Monday, 24 June 2013

Attention Casting Directors

Considering that this was my first year of homeschooling, it has been a great year for opportunities. Some opportunities I would never had been able to do if I was still in regular school. It's in the area of fine arts that I have had the chance to perform. Acting is something I enjoy very much! This year, I have been in two theater productions. One was a professional play where I had dual roles. In the other, I was the lead in a group production with eight other home schoolers.

Recently, I was cast as an extra, (Look out for me rinding a bike) for a Disney move, "My Sister's Nightmare." It was filmed here in the Okanagan and is due to be released in September. I now have an acting agent and go to Vancouver for auditions. I'm hoping to appear in commercials or a TV series. If I'm lucky maybe I'll even have a role in a feature movie.

~ Jera, grade 7

Monday, 17 June 2013


The other day Cody and I were talking about student learning. We both agreed, that as teachers, we generally don’t ask students enough to connect and synthesize the concepts they learn. I told Cody about how I used to have my classes knowledge model, something I oddly haven’t done with any of my DL students, yet. Hmmm. Anyway, together we agreed on the benefits. I used to use VUE, but given we are now a Google school, I recommend using LucidCharts. Here’s a short video describing its collaborative power. It’s a free Google app that can be found under the “more” menu once you are logged into your @youlearn accounts. I’ve used it for a few months now. It runs pretty deep and is simple to use. Is anyone else already using it? I know you are Miles! Expect to hear more about concept mapping in the future and/or spend some time exploring LucidChart this summer.
~ Will

Monday, 10 June 2013

Castle Monea

"A long and rutted dirt road snakes around the corner. It is flanked with giant oaks, like patriotic, imperial guards ushering travellers through the green tunnel of foliage. Winding and twisting, the road suddenly opens out, spewing its faithful followers out into a field. A wide umbrella of dense, cloudy sky, pierced by wandering sunlight, provides a majestic backdrop. On the distant skyline the sparkling waters of Loch Erne are just visible, fringed with trees and scraggy, deep hedgerows.

Rolling hills, verdant hedges, and sparkling dew laden turf surround the ruins. In the middle of a field, perched on a hill, the haphazard walls and mossy stones of Castle Monea sit like the damp bones of a Celtic giant. An aurora of quiet sadness and solemn reverence settles quietly over the countryside, interrupted only by dropping rain.”

Written in January, I titled this piece Castle Monea after a real castle in Western Northern Ireland, I wrote it as part of an enrichment assignment on descriptive essay writing-practising techniques and tricks that I may not use too much in regular writing. Armed and equipped with new tricks and tips, I set about planning out the skeleton of my essay. Using the barest thoughts, I outlined a simple thought stream on rough paper. I listed things I wanted to describe first. Then, I went over it and under each section added in descriptive words or phrases that came to mind which I really wanted to include. After this was complete, and I was happy with my planning page, I started off my introduction paragraph. Just to interrupt myself here, I would like to mention how important a planning page is. I have, over the years, disliked planning pages and tended to skip them, or not spend too much time n them. In the lower grades, this did not make too much difference to me, but now I am really seeing how crucial they are. It is a fabulous thing to see how much easier they make any piece of writing; even a subject or topic you are uncomfortable or shaky one. So, it is always important to start with a steady, firm foundation, once the planning page is done, you pretty much have half your essay done!

As I was saying before this, starting with the introduction paragraph, I followed the eye into the castle area, and eventually into it itself. This is by far more effective than to say, for example, describe the door, then the walls, then the roof, then the hills, and so on. One of the most important things for me especially I find with descriptive essays is I have a tendency to keep going, and going, without pausing, when shorter sentences would be much more effective. It’s always good to maintain a good balance between short, light material, and lots of juicy adjectives. It’s always good to prioritize as well...that is, not spend a paragraph describing the door, to skip over the country side in a few sentences.

This essay actually made several changes along its journey from start to finish. My idea of adding in the flashbacks into history actually came right at the end of the piece! This is the main reason I like typing my essays, it is so easy to go back and add in entire paragraphs if necessary! I felt that these were a great addition, not only because they bulked up the essay volume, but because they provided a little bit more setting, and also because it was an idea I had never really utilised before. Here is an example...

“The soft blanket of inky blackness covers the country. Lonely clouds scud across the sky, obscuring the stars. Winkling and blinking, hundreds of lights gutter and flash in the hedges around Castle Monea. Like malicious fireflies, they converse among themselves, planning the demise of the castle. Helmets and weaponry can just be made out, glinting blood red in the torchlight. The dark bulk of the castle stands solid, impregnable, and unmovable in the dark. Nervous soldiers pace about on the wooden ramparts, their boots making hollow ringing sounds on the boards. The clatter of arrows and other weaponry fills the air, and spearheads glint evilly, winking with malignant humor. The scene is set.”

I feel that it adds realism, depth, and a bit of weight to the entire story.

A little while after this was written we discovered a Canada-wide children’s writing competition, for grads 4-12. I decided to enter this and a narrative essay I had written at the same time (also readable on my blog). We submitted them in February, and I spent a long 3 months before the results were published. There was one winner, and two honourable mentions to be awarded for each grade, and I am quite pleased to say that I was given an honorable mention, published on their site, and what makes his even better is that there was only a handful over all grades from B.C.!

I must say that I think that this is the best piece I have ever written in my academic life.

~ Cameron, Grade 9

Monday, 3 June 2013

Lessons from Our Primary Program

As the Primary Division teacher with Youlearn I have the delightful opportunity to work with younger students where there is so much excitement even with the simplest achievements.
This week was not special in any particular way, but rather amazing and rewarding in its usual way. Every week I try to read with each student and plant a few seeds in their learning journey. Together with the student’s huge effort, great parental support and my small bit of encouragement, each student continues on their personal path to success. What I have learned throughout my years of teaching is that in the garden of education one never knows if the planted seed will germinate quickly or percolate over time. Some of the most innocent actions can blossom and produce terrific fruits of labour yet the best laid plans can be destroyed by unpredictable forces of nature called life. That in itself is a wonderful component of teaching and within the DL model of learning there is both opportunity and flexibility built in at every corner or hill. One need not be a master gardener to succeed but rather to recognize that teaching at Youlearn is a partnership; together we sow, nourish and cultivate our students. So let’s remember to stand back and celebrate the uniqueness, growth and successes of our students in the garden of education.

Happy Gardening! Ms. Marianne