Sep 20

Classroom Connections: September 15 – 19, 2014

Dear Glen Cairn PS Families,

It was wonderful to see so many of you at our Meet the Staff evening on Thursday. I hope that you enjoyed meeting the staff, touring the school and seeing the classrooms in which your children spend their days at school.

For those who missed it, below are the slides from my introduction:

Our Learning Focus:  Developing Thinking Skills and Making Thinking Visible

As I mentioned, our focus is on having students develop their thinking and communication skills across all areas of the curriculum.  In order to prepare students for future academic challenges in secondary school and beyond, we want students to think on a deeper level about curriculum.  It is not enough to simply memorize algorithms, scientific formulas and historical dates and figures.  We want students to understand why the algorithms work, to look for patterns and to make connections between events past and present.  In other words, we want students to think like mathematicians, scientists, historians, etc….  Being able to analyze situations and problems and determine which approaches are required will ensure that students are developing the flexibility in their thinking that will allow them to adapt to their rapidly changing world, both in their future studies and in their careers.

How do we know what a student is thinking?  This is the challenge we encounter when we focus on thinking skills as opposed to rote memorization of facts and figures.  Thinking is a complex and often internal process.  And yet, if thinking remains internal, there is really no way for us to know if students are indeed learning.  This is why the development of communication skills are equally important.  Students must be able to articulate their thinking across all areas of the curriculum in order for us to fully know what they are learning and what they still need to learn.  Through communication, students make their thinking visible.  This is why we employ “accountable talk” in the classrooms.

There are students who are very comfortable participating in class and sharing their ideas with peers and teachers.  There are other students who, for a variety of reasons, prefer not to participate.  Accountable talk means that all students must be prepared to participate and we provide students with a variety of scaffolds to support their participation as they develop their confidence levels.  For example, when called upon, a student may restate what was shared by another student, or they may ask for clarification or more detail.

For students who enjoy participating and offering ideas, it may feel frustrating at first to wait with hands down because in the past students with their hands raised were often called upon.  However, those students will develop the equally important communication skill of active listening.  As the discussion is unfolding, students should be listening to their peers and determining how their peers’ ideas fit with, or conflict with, their own.  When called upon, these students may wish to respectfully disagree with a peer, or to build upon the ideas shared earlier in the conversation.

Next week:

In the coming week, your child will set up their electronic learning portfolio using google apps for education.  This means that your child will be able to access his or her assignments and projects anywhere with internet access.  You may ask your child to share their portfolio with you too, so that you can keep up with what they are learning in class.

Students will also be provided with their log in information for the Pearson “Math Makes Sense” e-text.  This will be sent home and I encourage you to record it in a few safe places.  The e-text will provide your child with opportunities to practice mathematics alongside what they are learning in class.

Pizza, Quiznos and Milk order forms have gone home and are due back this coming week.  The hot lunches will commence on October 1st.  Our Glen Cairn spirit wear is also available to order until October 2nd at Gadar Sports Wear Online Shop.  Glen Cairn PS ties can be ordered by filling out a blue form and sending back to school with $10.00 payment.

Finally, our Terry Fox run will take place on Friday, September 26th at 10:30 am.  We do need volunteers for this fun event, so please let your child’s teacher know if you are available to help supervise our runners.  All students are encouraged to donate $2.00.

I hope you have a great weekend!


Sep 18

Glen Cairn Spirit Wear

Glen Cairn Spirit Wear is available for ordering.   All orders can be placed on-line at:  Orders must be placed by October 2nd.


Sep 12

Classroom Connections September 8 – 12, 2014

Dear Glen Cairn PS Families,

This past week saw both returning and new staff and students really settle into our daily routines. Learning is in full swing in the classrooms across all areas of the curriculum. Below are some highlights:

Mathematics: Focus on Integers

Integers Value of Your NameIn our mathematics classrooms, students are learning about integers.  Understanding positive and negative numbers and their relationship along the number line is a foundational mathematics skill upon which students will build as they progress in their math studies.  Understanding the concept of negative and being able to visualize the number line will help students develop their ability to judge the reasonableness of solutions in more complex mathematical problem-solving.  Like the multiplication tables, which students should already have mastered by the time they enter Grade 7, knowing the relationship between numbers along the number line is a basic fact that students must have in their mathematical tool belts.  Ask your child what is the value of their name (see Ms. Bishop’s chart).

