What Does It Mean to Collaborate and Compromise?

It’s a new year and this means a new teaching assignment and new team of teachers that I am working with. This year I am teacher 17/30 blocks of Frencb as a Second Language to grades 5-9, 10 blocks of Grade 5 and then I am lucky enough to have 3 preps each week. For French I am a lone wolf and turn to Twitter to find ideas, share ideas and collaborate with others but  in my school, we plan in teaching teams at each grade level. This year I am planning with only 1 person with whom I have worked with previously, 1 whom I have done some inquiry planning with but never on the same team and 1 with whom I have never worked with. When we met for our initial team time we came up with our team agreement which we decided would be: “Doing what is in the best interest of the students through such things as collaboration etc.”

How does one define collaboration? I soon discovered that collaboration means different things to different people. According to businessdictionary.com, collaboration is a “[c]opperative arrangement in which two or more parties (which may or may not have any previous relationship) work jointly towards a common goal”. For some of my team members, collaboration means that we do almost everything the same in our classrooms. I struggle with this because we are not the same teacher and our student groups have the potential to be very different in their make up (we will learn more about them later on in the week). I feel that collaboration involves a sharing of ideas and building upon these ideas to make them better. For me, it also involves tweaking and doing things differently to suit our student needs as well as our own teaching style. Although I have high expectations for my students, how I help them to meet these expectations looks and sounds different from my colleagues and this has to be okay. Learning is not a one size fits all approach. A friend and colleague of mine shared this infographic with me on Twitter and I think it describes perfectly what I think collaboration is:


My team and I are going to need to come up with a definition of collaboration that we can live within this year and be open to compromising at times.


The 25 Book Challenge

33% of my 118 7th graders told me they had not read a single book last summer.  That books were just not their thing or they were simply too busy.  33%…Many of them told me they had read the …

Source: The 25 Book Challenge

Our Minecraft Journey — with Joshua Lang

Recently, my FSL 5 and FSL 6 students were exploring the inquiry question “How are housing / communities (respectively) shaped by culture?” We began by completing a Regardes-Pense-Pourquoi (See-Think-Wonder) of Paris, Brussels, Montréal, QC and Falher, AB. We followed this up with the students choosing which one of these areas they would like to build a home or community in. (You can see the exact assignments here). The final task was for students to build a home or community that would be representative of a home or community in their chosen area; for example, if students chose to build a home in downtown Paris, it would likely be a small apartment. The students were given the freedom to choose whichever medium they wanted in order to create their home or community. Some FSL 5 students approached me about using Minecraft and of course, I said, “Oui!”. I then presented this idea to my other students in both FSL 5 and FSL 6 and many of them have run with it. After attending the IDEAS Conference in Calgary at the beginning of May (where I attended a session on Minecraft), I asked the students to also make signs for each of their rooms or buildings in French. Here are just a few examples:

Brooke M. LC5D

Seth M. LC5D

Jordyn C. LC5D

There have been many bumps along the road as the students and I tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t with much of the teaching coming from the students as they taught me about the intricacies of Minecraft. One of the biggest issues we encountered was students wanting to build their homes or communities in the same world. The issue resulted from the students multiplayer capabilities being enabled and outsiders entering and sometimes destroying the work that the students had worked so hard to complete. This was both frustrating for the students and heartbreaking for me as I did not want them to give up or become discouraged. We resolved to begin taking screenshots each time we finished a part of our home or community. This served two purposes:

  1. It was photographic evidence of the work that students had already completed so they wouldn’t have to start from scratch if something did happen to their world.
  2. The pictures were added to student blogs in which they then wrote sentences describing their home or community to a broader audience.

Another bump in the road was the fact that I could not enter into a students world from my PC if the students created it on an Apple device and vice versa.

I understand that there is a Minecraft for Education edition however, our school does not, at this time, have access to PCs with Minecraft EDU. One of my students was so adamant that he wanted to use Minecraft for his project, he and his dad spent a weekend working around the Chromebook system and loading Linux onto his Chromebook so that he could use Minecraft. He was so excited to share his discovery with me and I in turn, shared it with a couple of my colleagues who I knew would be just as excited as I was to learn about this hack.

I have never seen this level of engagement for a French project. A colleague, Joshua Lang,  came to me and shared that his students were so engaged by the use of Minecraft in French that they wanted to recreate Ancient Athens despite the fact that their official study of Ancient Athens had ended a couple of months ago. Here is his story…

My students recently finished an inquiry project in French involving Minecraft. Throughout this whole project, the students were completely engaged. The students loved the idea that they could use a game they play all the time to help them grow as learners in French. From an outsider’s perspective, it was great to see them so excited about learning. It left me wondering how I could use Minecraft in Social Studies to immerse my students in historical democracy.

