Thursday, 29 September 2011

Frames 4 Awesomeness!

I mentioned in an earlier post how we spent a period learning about the software Frames 4. I showed how to use it and we spent some time exploring and just playing around with it. I asked students to create a couple of slides, to prove they knew how to make a simple animation...some students really came up with awesome clips! I can't wait to see what they create as we use Frames 4 for literacy & math communication! (Note: for some reason, blogger cuts off the last few seconds of these videos!)


For some reason, the O keeps cutting off! This is supposed to spell HELLO!-Mrs. J

Note: Blogger cut off the last second, there is supposed to be a crayon suddenly stuck up his nose!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

PICTURE DAY! Thursday!

I had noted picture day as Friday of this week, not Thursday but looking at the school calendar I see it is Thursday!

If this is a problem tomorrow, with many students being unprepared, then I will see if we can get our class photos done for Friday.

My apologies!

Mrs. J

Writing Checklist

Students, you will be using this to review your own work and the work of your peers. I will also be using it to assess your work.

CLICK HERE to see the checklist.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Where's the Beef?

Students, a while back you wrote two writing pieces for me so I could have a sample of your writing ability: a report of a life event and a review of a game, book or movie. I specified a few criteria for each writing form (report needed who, what, when, where, why, how while the review needed a rating and criteria).

I left the rest of my expectations purposefully vague as I wanted to see what you would produce on your own, without instruction. This acts as a baseline, so I know which writing traits you naturally and intuitively 'know' and those that you don't.  Then I can provide the direction/guidance you need in order to ascend in your writing levels.

All of you will receive specific feedback on what your areas of improvement are (and that will continue to happen from this point onward).  (Also note that your parents will also receive this information. Many parents expressed to me at Parent Night that they want this information so they know how you are doing.)

Remember that everyone is at different levels in their writing, and just like in video games with your individual gamer profile, so you each have your own *individual writing profiles*.

However, there are commonalities in our writing profiles and so we will be starting with those common areas of need.

This video is meant to address one such area of need. It is a very popular Wendy's commercial from the 1980's. Can you guess why I am showing it? How does it relate to your writing?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Media Literacy: Library Partnership Program

Tuesday starts our collaborative project with Mrs. Calabretta in the library. We will be using Frames 4  animation software to retell either 'One'  or 'Zero' by Kathryn Otashi. 

Students, you will also be using a checklist to determine the effectiveness of media/video content & techniques.  In class, we will be reviewing media & explaining how well they use colour, image, pace, and music to convey meaning.

CLICK HERE for the google doc checklist for media (when Mrs. J tell you to in class!)

WALT: create media forms and explain how media conventions & techniques (i.e.: use of colour, images, pacing, music) create meaning

Guest Speaker: First in our 'Real World Writer's' Series!

We will soon have the pleasure of our first guest speaker in my Real World Writer Series: Chris Simon will be in our class on Wednesday morning. Chris is the editor (and reports for) the Innisfil Scope. I met Chris last year when he interviewed me about a couple of my projects: my Wii math & literacy project and my J/I boy's literacy event.

These are listed on my media page.

Since we are studying report writing, it only made sense to go to an expert & find out the scoop!

Students will be interviewing Chris on Wednesday and then writing a report about the event.

We will be putting our interview & reporting skills to use all year long as we interview other Real Life Writers.

WALT: write a news report, using expected criteria
WALT: speak effectively and listen attentively, evaluating these abilities in self & others

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Frames 4 Is Fabulous!

On Friday, we had the laptops for a period and because we will be doing a large number of media projects this year, I wanted everyone trained on Frames 4.

Frame 4 is an easy to use animation software program available on all the school computers. (I tried my hand at it just last week! Students rightly noted that my intro slides were TOO FAST. Students, you know intuitively what makes good media! We will be exploring this further, articulating the way media effectively (or ineffectively) communicates meaning--which is part of the Media Literacy curriculum expectation for both 7 & 8).