History: Focus on Thinking Like a Historian

Thinking Like a HistorianHistory APKBefore moving into the curriculum content for history, teachers have spent a bit of time activating prior knowledge about history with students.  This means that students have been asked to brainstorm what they remember or know about history from previous years or personal experiences.  This activity helps bring students into the frame of mind to think like a historian.  Teachers have also been asking students to reflect on why it is important to study history and to know our past stories.  Thinking like a historian involves determining the significance of past events, both within the historical context and for present-day.  It also involves thinking critically about points of view that are represented in history texts and those that are missing.  Making connections between past events and current events helps students more fully understand the history they study.

Science: Focus on Safety in the Lab and Systems

BigIdeasLifeSystemsGrade7 You will likely have seen a lab safety form come home asking you to review science lab safety with your child.  This is an important first step in the study of science.  In the grade 8 classes I visited this past week, students were activating prior knowledge around the concept of systems, as part of their initial study of science.  For instance, students were asked to brainstorm similarities and differences between biotic and abiotic systems (a car and the pulmonary system, for example).  Grade 7 classes are also studying life systems and discussing biotic and abiotic systems all around us.

Language: Focus on Assessment and Developing Strong Literacy Habits

Personal Memoir ComponentsAt the beginning of the year in Language Arts, teachers use various tools to assess their students’ abilities in reading comprehension and writing.  Students in our Grade 7 French Immersion classes, for example, completed an “evaluation rapide” this past week.  The information gleaned from these assessments helps teachers provide more precise programming to address gaps in skill development.

In writing, several classes are working on personal memoirs.  Some are writing letters of introduction to help their teachers know them better, and some classes are writing narratives about their experiences.

Extra Curricular Activities Updates:

Outside of the classroom, try-outs for touch football have started and our intramural dodge-ball sign up took place. Mr. Fraser has held an initial meeting with students interested in joining the Grade 8 band and Mrs. Ahern, our Choir Leader, will be in to meet with interested students on Monday, September 15th. The Computer Programming Club has held it’s first meeting as well.

Butterfly EmergingMrs. MacWhirter’s butterlies are emerging as well, providing students with an opportunity to learn about the life cycle and fascinating migration of these intriguing creatures.  The monarchs have been tagged, and students will be able to track their migration to Mexico.




In the News: The GCPS “Nice Bucket Challenge”:

You may be aware of our #nicebucketchallenge as it was featured in this week’s edition of the Kanata Kourier. If you missed the print edition, or would like to pass the story along to relatives far and wide, you can find it in the online edition here.

The idea behind the #nicebucketchallenge is to have students reflect on something nice that someone else did at GCPS and to recognize that in a public way. By nominating others, students keep the momentum going. The initiative has been a great way for me to get to know the students and for them to thank friends, both old and new.

On the Horizon:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014:  School Immunization Day

Tuesday, September 16, 2014:  School Council Elections and First Meeting (7pm in the school library)

Thursday, September 18th, 2014:  Meet the Staff Night (6:30 – 8:00 pm)

Friday, September 19th, 2014:  Monarch Release.

Friday, September 26th, 2014:  Terry Fox Run (10:30 am start)  VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

Have a lovely weekend!



Sep 10

Free Online French Homework Help

Dear Glen Cairn PS Families,
All OCDSB French as a Second Language students- K-12 now have access to Free online French Homework Help.
Online Homework Help in French
Partnered with the OCDSB and uniting dozens of French teachers, the team at Voilà Learning is excited to provide FREE ONLINE FRENCH HOMEWORK HELP to your children/students registered in French as a Second Language programs.
All your student need is…
* Access to a computer (at home)
* An internet connection
Register at, and you will receive an e-mail every Monday and Wednesday at 3:30 letting you know that a teacher is available online to help your child every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 4:00-8:00 p.m.
Register your child today (it`s free)



Sep 06

Classroom Connections: September 2 – 5, 2014

Dear Glen Cairn PS Families,

Our Orientation Week has drawn to a close and I am happy to report that it was a tremendous success. Students have now settled into their homerooms and their house groups and we have gotten to know each other through ice breakers, goal setting and cooperative activities. Our focus on academics has already been established as students experienced the intermediate rotary timetable gradually over the week.