We have been looking at Ancient Athens’ form of democracy in Social Studies. Throughout our unit we have been looking at many of the famous landmarks of Ancient Athens. As the students learned about Pnyx hill, the Agora, the Bouleuterion, and many other landmarks, they had only vague ideas of what these places looked like. The frustrating thing about Ancient Athens is that there is not much left of this ancient city to really look at. The students had to rely on a combination of their imaginations and artwork found online to visualize the city. This lead to my students’ great idea about using Minecraft to build Ancient Athens.

I have been curious about Minecraft and its use in the classroom for quite some time, but I was unfamiliar with the game and how it exactly worked. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to learn from my students as they teach me about Minecraft while we learn more about Athens.

We decided as a class that if we were going to commit to this project, we were going to try and make our Minecraft version of Ancient Athens as authentic as possible. This meant that we were going to make sure we did our research before we started building. We are going to research everything from the purpose and function of each famous structure to the building materials used to build the well known ruins of today. We really wanted to make sure that this representation of Ancient Athens could be used as a future learning tool. For this reason, beside every famous structure, we are including signposts that give information about the buildings. That way, future students can learn about Athens as they explore what we have built.

This project was one big classroom community effort rather than twenty-three individual projects. We decided to create a server (our own world where we could all build this city-state together). This allowed some students to start building the Agora while they look across in the pixelated distance at their classmates beginning construction on the world-renowned Acropolis. The decision to build this city together was intentional as it allowed our class to rely on each other to accomplish this task.

There are many reasons this project is so valuable to our learners, however two reasons really stand out to me:

  1. The students feel empowered as they are being seen as the expert in the “Minecraft Field.” Our roles in the classroom have reversed. I am now the student coming to them to learn from their knowledge and experience. I have learned so much from my twenty-three teachers. I love seeing my students take on the role of the teacher, and will use any opportunity I can to allow them to be experts.
  2. The students are being proactive producers of knowledge rather than consumers of knowledge. There are many great resources on the internet for us to learn from, however, this was one particular topic that we saw a need to create in order to fully imagine Ancient Athens. It didn’t seem like there was anything made out there for us, so instead of waiting for someone else to create something, my students decided that they were going to create it instead. It is so inspiring to see my students producing knowledge and resources for others to learn from. I love that they identified a problem and created a solution. I see elements of design thinking all over this project.

We are not finished building Ancient Athens yet, but we are slowly getting there one brick at a time. However, the most valuable part of this journey is not the finished product, but the process we are in the midst of right now.


My Visit to Parkland Village’s Tinker Lab

My mind is racing as I take in and try to process everything that I saw this afternoon at Parkland Village School’s Tinker Lab. The lead teacher, Kyla Moore, went into a class of which was comprised of two actual classes and laid out the plan for what the students could choose to work on that day. Before students were allowed to choose which area that they wanted to work on, Kyla reviewed the Design Thinking process with them. Kyla’s ultimate goal for the students is to have them create their own challenges; some students are ready to do this at this point in the year however, Kyla is providing some with STEM challenges that she has found in various places. Kyla took the time to explain what choices the students had for their hour with her; there was a paper airplane challenge, a rocket challenge, Dash robots, Blue Bots, Saving Sam, Cubelets, Marble Mazes, WeDo (Lego), Osmos, Stacking Cups, Roominate and various coding apps such as Hopscotch, code.org and Scratch.

How is TinkerLab set-up?

Currently, TinkerLab is mobile and Kyla goes to each of the grade groups for 1 hour each week. Next year, she is hoping that she will be able to have a dedicated space that the students will be able to come to her and that there will be areas for the students longer term projects to be stored. While Kyla is with the grade groups, the grade teachers are at PLC meetings. Due to the number of students that Kyla is working with at any given time, the librarian, Mrs. Wolf is assisting her as is an EA.

What challenges has TinkerLab encountered?

Space but of course everyone in Spruce Grove is hoping that this issue will be elevated to some extent next year with Prescott Learning Centre opening up.

What could this mean for GREYSTONE?

