Grade 6 Practicum

Grade 6 Farewell

This afternoon, I was lucky enough to attend the farewell ceremony for the grade 6 class that I taught during my year 1 practicum. It was a touching collection of speeches, award presentations, and reminiscing for the students, teachers, and family members in the room.  Not only was it special to see the beaming faces of all the graduates, it was particularly moving to hear the student address, during which two class representatives shared their happy memories and words of appreciation for the many people that touched their lives.

While listening in wonder to the mature insights and heartfelt sentiments expressed by these grade sixes, I was reminded of the impact, both big and small, that teachers have on their students each and every day. With this great power comes immense responsibility, and I hope that in my future career in teaching, I am able to create a healthy and safe learning community where my students feel accepted and free to be their own unique (and awesome!) selves, much like I observed at my practicum placement. Congratulations to all the graduates of 2016!


Grade 6 Farewell

Grade 6 Practicum

DIY: Teacher survival kit

Searching for a creative year-end gift for that awesome teacher in your (or your child’s) life? Look no further! I was inspired by the ‘Teacher Survival Kit‘ post on a blog called Tried & True (great for crafty things!). This spring, I decided to adapt the tutorial presented on that blog post to create a unique gift for my associate teacher (AT) at the end of my practicum.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 1.20.45 PM

After collecting everything I wanted to include, I made my own version of Vanessa Brady’s Teacher Survival Kit printable, designed specifically for my AT. The kit itself was a plastic container with dividers that I found at Dollarama (typically used for nails, nuts, bolts, etc.). Most of the other items in the kit can be purchased at a dollar store as well. I arranged the items for easy access and visibility, and attached the printable to the front of the kit using clear packing tape.

The inside of the finished product can be viewed below, and afterwards I thought of a few things that might be good to add:

  • Plastic Cutlery– For when the students’ forget their own;
  • Wet Wipes–  For messy situations; and
  • Chocolates– To maintain some level of sanity (although I was worried about them melting since my AT is in a portable).

I think this is a simple, practical and relatively inexpensive gift idea that can be personalized for the intended recipient quite easily! It will get lots of use in any classroom, and comes with just the right touch of humour. Happy crafting!

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Grade 6 Practicum, Science Shorts

Scientists in school

This week I had the pleasure of participating in a visit from Scientists in School (SiS), which is a Canadian science education charity that brings science workshops to K-8 students.

As the grade sixes are working on their biodiversity unit, their workshop focused on the science of classifying organisms. The facilitator briefly reviewed the process of classifying organisms before allowing the students to dive right in to the three stations, which were composed of unicellular and multicellular (invertebrates and vertebrates) organisms. The starfish and sea anemone were clear favourites at the invertebrate station, and the vertebrate station boasted a wide range of creatures, including a sea lamprey, bat, chicken, pig, painted turtle, snake, and many more. The students also had fun learning how to use microscopes to check out various unicellular organisms, and tried their hand at sketching what they saw.

It was a well-organized and engaging workshop that had every student smiling throughout the afternoon. The facilitators provided all the materials including gloves and a booklet for each student, so all the students had to bring was a pencil! It was a great example of hands-on, experiential learning that brought the biodiversity unit to life for the students. Even the reluctant learners demonstrated a new-found enthusiasm for the subject matter.

The Scientists in School website states that their mission is to “ignite scientific curiosity in children so that they question intelligently…” From my observations during this workshop, they are definitely succeeding in reaching elementary school students and helping them to learn through discovery. I would highly recommend this program to science teachers, and I hope I get to host it in my own classroom one day!


Grade 6 Practicum

Beyond the classroom

  • Social justice club (CHEO fundraiser): grade 6 students, led by the school’s social justice club, created hand-crafted items to raffle off as a Christmas fundraiser for CHEO.



Social justice club: CHEO fundraiser

  • Christmas wrapping challenge: students in grade 5 and 6 classes came together for a group Christmas wrapping challenge where they could each only use one hand to wrap a boxed present!


  • Mathletes: grade 6 students served as leaders for a school-wide, full-day math event that turned the gym into a high-energy atmosphere for learning math in creative ways.


  • Share a book day: students came together in the school foyer to share their favourite books on Family Literacy Day (January 28th).

Share a book day

  • Skating and sliding: students get active outside during winter by skating at the local rink and sliding on the school-yard hill.

Skating 2016

Sliding 2016

  • Junglesport: a unique opportunity for students to explore a climbing and ropes course structure with qualified instructors for a fun week of physical education.


  • Gr.6 retreat: as detailed in my community mosaic posting, grade 6 students participated in a retreat at Saint Bernard Parish for a half-day of community building, friendship and love!

Grade 6 retreat

  • Compassion assembly: grade 6 students led a school-wide assembly focused on the importance of compassion, featuring a moving rendition of “Lean on me” by Bill Withers.


