Posted by: meredithbuchanan | May 13, 2010

Project Ignite

My grade six class is in the middle of a unit on Speeches. I decided to adopt the “Ignite” format and modify it to work for our class. Ignite’s slogan is “Enlighten us, but make it quick.” In a typical Ignite talk, the speaker would have exactly 5 minutes to speak, and 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. You can check it out at

For our purposes, students will have exactly 2 minutes, and 10 slides that automatically advance every 12 seconds. The task of finding images that support your message, combined with the challenge of speaking within the correct time frame, has my class of grade six students really engaged in the work. The students were able to choose whatever topic interested them most and whether they were going to take a persuasive or informative approach. Some examples of speech topics they chose are Rosa Parks, Why You Shouldn’t Eat So Much Chocolate,  Bow Wow, Somalia: Don’t Judge a Book by its Covor, and What is in Medicine? I chose to model this format for my students using a speech I wrote on Helen Keller. Click on the video to view it yourself!

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | May 7, 2010

Status of Women Conference for Girls

Today I had the opportunity to help out with the Status of Woman’s Conference for Girls. This conference is all about empowering young women to be assertive leaders. Schools across Toronto were invited to send groups of female students to partake in this event. The keynotes and workshops aimed to break down gender based bias, explore beauty in the mass media, critically examine the world of cyberbullying, and learn about globalization and issues of equity.

One of the very relevant and engaging workshops at the Conference for Girls.

One of the very relevant and engaging workshops at the Conference for Girls.

At the end of the day we held a small awards ceremony, honoring some of the young women who are leaders in their school’s girls club.

“You throw like a girl!” a phrase I have heard countless times since I was young, and I never really thought too hard about it. I’m thinking now though, and since when did my gender become an insult?

This is important work that needs to see more attention. So many lies are fed to our young girls on a daily basis, telling them what they should look like, how they should act, and who they should be. If you have ever stood in line for groceries you know what I am talking about. There is a serious misrepresentation of what a beautiful woman looks like. We need to create places where we can begin to break down distorted ways of thinking and have these conversations with our girls.

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | April 25, 2010

Advocating for the Arts

To give you a context for my teaching style, I graduated from York Universities Fine Arts Education program. It was during my time at York that I began to recognize the importance for the use of arts in our schools to help facilitate deep learning. Let me begin by saying, the arts not only engage and inspire us, they actually develop the brain.

Painting in the Park. Myself, Age 6.

Painting in the Park. Myself, Age 6.

There is a short window in ones life where the doors to development remain open. Research on the emotional system shows frontal brain lobes that are responsible for cognitive understanding stop developing at the young age of sixteen. People who do not receive adequate arts experiences early on in life risk life long handicaps that limit their access to the comfort and happiness that the arts can provide.

There has always been a strong connection between the arts and academic success. A study of SAT scores showed that students who studied the arts were 59 points higher on the verbal and 44 points higher on the math portion than students with no experience in the arts. (The College Board, Profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, 1995). Whether its using music to cultivate math reasoning, or using the dramatic arts to mature a love and command of words, the arts let us do so in a stimulating and engaging manner. I desire to infuse core classroom lessons with rich arts activities and experiences that move students from taking a passive role to an active role in their learning and use the arts as a pathway to profound scholarship.

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | April 22, 2010

Smart Board Demonstration

This is a quick 3 minute video I took with my iphone demonstrating how I use the Smartboard in my teaching.

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | April 19, 2010


The Large Conference is held annually to allow students to partake in a variety of workshops to enhance their professional development as teachers in training.

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | April 19, 2010

Celebrating South Africa

To celebrate South Africa Day, I worked with a group of grade 4 students to learn a song and dance routine to “In the Jungle”. This song is based on a Zulu song, Mbube, recorded in 1939 by Solomon Linda. I accompanied students on guitar while they sang and performed a dance that incorporated movements adapted from several Ladysmith Black Mambazo routines. Students also created lion masks and “skins” which they used for costuming. At the end of the day, many students had their very first performance experience, and they looked like true professionals! This was a rich activity that combined dance, art and music in a way that could allow students to connect with the content and learning of our day.

