Apr 17

Classroom Connections – April 14th – 17th, 2014

Hello Glen Cairn PS Families,

The week was short and the weather was wacky.  Could it be that we are done with snow?  I’m not putting the snow boots away quite yet, but I will optimistically take out the spring jackets.


Better Answers: Improving Written Responses

Students co-created success criteria for "better answers" to be used when crafting written responses.

Students co-created success criteria for “better answers” to be used when crafting written responses.

Across all curriculum areas, we are reinforcing the importance of providing thorough written responses to questions.  Our school improvement work revealed that many of our students struggle with providing written responses that fully answer the question posed.  For some, the responses assumed too much of the reader.  In others, there were not enough details provided to support the response.  Establishing a shared set of expectations for all written responses, across all areas of the curriculum will serve students well as they move through intermediate grades and onto highschool (and beyond).  Students in several classes brainstormed success criteria for a “better answer” and all written responses will be expected to meet the criteria, regardless of curriculum area.  Simplified, the criteria will be that all answers will restate the question, include a gist statement, use details to support the answer, stay on topic and use proper conventions.  When you are working with your children at home, ask them if their responses are meeting these criteria.



Geography:  Adaptation and Sustainability

Photo 2014-04-17 02.24.09 PMIn the Grade 7 Geography classes, students are exploring the challenges and opportunities humans face in different geographical regions of the world.  Where would you want to live?  Why?  What do we look for in our environment that makes it a suitable place to live?  This week, students wrote persuasive texts about the most dangerous places for humans to live on the planet.  They looked at what adaptations were necessary in order for humans to live there and whether or not they felt those adaptations were sustainable.  As they continue their studies, students will look locally at the environmentally-based challenges of our local communities, what adaptations have been required and whether or not those adaptations are sustainable over time.




Tradansa visited Glen Cairn PS this week and held dance workshops for all students.  Students learned a variety of dance styles from across the globe and had the opportunity to present their class dance routines to their peers on Wednesday.  Although some students felt nervous about performing, the Tradansa instructors made the sessions fun and inclusive and there were smiles all around on Wednesday.

Extra Curricular Activities:  Brick by Brick Campaign and Vow of Silence

The Brick by Brick fundraising campaign continued this week with a very successful cake walk today.  They raised over $100 and a few lucky students took home some lovely cakes.  Today students also observed a vow of silence to honour those children throughout the world who have no voice and who cannot speak out for themselves.

In other news, our moviemakers’ club started today.  Stay tuned for details as they begin to work on projects using digital media.  Although the weather got cold again, our student gardeners took advantage of some warmer weather earlier in the week to get started on their gardening project.  The students plan to grow some vegetables in our courtyard and I will be sure to take pictures as their garden progresses.  Another group of students have asked to start a baking club and while we have a small kitchen that can be used, we are looking for some parent volunteers to come and bake with the kids.  If you have some time and / or baking is a passion that you would like to share with our students, please send me an email and I will connect you with the students.  Other extra curriculars that continue include all music programs (senior and junior band, senior and junior handbells, choir and garage band), the book club, the makers’ clubs, badminton, floor hockey and computer programming, as well as the Brick by Brick group.  Shortly, we will begin to work with student ambassadors who will play a key role in welcoming our new students in September 2014.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to provide us with some feedback using the Tell Them From Me survey that can be found at http://tellthemfromme.com.  Please check your email for login and password details.

I hope that you all enjoy a wonderful and safe long weekend.



Apr 14

Grade 8 Leaving Ceremony

Save the date!


Grade 8 Leaving Ceremony

Friday, June 27, 2014

10:00 a.m.

in the gym at Glen Cairn.


Students may invite four guests.

More details to follow.

Apr 11

Assessment: Descriptive Feedback and Summative Evaluation

Dear Glen Cairn PS Families,

We are having some important conversations about assessment at Glen Cairn PS and our partnership in the work we do to support students in their learning is critical, so I thought it would be helpful to share some of the key points of our assessment discussions with you.

When it comes to classroom assessment, the terms assessment and evaluation are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings.  When teachers engage in assessment, they are gathering information about student learning that informs their teaching and helps students learn more.  This may involve an assessment task, or examining student work (products, observations of process, and listening to and talking with students).  Teachers may teach differently, based on what they discover as they assess.