Some of the students were more familiar with this program than others. Essentially, I went through all the features, demonstrating how to use the software, then expected a 4 to 5 slide animation from students as they 'test drove' the features. It could be on anything, as long as it showed movement.

All I can say is...WOW! We have some extremely talented animators in our class. In just this short free play period, they came up with some amazing stuff! I can't wait to transform these into web-ready videos and post them for all to see!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Thank you to all the parents that came out to meet me tonight! I enjoyed meeting all of you & also loved hearing the feedback about the blog. Please keep reading & checking in!

And also remember that my door is always open. Please contact me with any questions, concerns, comments, feedback, etc.

Again, thanks for dropping by!

PS. the parent sign up sheet for interviews in November is now online. Click HERE to view. You should be able to access and add/change times. It is also on the sidebar.

Please let me know if there are any difficulties accessing this. Also, if you prefer, we can sign up times the 'old fashioned' way via telephone or email

Who will you become?

We received news today. Ms. Scigliano, the other teacher for this class, is leaving us. We are happy for her new & exciting position & adventures in teaching! We are also sad because we will miss her.

We also  know that this will bring changes and disruption as a new teacher is found for the afternoons and a new routine is created.

This is a new challenge for our classroom but, as we have been discussing, we can control our response to the challenge.

Again, I ask you: Who do we want to be? What kind of class environment do we want to experience? We each control our actions and contributions. We add to the atmosphere. We create it.

It is in our power to experience AWESOMENESS!

You can part of the solution or part of the problem. You decide!

Here are two videos from Michael Jordan that relate to the power of choice and the transformative power of endurance and maintaining focus on a goal. It relates to sports. It relates to life. It relates to our class community.


"I have something more important than courage. I have patience. I will become what I know I am"-Michael Jordan from "Look me in the eye".

We will be coming back to these brilliant videos at a later date to examine them from the perspective of media literacy.

Coming Up This Year in our Awesome Literacy Program...

I have been telling the students about some of the cool things I have planned for our class this year. I thought I would highlight them all here on the blog & tomorrow we will review all of them in more detail:
  • 4 guest speakers (writers). These are real writers writing in the real world. Our first guest is Chris Simon, editor of the Innisfil Scope, who will be speaking in person about report writing & editorials (next Wednesday). The other interviews will take place via Skype as these writers call in from various part of the world. We will be speaking with a novelist, a reviewer (including video game reviews) and a poet.
  • literacy & media collaboration projects with Gr. 9 & 10 students at Nantyr Secondary School
  • Wii project with Nantyr Secondary School
  • class youtube page & website(s) to showcase the wide variety of media/videos we will be creating
  • Educator Partnership Program with This is a software company in Ireland and we will be skyping with Fiona in December. We will be using their software in class in Jan/Feb as we study Romeo & Juliet and providing feedback about their software.
In addition to that, I will be incorporating all kinds of real world media representations to generate discusion, responses, writing, and to use as comparisons to texts. 

I hope you find this program as exciting as I do!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New Vote!

We did a new vote in the class and are now watching Wipe Out during lunch. We were watching that while the voting for the movies took place and after we voted on the movies, several students thought Wipe Out should have been on the ballot. So we added it and Wipe Out won.

We shall be watching the TV show on during first lunch break for about 2 to 3 weeks. Then we will check in to see if its time for a change.
"Life is like photography--we develop from the negatives." --Pitbull, rapper/singer

Our class has 32 students, 23 of whom are boys. Approximately half are Gr. 7, the other half Gr. 8. We all come to our class with different abilities and talents, histories, interests, preferences, social groups and 'smarts'. 

Our greatest challenge has been gelling as a community. There are many bodies, many voices.  There are differences in opinion, backgrounds, abilities. We've different preferences of who we'd like to sit with, external elements we wish we could control (bigger room, less people, specific people to talk or not talk to, more girls, less boys, the list goes on for each individual...).