  • Girls and boys basketball:  I was lucky to be able to join two grade 6 teachers in coaching both basketball teams at OCSB tournaments hosted by my placement school.

Girls basketball tournament

Grade 6 Practicum, Science Shorts

Misconception check

To use this strategy, the teacher gives a common misconception about a topic, and students explain why they agree or disagree with it. According to constructivism, students interpret new learning through the lens of previously developed beliefs and ideas about the world. These preconceived ideas could be misinterpretations of generally accepted explanations for a phenomenon, which can cause difficulty and frustration when students are learning something that conflicts with what they already believe. It is thus very important for the teacher to identify misconceptions and address them directly through classroom activities. This ensures that students will more readily accommodate new concepts that are being taught, especially in science education.

I usually used this strategy during whole-group discussions with grade sixes. I would ask a leading question based on a common misconception identified during formative assessment, and challenge the students to explain whether they agreed or disagreed. For example, during math and science discussions, questions could be something like:

  • Can we use a bar graph to represent this weather data?
  • When using partial products multiplication, is each partial product a separate answer?
  • If the switch is open, is our circuit still a closed circuit?
  • Are the colours of the wires important for our circuit to function?

Each question was developed based on observation, anecdotal notes or formative assessment that revealed a common misconception held by many students in the class. By posing the question and having a class discussion about the right answer, students were able to correct their understanding in a collaborative environment. This straight-forward approach led to many productive discussions!

Edutopia. (Sept.14 2015). 10 Fun-Filled Formative Assessment Ideas.

Tippett C. “Constructivism and Science Teaching.” (PED 3131 Course Notes).

Grade 6 Practicum

Anchor charts

Anchor charts are created with students using chart paper and markers (or a white board/ SMARTboard) to convey the most important or relevant aspects of a concept. This keeps learning readily accessible to the students, creates a visible cue that triggers prior learning, and allows them to make connections to future learning.

Anchor charts in the classroom should:

  • Communicate the most current and useful learning content
  • Be created with the students in order to make thinking visible
  • Be referred to by students and used as tools for new learning
  • Be neat and organized
  • Review concepts and recognize future goals

These anchor charts should be posted in designated spaces within the classroom (e.g. clothesline, bulletin board) and rotated regularly so that current learning is represented.

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During practicum, I used this strategy regularly. The students were always involved in creating the anchor chart, as I was usually recording their thinking on chart paper during class discussions. For example, when we were reviewing multiplication (standard, lattice, partial products) and division (standard, partial quotients) strategies, we would solve a problem on chart paper as a class using a specific strategy. This chart paper would then be hung on the math bulletin board for the students to refer to as they were working independently. Anchor charts were also used during language arts to remind students of the characteristics of persuasive writing or the components of the APE strategy, for example. Thanks to associate teachers for some excellent anchor chart samples!

Newman L. (October 2010). Anchor charts: making thinking visible.

Grade 6 Practicum

Reader’s Theatre

Reader’s Theatre is a strategy where a group of students reads a script after having rehearsed it. It is used to build reading fluency, so Reader’s Theatre does not involve the use of memorization, props, costumes or staging. Rather, students are encouraged to rehearse the script so that they perform it naturally.

Teachers, students or other experts on the topic can develop scripts for Reader’s Theatre. These scripts can define terms, provide review of a certain concept, explain difficult topics, or dispel misconceptions. The scripts could vary in length, but should be divided in such a way that students or groups of students can play certain parts, characters, or roles. This strategy can be used to integrate language arts with other curriculum areas. For example, Reader’s Theatre can be used to simultaneously bring science concepts to life while developing reading fluency.

I used this strategy during our grade 6 persuasive writing unit. The students had listened to a story called Hey, Little Ant and were working in small groups to decide if the bully in the story should squish the ant or set it free. When they were done developing their reasons, the class came back together to read the text aloud in the Reader’s Theatre style and the groups then tried to persuade the class of their opinion. It was a fun way to begin the consolidation phase of the lesson, and the students enjoyed the harmony of reading in synchronization!

Hey, Little Ant
Hey, Little Ant (Reader’s Theatre)

Kinniburgh L, Shaw E. (2007). Building reading fluency in elementary science through reader’s theatre. Science Activities 44(1): 16-22.

Tippett C. “Reader’s Theatre.” (PED 3131 Course Notes).

Grade 6 Practicum, Science Shorts


As part of the ‘Maker Movement,’ Makerspaces (or hackerspaces) are physical spaces where students can come together to share, create, invent, network, build and learn. These community environments provide tools that could range from hardware supplies to a 3D printer. While they are often associated with fields such as engineering and computer science, this collaborative space’s primary purpose is learning through hands-on, self-directed exploration- however that may occur.

