for us, it was a proud moment to see the whole village show up for our students.

View the Student Votes results for Airdrie here.

Literacy Assessment for Learning

Literacy Assessment for Learning

Literacy Specialist – In order to understand students as readers, it is important for teachers to collect information data about their reading and plan from there. In the first weeks of school, this can be a bit daunting; however, it is also a valuable opportunity to get to know students as individuals and to start building relationships.

Being able to make the most of this valuable time with students requires the rest of the class to work independently. This would allow teachers time to meet with students and gather information about student reading. The beginning of the year is a great time for teachers to work with students to establish routines and expectations. Together, they illustrate and practice strategies for independence to incrementally build stamina around sustaining classroom routines. Over time, students are able to work with increasing independence, providing teachers with the time they need to gather information about the readers in their class to drive student instruction.

To build independence, students and teachers need to clearly establish and practice routines and expectations for the literacy block. It is important to take time to illustrate what following the expectations does and does not look like, and to outline the roles of all class members. Co-created class anchor charts are a great way to remind students of agreed upon expectations and routines. Other classroom structures directly support student independence in the literacy block, including student specific book boxes, environmental print, and readily available materials for reading and writing.

Taking time to embed formative assessment opportunities in classroom practice helps teachers to determine the next steps for instruction. The data gathered through assessment can help to inform the focus of whole group instruction, as well as small, more guided activities like Guided Reading, one-on-one conferences and targeted strategy groups.

Over time, ongoing formative assessment becomes a running track record of student reading growth, which translates into anecdotal data for sharing with parents and students through online student portfolios and report cards. The RVS Literacy Profile is a great place to record and collect this data. Teachers can use the RVS Assessments for ongoing formative assessment to understand the needs of their students, rather than periodically taking chunks of time away from instruction to assess readers for report cards. Using this data, teachers are then able to plan their whole group and small group instruction to target specific areas of need as indicated by students.

The RVS Literacy team is working on an assessment package for schools to distribute later this month. All of the RVS tools for assessment can be found on the RVS Literacy website, including the RVS Running Record and RVS Comprehension Assessment forms, and grade level correlation chart. To speak with our team about how you can begin using this tool to gather formative data in your own classroom, please contact us!


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