Today, we learned that we are a community.  We learned that there are some things we cannot control (we are not getting a new room, the student list is not changing). We leanred that there are some things we can control. We can contribute our ideas to the class. We can make known our.

We each control the tone we bring to the class.  If we want it to be less noisy, then we must each make less noise. If we want a place where we all belong, then we need to nurture a sense of inclusion with others within ourselves.

We will be changing up the seating on a bi weekly basis. Students . Everyone is expected to work and talk with everyone else.

I commit to creating a positive classroom community and to being part of the solution

"Life is like photography--we develop from the negatives." --Pitbull, rapper/singer

Our class has 32 students, 23 of whom are boys. Approximately half are Gr. 7, the other half Gr. 8. We all come to our class with different abilities and talents, histories, interests, preferences, social groups and 'smarts'. 

Our greatest challenge has been noise level. There are many bodies, many voices.  There are also differences in opinion, preferences of who we'd like to sit with, external elements we wish we could control (bigger room, less people, specific people to talk or not talk to, more girls, less boys, the list goes on for each individual...).

Today, we discussed that we are a community. The e I commit to creating a positive classroom community and to being part of the solution. 

As a group this week, we discussed those concerns. 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Poplit Lyrics

This summer I created a website for junior, intermediate and senior students called Poplit Lyrics. This site uses popular lyrics as texts to discuss main idea (with supporting evidence--this is a precursor to essay writing), connections to text and figurative language like similes and metaphors. Often, I include a media element (like a music video) so we can discuss how media uses the lyrics (and images) to convey meaning.

Recently, we have been studying Katy Perry's Firework lyrics. This is a very rich text...the lyrics are rife with similes and metaphors. In addition to discussing the main idea (and finding supportive evidence from the text), we located similes and metaphors and then acted out the song, putting gestures to the figurative language.

The music video we looked at was the Firework flashmob/lipdub created by Magnolia High School in Texas and we discussed the ways the video conveyed inclusion (the character trait for the month).

To see the video on poplit lyrics click HERE.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Votes are In!

The votes are in! (We did it the low tech way, in class with stickees).

The movie to watch during lunch time is...Men In Black (Scooby Doo came a close second). The boys' book is Dust. The girls book is Heartland. These books have been ordered and should arrive soon.

Thanks everyone for voting!

Making Predictions & Reading

Last year I hosted a J/I Boy's Literacy Event and writer Kevin McGill of Dallas, Texas, was one of our guest speakers via a Skype interview. Part 1 of his long awaited first novel has been published...part 2 is soon to arrive!

Here is the book trailer to his Young Adult novel 'Nikolas & Co: A Creature Most Foul'. What predictions can you make about the book based on this trailer and the title?

I will soon begin reading Part 1 in class...


Last year I hosted a J/I Boy's Literacy Event and Kevin McGill of Dallas, Texas, was one of our guest speakers via a Skype interview. Part 1 of his long awaited first novel has been published...part 2 is soon to arrive!

Here is the book trailer to his Young Adult novel 'Nikolas & Co: A Creature Most Foul'. What predictions can you make about the book based on this trailer?

I will be reading Part 1 in class...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Stop Motion Animation & Learning Goals

This week we read through and sorted our literacy learning goals. Then, to prove how easy it is to make a stop motion animation video, I took the photos from that activity and created one using the program Frames 4.

We have Frames 4 on our computers at school and soon students will receive training on it so that they, too, can make cool videos of all kinds to showcase their learning!

