Exhibition Evening: Showcasing our Learning about Manitoba Animals
Last year was the first year that École Sage Creek School was open, and with that, we had our first ever Exhibition Evening, which you can read about here. Last year’s evening was a huge success and as we began planning for this year’s, I was worried that we couldn’t make it as amazing as last year… I was wrong! Once again, the whole school blew things out of the water, and with having gone through the process already once last year, we were better equipped to make it another incredible evening showcasing student learning and the messy process that often accompanies it.
This year, my 1st grade French immersion colleagues and I started planning early on and when I reflect back on how perfectly everything came together in the end, I am overcome with pride and tears of joy. I am so fortunate to work with Nadine Klowak and Caelin Philippot, two colleagues who are always eager to work together, try new things, and make learning amazing for our students. I am also very grateful to have had Carole Rondeau, an educator in my division, who co-taught many lessons with me through the Personalized Learning PD group that I am a part of. Here’s our journey to Exhibition Evening.
Towards the end of January, while the students were coming in from recess, we got an URGENT e-mail from Mme Nicole from the library (shhh, don’t tell the students that this was pre-planned). It read:
Hi Mme Annick, Mme Klowak, and Mme Caelin!
I need your help and the help of your students!
Can you meet me in your wing at 10:55, and not one minute later!
I have a huge problem and I hope you can help me!!!
Goodness me, this was important and she seemed worried! We were curious and quickly got ready to meet with her! (And… the students were hooked!)
The three grade one classes gathered in our wing, and right on time, Mme Nicole came RUNNING down the hall. My oh my! Her hands were full of books, so much so that some were falling out of her arms as she reached our group, completely out of breath. Hunched over from fatigue, she told us, between breaths, that she had a huge problem! She had all of these information books in the library about Manitoba animals, but as she showed us, title after title, ALL of the books were English books, and none were French! This WAS a huge problem since half of our school is French immersion! She had heard through the grape vine that our students were such talented writers and embraced challenges head on, so she asked if they would help her by writing a French information book about Manitoba animals to put in the library. The students cheered and were SO excited to be in charge of this important task! (And… we had them right where we wanted them, excited to learn curriculum while building their French writing skills; purpose).
Mme Nicole thanked them and headed back up to the library, relieved. Our students were pumped, and before we went back to our classrooms, we talked about our GOAL and AUDIENCE, and wrote them down.
Our goal is to write a book in French about Manitoba animals for Mme Nicole and the library.
Our audience is:
- the kids of École Sage Creek School (ÉSCS)
- the families of ÉSCS
- the adults of ÉSCS
- the whole world
Our next step of course, was to learn about Manitoba animals. Our research mostly took place by teachers reading simple information books to students while they gathered important details about physical characteristics, actions, habitats, and Manitoba regions (Subarctic, Forest, Prairie). Students also looked at pictures of animals to learn about them. They had countless opportunities to turn and talk with a partner to share what they had noticed and learned. We also had two fantastic and interactive presentations from The Living Prairie Museum and The Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre where we learned about many Manitoba animals. We made lists of what we were learning as we went on and researched a total of 13 Manitoba animals.
Mixed into our research, we also learned the difference between “stories” and “information books”. Many stories have animals as their characters, but as we read stories, we noticed that often, they aren’t accurate in describing how these animals are in real life – bears can’t talk for instance, and don’t live in a house where they eat porridge, sit on chairs, and sleep in beds at night.
Once our research was done, we were ready to start thinking about writing. We followed Regie Routman’s Optimal Learning Model, and did gradual release of responsibility. Through the “I do” and the “We do”, students were tasked to notice what we were doing, which became an “I notice…” list that eventually became our criteria and expectations. Since we wanted a well-rounded book that gave information about all 13 animals, the students gave us their top 4 choices of animals that they would be interested in writing about, and from those, we chose which animals they would write about. Once we gave our students their animals, they hit the ground running and were eager to start writing. We celebrated their successes along the way and placed emphasis on things that students did well so that other students would learn from them. Students wrote and wrote and wrote some more, each time changing pen colours so we could visually see the process. Once they were done writing, they revised their texts based on the criteria we had made together. Finally, their texts were typed and they chose an image to go with their writing. We are waiting for our actual book to arrive from the print shop!
Many other little activities (The Seven Teachings, our country, province, and city, sorting animals by regions, etc.) took place along the way, and all of these were included in their writing folders so that parents and other community members could see the whole process during Exhibition Evening. We even had fun making a big-scale Manitoba collaborative art display and testing out an unplugged coding activity where students had to code their animal to get to their region while passing over the proper characteristics!
The students were also tasked to create a costume of their animals that they wore during Exhibition Evening. This was a real treat because the students completely transformed our three classrooms into the three Manitoba regions in which our 13 animals live. My classroom became the subarctic, and therefore all of the students who had written about a subarctic animal came into my classroom to transform it into a beautiful winter subarctic scene with all of the animals’ habitats. Caelin’s classroom became a forest in the fall, and Nadine’s became the prairie in the summer.
No detail was overlooked, as we also collaborated with Stephanie Gogal, our music teacher. With her, the students created incredible soundscapes of our three regions that helped us complete our green screen videos of our students in costume. These were displayed by region in our classroom during Exhibition Evening. How cute are they and how incredible are the sounds they recorded individually, and then mixed in GarageBand to create the sounds of the regions?!
I know what you’re thinking… this is all crazy amazing for a bunch of 6 and 7 year old students, and you’re not wrong, it is absolutely incredible!!! Let them show you what they can do, and they WILL exceed your expectations! Take a peek at the pictures I took before and during our impressive evening where student proudly led the way and walked their parents and family members through their learning process and incredibly breathtaking final products.
Welcome to the Subarctic:
Welcome to the Forest:
Welcome to the Prairie:
Our process, all on display at Exhibition Evening:
Pictures captured during Exhibition Evening, look at all those proud faces:
A very special thanks to all of our students’ families that made this huge project a success. Without your help volunteering, supplying materials, and overall support, it wouldn’t have been possible. Merci!
Ps – I have about a million other pictures of the process that were displayed during Exhibition Evening, but uploading them all here would take me a few days, so I am stopping here. 🙂 I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look at what our students have been up to this term! I am so proud, but most importantly, our students are proud!