Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Getting Started- Government Systems

Grade Six got started with our new Unit of Inquiry this week. The transdisciplinary theme for the unit is How We Organise Ourselves and our central idea is: How government systems function can influence the lives of citizens.

To help us get started in thinking about how laws are made and amended Mr.David Guilfoile came and presented to the Grade Sixes. Students then took part in an interactive activity where they had to try to solve a real life problem from the local community. Here are some snippets from the activity:

Here is a copy of the slideshow Mr.Guilfoile used to teach us. It gave us a lot to think about when coming up with questions at the beginning of the unit.

Here is the padlet where Grade Six students left their responses after the presentation. They responded using two thought prompts:

The most interesting thing I learned was...          I am now curious about...

Made with Padlet

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Preparing for 3 Way conference with Snakes and Ladders!

Source :

As we were preparing for the 3 Way conference, some of the students realised they needed to deepen their thinking and practice using the unit vocabulary a little bit more.

I came across Peter Sanderson 's idea on twitter and loved it. And so did the kids.

Next time we will use the Wheel to bring variety to our tasks.

Watch the students  learn  through play!

Game board 1

Game board 2

Game board 3

Game board 4

Try it out. Click on this link and make a copy of it and let your student's come up with their own tasks.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Is it Ok to Steal?

During library lessons we often discuss the importance of how to ethically use other peoples' work.

Discovering features of MLA citations.
This week Grade 6 have been identifying common and unique features used by MLA (Modern Language Association. At Seisen we use this common style of referencing to give correct attribution to print, web, DVD and personal sources of information while engaged in researching during the inquiry process.

The girls began by organising a number of cut up examples. They discussed the common features contained in all the examples. This led to the identification of some features that were unique to some examples. Then as a group they discussed how the individual elements might be organized.

The next steps will include identification and definitions of some of the abbreviations that are used, such as n.d, eds. and &. This will be followed by a lesson where the students will compare their format with the 'official' MLA version.

Students will have many opportunities to practice this skill in their preparation for Exhibition next semester.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Our Ferocious Earth

"On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it."-Jules Renard

What an interesting quote, especially when we can take the word "pieces" quite literally!

The students are learning all about the earth's landscapes and probing a bit further into the theoretical nature of plate tectonics. Our central idea which goes as follows:  The Earth's physical geography can have an impact on human settlements," made us realise how vulnerable humans are when it comes to the forces that mould mother earth. In order to delve a bit further, we needed to understand why those "pieces" of earth move. The reason they needed to know this was because their summative task was to build settlements along or near fault lines and assess how people may be affected.

And so off we traipsed to the high school laboratory to get a better understanding of what is happening underneath the earth's crust.

The students are setting up their experiments.

Mr. Johnson guides the students, as Mr. Lee and Mr. Wilk watch. They seem fascinated by the outcome of our experiments even though they must have conducted these experiments many times. Science experiments never loose their magic, do they!

Here is a sample of a student' s Lab report:

As a cup of hot water is kept underneath the red dye, we begin to watch it rise. 

Swathes of red hot molten magma surge towards the earth's crust, and then cool down... cooler magma rushes to take its place.

And that was when we finally understood the concept of convection currents. 
Next time you feel a gentle breeze caress your cheeks or play hide and seek with your hair, you know what's happening!

The students, back in class now, take the time to use their learning and create a settlement based on the latitude and longitude they have been assigned on Google Earth.

And they zoom in closer in order to create their topographic map.

This is the beginning of one. 

 The challenge  one faces during these product-oriented tasks is to ensure the students are able to transfer and apply their learning as they eagerly get their hands dirty. 
Questions such as ," What is happening beneath your settlements?" or, Is your topographical map a reflection of the diorama which you have created?" or , Why have you placed the hospital in that location?" helped the students stay focused.
The graphic below helped me keep a check on their progress.

I leave you with some glimpses of the students at work. High on the agenda was self-management and collaboration skills. We also realised how important it was to plan ahead and make a list of things we needed for the next day in order to stop creeping into the art room and getting caught in the process. That's a staple expression when we get caught. 