Evaulation is the process of reviewing the evidence and determining its value.  When teachers evaluate, they decide whether or not students have learned what they needed to learn and how well they have learned it.  They make a professional judgment.  This process is also referred to as “summative evaluation” — summing up the achievement.  This professional judgment is often communicated to others in the form of grades on student work, or on report cards at the end of the term.   (Leading the Way to Assessment for Learning:  A Practical Guide)

Teachers are assessing at various points throughout the learning, on an ongoing and daily basis.  When teachers observe students at work, conference with them about their learning, or provide feedback on rough drafts they are engaged in assessment.  In the past, it was not unusual for teachers to provide both feedback and a grade on work that they were assessing.  The feedback was meant to provide information that the student could use to improve his or her work and the mark gave the student a sense of where they were at in relation to the curriculum expectations at that point in time.

When teachers evaluate student work — typically a pencil and paper test or a summative task at the end of a unit of study — they may provide some written feedback, and a grade indicating the students’ overall achievement against the curriculum expectations within that unit of study.

Increasingly, research has focused on the benefits and challenges associated with providing a grade on student work that is meant to be assessed.  There is a concern that if a grade is assigned too early in the learning cycle, it not only doesn’t provide information to help a student improve their work, it may in fact shut down the learning.  At Glen Cairn PS we have committed to providing more descriptive feedback during the learning cycle and reserving the assignment of grades for end of learning, summative assignments, tests and tasks.

How Will My Child Know How He/She is Doing?

You may wonder how your child will know how he or she is doing if there is no mark on work during the early part of the unit of study.  The key is for students to know the success criteria are prior to beginning their studies.  As I walk through the school, I see teachers working with students to develop the success criteria for various assignments, such as the “diatribes” (rants) that our grade 7s have been working on.

success criteria for a rant ("diatribe")

success criteria for a rant (“diatribe”)

The teacher begins by asking the students to brainstorm what components or features contribute to a successful rant.  These become the criteria.  Once the list is generated, students organize the criteria into categories.  By involving students in this step, they assume more ownership for ensuring that their work is meeting or exceeding the criteria.  It allows them to self-assess prior to submitting their work, in this case, before performing their rant.  Knowing the success criteria means that they can identify areas for improvement and make the necessary adjustments.


IMG_2670 With the student rants, they revisited their criteria after their initial presentations to discuss whether or not there were additional criteria to add to the list, and in this case, they found that there were criteria missing, so they added them.  In the example here, students used the “more of / less of” strategy to identify aspects of their rants that they needed to do less of (for example:) as well as aspects of which they needed more (for example: ).  When students self-assess and when teachers assess, they focus on providing descriptive feedback — that is, feedback that describes what aspects of a student’s work meet the criteria, as well as what needs to change to improve the quality of work.

We know that for many children, this shift away from always providing a grade on student work may cause some discomfort, and it may cause some discomfort for you as a parent as well.  The critical piece is that you should always know how your child is progressing in their learning.  Does this mean that you always see a grade on work?  Not necessarily.  It may mean that you will need to ask your child to talk to you or show you the checklist or rubric of success criteria and demonstrate how their work meets the criteria.  The focus on assessment should always be the next steps.  If we are doing this properly, you and your child will know how he or she is doing and there will be no surprises once the time for evaluation rolls around.

I am happy to discuss these ideas further and I invite you to visit the following resources to learn more about the differences between assessment and evaluation:

Growing Success:  Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools

 Sandra Herbst and Anne Davies’ Blog

Have a lovely weekend,


Apr 11

Classroom Connections April 7 – 11th, 2014

Dear Glen Cairn PS Families,

As part of our new and improved home – school communication plan, I aim to provide a glimpse into classroom learning every week.  This week was as productive as ever here at Glen Cairn PS, both within the classrooms and in extra curriculars.

Classroom and Curriculum Connections: Focus on Mathematics

As I visited classrooms this week, I snapped some pictures and spoke with both staff and students about their learning.  In Grade 7 mathematics, students are just wrapping up their studies of measurement, with the culminating task being a design challenge.  Students had to design and create a 3 dimensional vessel that would hold exactly 125 ml of liquid.  This challenge addressed the following expectations from the Grade 7 mathematics curriculum:

 By the end of grade 7 students will report on research into real-life applications of area measurements.  Specifically, students will solve problems that involve the surface area and volume of right prisms, and that require conversion between metric units for volume and capacity.