Makerspaces can be implemented in many different ways within the school environment. They may find a home in a computer lab, shop, or conference room, but in reality they represent the combination of all three spaces. In education, makerspaces provide students with the physical space and materials required for multidisciplinary, inquiry-based learning. Here are some tips when developing your school makerspace:

  • Guide students in developing metacognitive skills necessary to move beyond temporary failures
  • Create specific lessons and units that are project-based and align with curriculum
  • Ask the school community for donations of old electronics, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, balloons, toy cars, wire cutters, balls, adhesive, tools, cleaning supplies, safety equipment, etc.
  • Design your makerspace to accommodate many different activities, including: cardboard construction, woodworking, electronics, robotics, digital fabrication, building machines, sewing, metal working, etc.

While my host school during practicum was still developing their makerspace, students did get to experience a visit from the University of Ottawa’s ‘Maker Mobile,’ which is essentially a makerspace on wheels. The Maker Mobile visited grade 4 and 5 immersion students in early February and brought equipment such as a 3D printer and scanner, laser cutters, and Arduino microcontrollers. This makerspace connected the curriculum to programming and coding, and encouraged students to expand their learning goals. The Maker Mobile was an effective teaching strategy, as students were exposed to cutting-edge technologies and developed their creativity and problem-solving skills. Thanks to grade 4 and 5 teachers for the pictures!

Educause Learning Initiative. (April 2013). 7 things you should know about: Makerspaces.

Edutopia. (July 16 2015). Starting a school makerspace from scratch.

Edutopia. (March 21 2016). Makerspaces lead to school and community successes.

Grade 6 Practicum, Science Shorts

Hour of code

The 21st century workplace will require coding knowledge, which is regarded as a new type of literacy. Through coding, students not only learn problem solving and critical thinking skills, but also feel empowered by this tool for self-expression. ‘Hour of code’ is an initiative to actively teach coding skills to students of all ages.

There are numerous coding games and apps that can be used to teach computer science and coding. The following tools are recommended for teaching coding to students over the age of 8:

  • Hopscotch: free iPad app that allows students to make their own games and share them for others to play.
  • Scratch: used or downloaded online, this is a programming game suitable for beginners.
  • Lightbot: free online puzzle game that lasts an hour.
  • Alice: a programming environment that blends games with storytelling to keep students engaged.
  • CodeCombat: free to play (at the basic level) online multiplayer coding game (9 and up).

These are a few of many tools that exist to help students learn coding. The teacher’s focus should be on cultivating an environment where students are encouraged to take risks and fail safely. Coding requires learning through collaboration and a strong growth mindset!

At my placement school, the  “hour of code” session was implemented as an introduction to the language and uses of computer science. Students used apps such as Scratch and Kodable to explore the concepts of coding. Students were also given the opportunity to further explore coding at the school’s ‘Innovation Club’ meetings, where they could tinker with Dash and Dot robots as well as Lego Robotics. Many students thrived on the chance to learn the basics of programming and robotics, creating complicated series of movements and tasks for the robots. The students were learning a new language while simultaneously turning their ideas into reality through coding!

Edutopia. (December 4 2013). 15+ Ways of Teaching Student to Code (Even Without a Computer).

Grade 6 Practicum, Science Shorts

Genius hour

Genius Hour involves giving students one hour (or one class) a week to become experts in whatever they choose. Google employees, who are given 20% of their work time to explore a pet project that excites them, may have inspired this strategy. This is a student-centered approach and not only allows for more personalized education, but also encourages student creativity and innovation.

This strategy could be used with any grade level, but it is important that the teacher prepares all pieces of technology in advance (e.g. collected and charged). The teacher should provide guidance to those who need it, but also encourage students to turn to their classmates for ideas.

Some ideas for Genius Hour include:

  • Have your students pitch their project using a video
  • Collaborate with classes in other schools using social media, Google chat, Skype, etc.
  • Brainstorm with classmates using Schoology
  • Present projects in TED-talk format
  • Reflect on the process through student blogs or websites

 I was lucky to be able to observe genius hour in action during practicum. Our grade 6 class paired with a grade 4/5 class regularly for a Genius Hour session. Groups were formed by students and included a mix of grade levels. One example of a task students were given was to research something that the group was interested in or passionate about and present it to the class using some form of technology. Topics ranged from precious gemstones to medieval armour, and covered everything in between!  Groups used videos, Google slideshows, picture collages, and more to present their research and explain their varied topics. This Genius Hour allowed students to explore the use of technology (Chromebooks, iPads) in a stress-free environment, gave older students the opportunity to teach computer skills to younger students, and provided a creative outlet for individualized learning!

Edutopia. (August 4 2014). Genius Hour and the 6 Essentials of Personalized Education