My ultimate dream is to have a dedicated space that could be for both French and a MakerLab. It would allow us a space to store materials and an area for teachers to bring their classes in to do challenges. I would LOVE the opportunity to work along side the teachers in this space to do the Design Thinking model with the students and to show the teachers the natural tie-ins that there are in our regular curriculum rather than it being an add-on. I would also love to invite Kyla to come in for a day and set-up stations in the gym so hat we could have each class or grade level come and work through. She has done this at Blueberry and it was a huge success; so much so that Blueberry has hired someone to be a MakerLab coordinator next year. I want to do that here! I want to help teachers discover the value of MakerLab and the Design Thinking model so that it becomes a part of their regular teaching; not just during Innovation Week.

My mind is reeling…how can I make this happen? How can we make this happen at our school? The level of engagement from all of the students was incredible. I walked around and struggled to identify any one student who might be on an IPP because they were so engaged in their learning task. That is what we want for all of our students…how can we make it happen? How can I be the agent for change to make it happen for next year? Having a Maker Club is great but we need to take it that one step further. It needs to become a part of our everyday teaching and learning. Teachers and students learning side-by-side. Students being teachers and teachers being the students. How can we make this happen? How can I make this happen?

Dessine Moi Une Maison

Inquiry Question: How is housing shaped by culture?

During French class, we have been working on describing our houses.

This week we will begin our final unit project. Students will have the opportunity to explore two French communities. They will choose which one they would like to live in, and design a home that fits in that community. Their work will include a drawing or model of their home as well as three blog entries reflecting on their learning, including a realtor spec sheet or letter home describing their home.

Students will list the rooms of their choice, and write a couple of short sentences to describe the room. They will also draw a picture of each room for their good copy.


-Student can write short sentences, using learned vocabulary and simple language structures to describe their house. This should include a minimum of 10 unit words.

-Student can show their understanding of prépositions (sur, sous, dans, devant, derrière,
à côté de, dedans, à gauche de, à droite de.) by describing the layout of their home. There should be a minimum of 3 examples.

-Student is able to explain why his/her home fits in Paris or Montréal by explaining the characteristics unique to his/her chosen city either as a Realtor spec sheet or as a letter home to parents.

-Student has completed a blog post related to the See-Think-Wonder activity, choose a city and final reflection about how they made their choices.

-Student will complete a visual representation of his/her home design.

This project will be done mostly during class time, and shouldn’t require much assistance from home.

Students will be assessed using this rubric.



Dessine Moi Une Communauté: LC6 Final Project

Inquiry Question: How are communities shaped by culture?

Over the past several weeks we have been studying community and giving/getting directions.

This week we will begin our final unit project. Students are asked to create an imaginary city or town in one of the following French-speaking countries: France, Belgium, or Canada.

Students will be given paper to draw their town; however, they have the option of creating their town using a computer program, diorama or other possibilities they may come up with. (Students will not be graded on their artistic ability, so please keep it simple.)

During class time, we will be writing about our cities and towns using prepositions and classroom vocabulary. This city description should be one page (double spaced).


-Students can write short sentences, using learned vocabulary and simple language structures, to describe their community. This should include a minimum of 10 community places.

-Students can show their understanding of prepositions (à côté de, à gauche de, en face de, derrière, devant). There should be a minimum of 5 examples.

-Student is able to explain why his/her community fits into his/her chosen country by explaining the characteristics unique to his/her community and how it represents the culture of the country.

-Student has completed a blog post related to the See-Think-Wonder activity, choose a country and final reflection about how they made their choices.

-Student has completed a visual representation of his/her community.

This project will be done during class time and should not require much assistance from home.

Students will be assessed using this Rubric

Trying Something Different

I’ve decided to try something different for the last units of study for French 5 and 6. I have asked my students to share with me the topic that is of most interest to them. The students are then going to do the following:

  1. Identify the guiding questions related to the topic that they would like to explore.
  2. Identify the vocabulary and verbs related to the topic.
  3. Teach another student who is doing a different topic what he/she has learned.
  4. Write blog posts to share what they have learned at different stages of the learning process.

Some of the grade 6s have chosen to do “la bataille de playback” or a lip-sync battle. These students will do the following:

  1. Choose a song in French.
  2. Decide how to represent the song I.e. Via video or live.
  3. Write out the song’s lyrics and translate it to English identifying what they notice about the translation.
  4. Write a biography of the singer and identify the vocabulary and verbs that the students will need to know in order to complete this.

These grade 6 students will also be writing blog posts to share their learning at each stage.

Finally, for my former French Immersion and my Québécoise students, they will be creating pronunciation guides of the vocabulary and verbs for their chosen topic.

Previous Older Entries