PS. Here are the learning goals listed in the video (WALT stands for We Are Learning To...)
Oral Language:
WALT: speak effectively and listen attentively, evaluating these abilities in self & others

WALT: determine the main idea in written (& oral) texts, using key words and inferences
 WALT: define, explain and locate examples of metaphors & similes
WALT: determine & compare basic story structures in texts & media to explain their differences & similarities
WALT: determine and rationalize reading preferences
WALT: make predictions about texts & media using C.A.T.S. and other strategies

WALT: evaluate and judge the effectiveness of different writing forms based on their specific criteria
WALT: use specific & descriptive language to improve the clarity of our writing
WALT: write a short paragraph explaining the main idea, providing evidence to support that explanation
WALT: write a review (persuasive) and a news report, using expected criteria
WALT: develop brainstorming abilities through ‘quick write’ activities

We've also a media literacy goal:

WALT: ID & interpret media texts, evaluate their effectiveness, explain their elements & create and evaluate our own

Writing 'Baselines' & Math Charades

Today, students had a choice in writing tasks: write a news report about an event in their life OR write a review of a game, movie or book. Over the next few months, we will be developing our skills in report and review writing but for now I just needed a 'baseline'--an idea of what their writing is like before teacher intervention & instruction. This will let me know everyone's 'starting point' and their areas of need for growth. We will work on growing the quality of their writing over the year. What they write for me today should look very different from a sample at the end of the year. (ie: It should look better!)

We also started something today that I call 'math booster' and this will be a weekly component to our language program. Ms. Scigliano teaches math in the afternoons but as a 'support' to those lessons I will be integrating math into the language curriculum. In my language program, one of my over all goals is to students to 'creatively and clearly communicate concepts." In this math booster class, students will creatively and clearly communicate MATH concepts using a variety of methods: oral presentations, writing (short stories, explanations, journals) and media (video creations, bitstripsforschools, etc).

We started with some fairly straightforward concepts today but the tricky part was figuring out how to portray them as 'gestures only' with a partner ('math charades'). So the concept of 'fractions'. for instance, was portrayed by a pair of students as miming cutting up a pizza or circle into pieces. Students reviewed the performances and were assessed on their listening skills (a component of their oral language curriculum).  The audience's job was also to guess the math concept being presented.

I hope by this example you can see how in this math booster session we will be looking at math through a variety of 'multiple intelligences', expressing it through gestures, picture & images, sounds, words/texts, as well as the traditional 'number' format. I'm hoping this approach will encourage a deeper understanding of math and also provide a venue for creative literacy expression.

The math concepts will, of course, grow in complexity over time... stay tuned!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Bitstrip: Class Portrait

Today we got to go back into with the laptops. Everyone now has an avatar. Here is the completed class portrait!


We are working on some additional writing projects using this comic creation stay tuned! Student samples will be posted!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Digital Citizenship

Class, this is today's task on Digital Citizenship.

Here are two videos people  have made about Digital Citizenship.


What is the 'main idea'? (In other words, what is digital citizenship?)

posted to youtube by RozzyBearHere

Now view the second video. Which video portrays the main idea better and why?


posted to Youtube by LauraWolf0102

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sept. 9, 2011

We have started talking about choosing books and the various ways we make decisions around what we want to read.

Here are 2 books for girls and 2 books for boys. Please look over these books & vote! In class, we will discuss our decision making process.

Which ever book wins for either gender, I will purchase & donate to the class library. You will be given the chance to vote via laptop on Friday, voting box on Monday and again with the laptops on Wednesday. Voting closes end of day Wednesday!


Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.-from

Heartland is a horse farm with the special mission of healing abused or neglected horses and finding them new homes. Fifteen-year-old Amy works alongside her talented mother, a gifted horse trainer who uses techniques similar to those of the trainer in The Horse Whisperer. While rescuing an abandoned stallion in a thunderstorm, Amy's mother is killed when a falling tree hits their car, and everything at Heartland--and everything in Amy's life--is thrown into turmoil. Amy's older sister, Lou, leaves her job to come to Heartland to help, and Amy begins to cope with the new circumstances of her life, relying on her work with her beloved horses to help her face the future without her mom.
Fans of the Saddle Club, Pine Hollow, and Thoroughbred series of horse novels will enjoy this sensitively told story that combines lots of authentic horse-farm details with Amy's challenges in dealing with her bossy older sister and her mom's sudden death. The story of Heartland is continued in After the Storm.  -from