Students are now beginning their study of fractions in Grade 7.  Grade 7 students were given the following problem to solve:

 If the Brick by Brick campaign has raised 1/2 of its’ goal through holding dances and 1/3 of its’ goal through selling hot chocolate, are they doing well in their fundraising efforts?


Students could use manipulatives, such as fraction circles, if they wished. Deciding what to use is a key math skill.

students worked in pairs to solve the problem.

students worked in pairs to solve the problem. Talking through problems helps students to surface their own thinking.











In order to solve the problem, students needed to determine how to compare fractions with different denominators.  The proportional reasoning challenge implicit in the problem is that students would have to determine if the total of their fundraising efforts was “doing well” or not, which required them to consider how much of the school year remains compared to how much of the school year is completed.  Do you think that, given these figures, the campaign is doing well?

The Gap Closing resources, including the interactive online CLIPS (CLIPS) support student learning in mathematics at home.

Mean Green Machine Assessment Focus in Grade 8 Probability.  Click to enlarge.

Mean Green Machine Assessment Focus in Grade 8 Probability. Click to enlarge.

In Grade 8, the students are working on probability and when I visited on Tuesday, they were discussing strategies for solving the probem “Mean Green Machine”.  Taking time with students to discuss strategies and evaluate which strategies are the most efficient in various problematized scenerios allows students opportunities to reflect on their learning and think more deeply about the mathematical concepts they are learning.



Spirit Week

Our Student Council organized a Spirit Week this week, including pyjama day, hipster day, crazy hat day, character day and High School Musical Day.

Extra Curriculars:

As always, students have a plethora of extra curricular activities to choose from right now.  The junior and senior bands, grade 7 handbells and grade 8 handbells, choir and garage band ensure that music fills the halls at each and every recess break.  In addition, the book club continues to meet at recess, and the Brick by Brick group remains committed to their goal of raising $8000.00 to help fund the building of a school in Kenya.  In athletics, the badminton team is practicing for their upcoming tournament and intramural floor hockey has gotten off to a great start.  The movie makers’ club and both the textile and 3D printing makers’ clubs, as well as the the computer programming clubs also continue to thrive.

We Day:

On Wednesday, April 9th, a group of students from our Brick by Brick club participated in the annual WE Day celebration at the Canadian Tire Centre.

A Few Reminders:

On Monday I sent a notice via email and voice message regarding our Tell Them From Me Survey.  We are providing opportunities for students to participate in this anonymous, electronic survey at school and I hope that you will also take a few minutes to complete the survey.  Your feedback will inform decision-making at the school and will support us in being the best we can be for your child and you.  The login and password information for the parent survey was also sent home in a notice earlier this week.  The survey will close in two weeks.

Next week we have Tradansa coming to provide dance workshops for our students.  We are asking for a donation of $9.00 per student to cover the cost of this highly regarded learning opportunity.

The Brick by Brick group will host a cake walk to continue their fundraising efforts on Thursday, April 17th.

Friday, April 18th and Monday, April 21st are holidays for the Easter long weekend and the school will be closed.

Education Week is on the horizon.  From May 5th – 9th, 2014 we celebrate Education Week.  This year the theme is “Achieving Excellence in Education”.  We will once again welcome slam poets Nathanael Larochette and Ian Keteku, who will work with our students throughout the week.  Our initial visit with Ian and Nathanael was a huge success in the fall and I look forward to working with them again this spring.

On Wednesday, May 14th, students from GCPS will have the opportunity to participate in the Gauss Mathematics Contest.  The contest is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their mathematical skills through a 1 hour written contest that is strictly voluntary.  Students interested in participating must indicate their intention by April 17th in order for us to register them and prepare materials.  Forms were sent home with interested students, and you may download and print a form here:  GaussMathContest2014.

Finally, please save the date of Wednesday, May 14th, from 7 – 9 pm to join us for our annual GCPS Community Open House Event.  This event is open to returning and new families, as well as the public, to come and view displays of student work, student performances, tours of the classrooms, and community partner displays.  We hope that you and your child will join us in celebrating our work together at Glen Cairn PS.

Take care and enjoy the weekend,



Apr 08

Glen Cairn Spirit Wear and Grad Hoodies are available for ordering

Glen Cairn Spirit Wear and 2014 Grad Hoodies are available for ordering.  You can download both order forms from this website in the “Calendar/Timetables/Forms” tab.  Please print out your form and send it into school with your child by April 17th. Cheques should be made payable to Glen Cairn Public School. 

You can also place your clothing orders online at www.glencairn.hotlunches.net.