 A close- up of the San Andrea Fault line.

Mount Merapi in the making.

Yellow stone National Park

Hawaii Mauna loa 

Himalayan mountain range

An Alaskan landscape. Hmm, quite green!

And from natural disasters, I leave you with a shot of a man-made ( or should we call it girl-made) disaster.





Thursday, 10 November 2016

Mapping Skills in Grade Six

Grade Six students got started with inquiring into compass points and coordinates of latitude and longitude by giving each other directions to find classroom items.

Students used a variety of maps including Google Earth, Atlases, Online Maps and the classroom globe to find landmarks in relation to Tokyo and to pinpoint landforms using coordinates of latitude and longitude.

Here are some samples from Anna, Sonal and Emi. Thank you for volunteering!

Are you ready for Sakura?!


The Sakura Medal program brings together students from international schools across Japan each year to vote for their favourite books.  Each year, librarians from various international schools meet and select 10-20 books in each of the Sakura Medal categories.  Only students are eligible to vote for this prestigious award, but they need to read the minimum number of books to vote.

Our aim is not only to encourage students to read a variety of high quality books but to give a real life opportunity to set a meaningful goal.  Te program will run from November to April.  Students will decide how many books they realistically hope to read.  Goal setting forms will be reviewed and approved by both their homeroom teachers and parents.  Once they have turned in their forms, they can start to check out books and start reading!

These ares some of the Sakura Medal Program categories.  

This year, six graders are able to participate in the Middle School Sakura Medal program!  They will be able to go to the MS/HS Library to check out MS Sakura Medal books from next Tuesday, November 15th.  Many of these titles are also available in our e-book collection (Overdrive).

Books that are available on Overdrive have a blue Overdrive logo on the book.  After a MS Sakura book is read, students need to fill out and submit the correct bookmark to Ms. Thinnes at the MS/HS Library.  
This is the first year that six grade students are able to go to MS/HS Library to check out Sakura Medal books.  Mrs. Thinnes is the MS/HS Librarian. She is looking forward to having this opportunity to get to know grade 6.

Come Spring when you're getting ready for Cherry Blossom viewing, (お花見),  you know that it'll be time to vote for your favourite books.  Good luck with your goals!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Language of critiquing

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”
– Frank A. Clark

As we are in the process of assessing our writing, and giving feedback to others, we took the opportunity to watch Ron Berger's inspiring video "Austin's Butterfly".


 The students enjoyed watching the video and learnt the following things from it: 

" I learnt not to give up after the first try."

" I learnt to give feedback respectfully. "

"I learnt to give specific feedback. "

"I learnt that a first grader can do aaaamazing things ...after 6 drafts."

 We decided to give each other feedback on our argument essays which we connected with our unit of inquiry. It was a great way create a transdisciplinary curriculum. 

The essay prompts were:

1) Prove that volcanic eruptions are closely connected with earthquakes. How would you go about proving this point. ( At least 2 .5 pages ) 

2) Explain in the most amazing way possible ( use metaphor analogy if necessary) how and why tectonics plates move in different ways. (At least 2.5 pages) 

Students went off to assess one another. It was a collaborative process and a hum filled the air as they engaged in productive discourse.

We assessed each other carefully, modeling the language of feedback  we had discussed during the mini-lesson which followed the video. Here are two of the essays the class considered to be particularly  well-written.
We came up with a checklist inspired from the argument checklist, but modified to suit our needs.

I leave you with some of the "specific" and "respectful"feedback the students gave each other.

This student comments on how her peer's work is easy to read as the paragraphs clearly connect with one another.

A very effective way of re-directing the student's focus to the question that needs to be addressed.

The student addresses the need to have a conclusion that ties up the whole essay.

Very specific feedback from a peer.

When asked why she gave this particular feedback, the student responded by saying she used the same example to consolidate her point of view but saw how her peer used in a different way. Another point for discussion in the next class.

Very specific feedback and respectfully stated!

This feedback goes a bit further. It states not only where her buddy can improve but how she should go about it.

Would you, dear parents and readers like to leaves us some specific and respectful feedback on how we can improve our learning experience?