Full-colour, full-action, full-throttle sports stories - that's what you get when you take "Stone Arch Books'" thrilling graphic novel format and infuse it with the insider knowledge of "Sports Illustrated Kids". Feel the tension between paintball teammates when one player refuses to run with the pack. Cheer on a gutsy skater as he grinds his way through hard times. These teens are more than just athletes; they are heroes in the making-from
Set in Saskatchewan during its dust-bowl years, Slade's novel begins eerily as seven-year-old Matthew vanishes on his first walk into town alone. Matthew's parents and the entire community appear to accept and forget his disappearance, but a strange set of circumstances leads his 11-year-old brother, Robert, to conclude that Matthew is still alive. It seems that Matthew's disappearance, as well as the vanishing of several other area children, corresponds with the appearance of Abram Hamsich, a stranger who promises to build a rainmaking machine that will end the terrible drought. Hamsich soon has the whole town mesmerized, except for Robert (and his uncle), who gradually realizes Hamsich's horrific true plans. Calling up Ray Bradbury's 1962 classic Something Wicked This Way Comes and the legend of the immortal soulless wanderer, Slade's haunting story shows the triumph of imperfect hope over manifest evil. --from

Friday, 9 September 2011

Writing with Tech (Email, Bitstrips) and thinking about Multiple Intelligences

As you can see, we are a creative bunch.
Today we had the laptops for the full morning period. Students are provided by our school board with usernames and an email account.


Students logged on, and emailed me their writing responses:

-identify the main idea of the Blue Jays video we watched (a short clip on Brett Lawrie's homerun in their game against the Red Sox this past week).
-provide 5 words describing the mood of the Blue Jays video
-tell me the answer to the questions from yesterday: 'who wrote your favourite song,  TV show or movie?' (this also necessitated a google search)
-tell me one goal for reading &/or writing

This activity gave students the chance to explore the school email service & write short answer pieces.

We then created student bitstrip accounts. is a closed site where students can create and share comics (moderated by me). Today, most students  were able to create their avatar. Some also got started on their first assignment "Introduce Yourself Through A Comic". We will continue with bitstrips next week and throughout the year.

I am a big fan of bitstrips and have included several of my comics on this site already.

This poster is missing Nature Smart! And I added Tech Smart.
Multiple intelligence is a concept from Howard Gardner and it describes the wide variety of ways that people learn or are 'intelligent'.

In class today, students identified which was their strongest or most predominate skill or 'smartness': tech smart (which I added to the original list because I think it needs to be there), body smart, picture smart, self smart, people smart, music smart, logic smart, picture smart, self smart (and nature smart). They did this by moving around the class room to the sign with their smartness on it. (Interestingly, the tech smart folks gravitated to the computer as they did this task (and we're online, even though they weren't supposed to be. They just couldn't seem to help themselves with the laptop being on & right there close by!), while the body smart folks could hardly stand still beneath their sign!). (That behaviour just proved to everyone that they'd made the right choice!)

They then had to self-reflect on this choice and write a few sentences as to why they thought this was their main area of smartness (what examples of it are in their life currently in the form of hobbies or activities?) and also to think about career examples that align with their talents & interests.

We will continue our exploration of learning preference and identity as the year progress.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Using Games & Media to Promote Writing, Among Other Things

I consider myself to be a creative person. I admire creativity in others & also want to inspire creativity in others. Video games and media have tremendous potential as a means of creative expression and also as a focus for our own engagement and creative thought.

We used both media & games today in our language class.

1. Video Games & School: Discussion on Effective Feedback.
Click here for the prezi version of the presentation I gave today on comparing the effective feedback in video games to the effective feedback in schools. (The original version was on powerpoint and also had Spanish subtitles. If anyone would like that version, please email me. The prezi version is easier for the online community to view so I created it after the fact).

Your gamer profile in the video game called 'literacy'.
The point of this activity was two fold.