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | March 25, 2010

Encouraging Makers of Change!

Students baked cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and even lasagna!

The students in my grade 6 Language Arts class were about to finish a unit on discrimination. In this unit we learned about stereotypes and different kinds of “isms”: Racism, Sexism, Ableism, Ageism, and Heterosexism.

Students explored examples of each discrimination though a variety of texts. As the unit was coming to a close the students began asking the question, “Now what?” Now that they were educated on these issues, they wanted to take their learning to the next level and make a difference. My students decided they would like to hold a bake sale to raise funds for their cause. In groups, the students picked recipes, brought in the ingredients, baked the goods, and sold them for a pretty penny during the school lunch hours. The grade 6 students raised $143, and with the exception of one batch of over salted brownies, (I think they mistook the salt for flour!) their treats were delicious!

Students collectively decided to give the money to The Schizophrenia Society of Canada, which is an organization that exists to improve the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia and psychosis through education, support programs, public policy and research. I was inspired by the student’s activism at such a young age. They refused to be passive about the knowledge they had received on these issues. The students saw a small way they could help; and they were so eager to get involved!

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | March 15, 2010

My Aproach to Teaching

I am not interested in superficial learning; I am set on deep understanding. All learners should be engaged and all material should be relevant. I want to move away from learning as “memorization of facts” towards a type of learning that is the “internalization of concepts and ideas.” This is the pathway towards deep understanding. Children need to learn in a safe, active and joyful environment. To create this, I as a teacher must set clear and consistent expectations for classroom behavior. There is a time and place in each classroom where loud and boisterous learning should be encouraged, there should also be time set aside for silent, independent work. It is essential that all students learn to function well in both settings.

I believe differentiated instruction is an essential part of a successful classroom. I want to teach all material in a way that is exciting and makes sense to my learners; I also want them to feel good about their own learning. We need to stimulate all of the different intelligences in order to meet all students in a meaningful way and to help create well-rounded individuals. Rich language experiences should and can be infused in all subject areas.

I want to encourage creativity in my students. I am fascinated by something Sir Ken Robinson said. “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Rather, we get educated out of it.” As we grow older we become afraid of taking risks, and making mistakes because mistakes are reprehensible. There is an element of risk involved in the creation of something new. If we continue to stigmatize mistakes as the worst thing one can make, we educate our children out of creativity. I want my students to flourish as both deep learners and rich creators; where their learning contributes to their creating and their creating contributes to their learning.

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | February 20, 2010

Sample: Corrected Math Work

A sample of some math work I corrected.

Posted by: meredithbuchanan | December 26, 2009


“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain artists as we grow up” –Pablo Picasso

I recently viewed a lecture given by Sir Ken Robinson, courtesy of He has some interesting things to say on how schools kill creativity. Robinson believes that  “Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it will the same status.”

In this talk he gives examples about how children are not afraid to make mistakes, if they don’t know the answer to a question, they are not afraid to try for it anyway. He tells one of my favorite little stories of a young girl in art class who was drawing a picture of God. Her teacher questions how she will do this saying “Nobody knows what God looks like.” to which the girl replies, “They will in a minute.” This illustrates the idea that children are highly inventive and are not afraid to take risks. This changes as we grow into our adult life, where mistakes are stigmatized; mistakes are the worst things you can make. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.” says Robinson, and I couldn’t agree more. I want to encourage risk taking in my students, I want to teach them that mistakes are wonderful because we learn so much from them, I want to teach students how to fall and how to get back up again.

“We are educating people out of their creative capacities” says Robinson,“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it, rather we get educated out of it.”

This is a fascinating idea for me and will certainly have me thinking about whether I am educating my students out of creativity or whether I am helping them flourish in it.

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