Apr 03

Parents and Prevention Workshop

Drug Free

Apr 03

Parenting Teens

Parenting Teens

Mar 30

High Expectations at Glen Cairn PS

Dear Glen Cairn PS Families,

I am sometimes asked to explain the Fraser Institute’s ranking of Glen Cairn PS, which is very poor.  There are many approaches to this response, most of which question the validity, and indeed the ethics, around the FI ratings.  The fact is that we are in a state of transition and the indicators used by the FI are already outdated.  As an example, after this year, we will no longer have grade 6 students, so we will not have EQAO assessments and will need to find other ways to guage our success – classroom-based assessments developed by teachers at the school, the “Tell Them from Me” surveys of school climate, how our students do on the high school EQAO assessments after they leave us, etc… – all measures that would not be considered by the FI as indicators.  For those interested, Dr. Joel Westheimer, Research Chair for Democracy in Education at the University of Ottawa, addresses the perils of judging schools based on the FI rankings in this interview from last March:

I particularly like Dr. Westheimer’s suggestion that we need to think carefully about the data points we are considering when we determine our levels of success:

The main thing that we should all keep in mind is that these narrow scores of just math and literacy represent only a small fraction of what goes on in schools…

Posing Tough Questions Drives us Forward

Students must learn to self-advocate and take responsibility for their learning.

Students must learn to self-advocate and take responsibility for their learning.

Although the FI rankings are problematic, I welcome you to question us on our practices.  Scepticism and a critical stance create opportunities for us to engage in thoughtful dialogue about our work together.  We are your school.  It is our job, together, to ensure that our children benefit from the very best learning opportunities.  As a staff we are focused on the question:  ”How do our students experience and articulate the high expectations at Glen Cairn PS?”  I invite you to join in our inquiry.  Ask your child how they know that there are high expectations at school.  Let me know what they say (shannon.smith@cloud.ocdsb.ca).  This is the question I have in mind as I visit classrooms throughout the school and some examples I gathered from my recent visits include:

  • The use of a mathematics challenge in measurement that did not include the initial measurements, requiring students to use their reasoning and problem solving skills to approach the challenge.
  • The use of reciprocal teaching methods to have students who ‘get it’ teach those who don’t quite get it and to encourage students who need more instruction to self-advocate (red, yellow, green cards).
  •  Students using the “mining your work for success criteria” strategy to help self-assess the quality of their work prior to submitting it to the teacher.
  • Students completing the reflection activity “what I learned and how I can use it” to encourage the development of metacognitive skills.
  • Opportunities for students to determine what supports they require to complete an assignment (assignment shared in google docs that included links to various resources that COULD be used, if needed).
  • The use of rigourous and relevant “hot topics” in persuasive writing encourages students to engage with meaningful and challenging big ideas.
  • During classroom discussion about success criteria for persuasive writing, the teacher did not let a reluctant student get away with shrugging shoulders and kept the expectation for participation on the student.
  • The teacher having a “finish strong” conversation about how we are keeping our expectations high for the remaining months of the school year and our expectation for students to continue to work hard with challenging learning opportunities.

Our relentless commitment to high standards must be shared and must create opportunities for us to question our practices to ensure that they are indeed fostering an environment where our students will be challenged to be their best, where our parents will be partners in our learning and where our staff will be committed to continual improvement.  I invite you to review the “School Effectiveness Framework“, which is one of the self-assessment tools we use as a school to determine our focus for improvement.  We devote time at each staff meeting to using one component from the framework to self-assess and determine areas of focus for improvement.  In April, for instance, we will look at “Assessment for, as and of Learning”.  I will share our findings at the April School Council meeting, where you will have an opportunity to provide your feedback into our efforts as well.  Why not consider joining us?

GCPS School Council Meeting – April 8, 2014

7:00 pm in the school library

Bring your questions!



Mar 27

Pizza Order Forms

A new pizza order form was sent home this week.  This is the last pizza order form for the year and includes pizza from April 4th to June 13th 2014.

All pizza orders forms are due on Monday March 31st.  You can download the form from this website in the “Calendar/Timetables/Forms” tab and send it into school with your child.  Pizza may also be ordered online at glencairn.hotlunches.net.

Please make cheques payable to GLEN CAIRN PUBLIC SCHOOL and include your child’s name and teacher on the back of the cheque.

Mar 20

Internation Education Info-Fair

Internation Education Info-Fair

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