Culture of Learning:

We started with some instruction and discussion about our culture of learning and focus on assessment for learning. There are several approaches to which our staff shares a collective commitment.  Together with our school-wide focus on developing growth mindsets (see this previous post about that), our shared practices and processes ensure that all students are benefiting from the rich professional knowledge of our staff.

Success Criteria and Descriptive Feedback:

The requirements for achieving a level 3 or 4 and how to get there should never be a mystery.  Knowing what success looks like is half the battle and provides students with opportunities to take ownership for their learning.  At Glen Cairn PS we are committed to providing timely information about students’ progress in the form of descriptive feedback so that students and parents know what needs to be done to improve.  Our approach to assessment is based on the principles outlined in “Growing Success“, a research-based policy document published by the Ontario Ministry of Education.

Co-created success criteria for an art project.

Co-created success criteria for an art project.

Students will begin their learning with the creation of success criteria.  This means that either the teacher will provide the students with information about what learning needs to be demonstrated throughout the unit, or the teacher and students will co-create the criteria for success.  When students know the target, they are able to focus their efforts in the right direction.

Descriptive feedback in a math journal encourages further learning.

Descriptive feedback in a math journal encourages further learning.

Descriptive Feedback uses the criteria and provides feedback to students about their work that is in the form of checklists, rubrics or meaningful comments, rather than a mark or letter grade.  Throughout the learning cycle, descriptive feedback is used to focus students on their next steps, rather than simply looking to see what mark they received.  At the end of the learning cycle, there will be a summative test or assignment that will be assessed and given a grade or letter mark.       You and your child may still want to know approximately where they are sitting in terms of that mark as the learning cycle progresses.  I encourage students to reflect on the descriptive feedback and then approach their teachers to seek more information and to see if they are understanding the next steps.  When students do this, they are self-advocating and are engaging in thinking carefully about their learning and what their next steps should be in order to continue improving.

Accountable Talk: “Accountable Talk” is an approach to classroom discourse intended to engage students in the type of discussion that leads to deeper thinking and stronger communication skills.  All students are required to pay attention and to be prepared to speak when called upon.  The key components of accountable talk include:

1) Everyone is actively engaged and listening during the discussion which means that no one is raising his/her hand and everyone is looking at the person contributing.

2) Everyone is participating (this can include asking for a question to be repeated and/or  summarizing or paraphrasing of another student’s contribution).  Participants should be prepared to be selected at random.

3) Explain your thoughts clearly and with detail. Don’t forget to *slow down* and breathe!

4) You must speak clearly and loud enough for everyone to hear.

 Students were all introduced to these concepts and have begun to practice them in class.  Below are some photos taken of the components and prompts to support students in engaging in accountable talk in our classrooms: AccTalk

Reciprocal Teaching, Resilience and Self Advocacy:

To prepare students for greater independence and challenge in their learning, we have established some processes we employ daily in our classrooms. One such process is our use of the “Red, Yellow, Green” system.


Mr. Maloley explains the “Red, Yellow, Green” card system

Here is how it works: After the teacher delivers a lesson and as students are preparing to complete independent or small group work, they are encouraged to stop and reflect on their readiness. If they feel that they fully grasp the conceptual knowledge required for the task at hand, they select a green card. If they feel that they have a fairly solid understanding, but need to check a few details before completing their work, they select a yellow card. If they feel that they require some more instruction, they select a red card. Students with yellow cards then find a student with a green card and discuss their questions, seeking clarification. Students with red cards gather in one location in the room for further instruction in a small group with the staff member. This system ensures that students are accountable to their own learning. When staff notice a student has not selected the right card (perhaps selected green, but requires some more instruction), they cue the student to reflect on their own readiness again. Our school-wide focus on growth mindset means that everyone recognizes that we all have more learning to do and it is our responsibility to self-advocate when this is the case.