First, to discuss the idea of 'effective feedback'. What is it in video games? (tool inventory, health meters, maps, rankings, etc).

What is it in schools? (report cards, comments, conversations, notes from the teacher, regarding various subject areas & skill sets, etc).

And, in both cases, what is the purpose? To inform your next steps, to grow in 'gamer points' so that you can proceed to the next level.

Your 'gamer/student profile' should be different from the start of the year to the end in the various areas. As in the video game, we expect you to grow. Teachers also need to take base lines data (through reading comprehension tasks and writing samples, for example) so we can determine your profile 'starting point'.

Secondly, as an opportunity for students to provide feedback & also understand oral language criteria. Before the presentation, I gave the students the criteria for 'effective speaking' (part of our Oral Language curriculum). They then needed to rate my presentation based on this criteria. At the end of the presentation, I asked them for their 'feedback'. I also asked to explain why they rated me the way they did.

They also had to write down the 'main point' of the presentation (in a sentence). Here are some responses:

  • It was about how she wants to improve the levels of our thinking.
  • Her point was that school is kind of like a video game in terms of feed back.
  • It's saying school is like a video game in feedback.
  • She was showing how we start out the year. At the end of the year we should be better.
This activity generated a lot of interesting discussion about gaming, school, feedback, and game design.  I think it was a new experience for students to 'critically' examine familiar games. (ie: Why did the game designers put those feedback systems in place? They did it for a reason!).

We will continue to examine all forms of media (and texts) with a 'critical' eye.

Today I introduced students to the 'quick write' activities in my literacy/media site This was highly engaging and provoked considerable reaction & response (in both written & oral forms).  We did 30,000 Dominoes, The Duck Song, Dot, and Western Spaghetti.  We will continue to use this site as a way to generate short writing pieces & respond to creative visual 'texts'.

PS. to further extend this activity, students will be reading this blog post & evaluating how well I 'reported' on the event (we are soon to focus on 'news-report' writing criteria).

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Our 1st class blog: Explaining the Classroom

Today, this class collectively, through group work, described a portion of our classroom on chart paper. Each also took a photograph to accompany the writing. Each group had 4 persons and each person took on a role: writer, editor, photographer and presenter (they were presented to the class when done). Everyone was expected to contribute ideas. In all cases, students had not been introduced to the meaning of that particular poster/area & had to 'figure it out'.

Here we present to you our 'short sentence explanations' of different parts of our classroom:

M, J, J, B "Achievement Unlocked"

It shows the class goals under it that we should achieve.

K, M, J, C
"The Game Zone" TV
The game zone is a place to learn and play games on a television. [We will be writing game reviews of games played in class & also some Wii math-Mrs. J]

K, S, T, E
"Student Events"
The student events chart might be up because it can tell people when birthdays are. [It's also for noting special extra-curricular events in student's lives, like a weekend hockey tournament-Mrs. J]

K, A, B, C "5 point scale"
To us, the scale meant "the volume level" The 5 would be the worst and the 1 would be the best."

J, J, M, S "The Back Wall"

I think the back wall will display spelling words and similes and metaphors.

N, M, D, J "Fair does not equal same"

Nobody needs what everybody else has. [Fair is not the same as equal. Someone may need special tech for learning, you may not. You have equal right to learning; your needs may be different. Everyone gets what they need.-Mrs. J] See this  link for an expanded explanation.

S, K, T, T "Learning Skills Folders"

It's used for students that don't follow the learning skills. It helps them know what the problem is and know what they should do next time. [Inside are small tickets upon which students reflect on the problem they are having with that particular goal & how they need to improve. It tracks student learning skills over time, as tickets are handed into the teachers as they are filled out.-Mrs. J.] 

M, M, A, C "Writing/Reading posters"

We think this is in the classroom because it means that when we read we always have a thought in our mind. We think that it means that writing is that you're not using short forms for words. [In other words, it is editing 'talk' that is written down.-Mrs. J.]