Focus on Mathematics: At Glen Cairn PS this year, we are increasing our focus and commitment around mathematics instruction. We have a math team, consisting of four teachers who will teach mathematics to all of the students in the school. We have invested in new resources, including manipulatives for classroom use and e-text subscriptions for all students to the Pearson Education “Math Makes Sense” e-text to support both in class and home learning.  Student log ins for the e-texts will go home shortly. This week students unpacked some of our widely held assumptions around mathematics. Students brainstormed ideas around where math is found in our daily lives. Students also viewed the following video to spark some discussion around the myth of “I’m not a math person”. We have all either said that or heard someone say that at some point, I’m sure. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) at GCPS:

At Glen Cairn PS, we have many technology resources available to enhance learning.  We have two carts of Chromebooks for students to perform research and use their google apps for education (google docs) to create assignments.  We have two smart boards in the school, as well as projectors, ipads and document cameras.  Our library is in the midst of a transformation to a “Learning Commons” style research and learning centre, complete with desktop computers, iMacs, and a 3D printer. Students are permitted to bring their own technology to enhance their learning at GCPS, as long as they comply with the OCDSB Responsible Use of Technology policy and our school’s “Technology Zones”.  There are three zones that are clearly marked throughout the school.


Red Zones (washrooms, changerooms, the gym, the music room, the recess yard during recess and lunch rooms during nutrition break) are device-free.  These are zones where privacy is a particular concern or where social interaction is encouraged instead of focus on devices.

Yellow Zones (all classrooms) are places where students are permitted to use their devices with teacher permission.  When devices are not in use, they are kept face-down on the desk.

Green Zones (the hallways and the yard before and after school) are places where students are responsible for determining if and how their devices will be used.  The green zones are meant to provide some freedom for students to develop their digital fluency in determining when, why and for how long they should be using their devices.  Again, all device use is governed by our Responsible Use Policy.

Upcoming Events:

Don’t forget to check our GCPS Calendar of Events regularly.  We have a few events on the horizon to which I would like to draw your attention:

Tuesday, September 9th is School Photo Day.  Wear a solid colour other than white and your smile

Tuesday, September 16th is School Immunization Day – notices went home with students this week.

Tuesday, September 16th is our School Council Elections and first meeting of the year beginning at 7 pm in the GCPS library.

Thursday, September 18th is our Meet the Staff Evening.  We will start in the library at 6:30 pm and then proceed to classrooms to meet staff and learn about the programs, wrapping up at 8:00 pm.

Friday, September 26th is our Terry Fox Run.  We will need several parent volunteers to help run this smoothly.  If you are available that day from 10 am – noon, please let me know.

I realize that this has been a very long update, however, it should give you lots to discuss over the weekend and I hope that it provides you with the information you want and need to keep abreast of the happenings at the school over the first week.

Have a lovely weekend!


P.S.:  Below are some pictures taken throughout the week:

Sep 04

Outdoor activity day, September 5th, 2014

Students are reminded that we are expecting a high temperature over 30 degrees for our outdoor activity day tomorrow. Please dress for the weather (appropriate student attire), apply sunscreen, wear a hat and bring a water bottle. Don’t forget your growth mindset either!

Sep 03

School Photo Day

Our school photo day is Tuesday September 9th, 2014.

Information has been sent home with students.  Parents/guardians can order school photos online.  Portrait and passcodes will be provided on each student’s photo proofs.  Proofs will be sent approximately two weeks after photo day. 

Questions?  Please visit or call a Customer Care Representative at 1-888-416-3343(EDGE).


Sep 03

School Immunization Clinic on Sept. 16th, 2014.

Hep B immunization HPV immunization

Sep 03

September 2nd, 2014 – Off to a Great Start!

Hello Glen Cairn PS Families,

I am pleased to say that we had a wonderful first day together today. The students were in great spirits, despite the early start and the heat today. The day was all about settling in, getting to know each other and the new routines. Below is a slideshow of some pictures I took throughout the day:



Sep 01

Welcome to your Home for Grades 7 and 8

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