PBL in my Class of First Graders 

This post is a response to Frenchteach, who recently asked me through Twitter how I’ve done PBL in my classroom.

This morning as I was driving, a Twitter friend, Fenchteach, asked me how I have used PBL in my classroom. Although there are no limitations and that the projects ultimately come from the students, here area few examples I’ve done this past year to marry curriculum content and students’ interests to answer our big questions in Grade 1. All of these projects were a hit and witnessing student growth was so rewarding. The best part is not having to go through 25 carbon copy “projects”. Some were individual and others were collaborative which kept student engagement high and empowered them as they went through the motions.  I hope these inspire you, Frenchteach, with your university course this summer and that your students get to live yours out next school year! ​

​See pictures and short descriptions below! If you have any further questions, let me know!
Bon succès!


Example 1: ​Traditions, Seasons and Community


Example 2 : Gardening, Growth and Changes in Living Things, Math, Health



Example 3: Community: 2D and 3D





What my Students can expect next year from A to Z

As this year wraps up and I move to a new school that has a reputation for innovation, forward thinking and collaboration, my nerves are high with excitement and a bit of uneasiness. There are so many unknowns for staff and students alike because École Sage Creek School will be new to us all! Seeing as how I am full of questions and look forward to what awaits us in Room 147, this post is dedicated to my students. Here’s what you can expect from A-Z!

In September, we will:

I can’t wait to learn with you and from you! Until then-have a great summer! I hope you sleep peacefully knowing that you’ll  have an amazing adventure and that you’ll play a big part into where we go and what we discover!

Mme Nycol

2016: The year I allowed myself to be a student in my own classroom

As the school year comes to a close and staff and students are counting down the days until summer, I’m also counting the days until I get to set foot into my new learning space this September at École Sage Creek School. This year more than any other, I’ve taken greater risks, allowed my students to lead and have grown in ways I would have never even imagined. From flexseating, to Hangouts, to coding, to Seesaw, to Twitter, to blogging and vlogging, I have become a better teacher for my students. On top of that, I have become a better learner because this year, I allowed myself to be a student in my own classroom. This was the turning point for me. 

Being a student in my classroom has allowed me to better understand and define my role as a teacher, to practice empathy and to show my students that there are times when things don’t go as planned. Being Type A, I always wanted to micromanage every.single.detail. of every.single.moment in my classroom. Now that I’ve come to realize that placing the power in the hands of my students is where learning soars, I’ve learned to let go of the small stuff. I used to want to be the sole leader- now I adore being a co-leader, a collaborator and a co-constructor in the classroom with my students. It’s impossible to believe we can solely rely on ourselves to be able to do it all. As much I’d like to take the credit for taking these steps forward, it’s all thanks to my village. There’s an entire community of people who have shaped me into the teacher I am today. As I continue to read and reflect, I’m at peace knowing there will be many more (students, colleagues..) that will influence the teacher I will become years from now. I also find relief knowing Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. constantly has incredible educators hot off the press! I’ll always have a book in hand and a few more waiting on my nightstand! On Twitter tonight, I came accross Rex Ferguson-Baird and I found what he said to be true : “It takes a village to raise a child but it takes a Community to be a village”. This supported the very message I wanted to pass on. Everyone needs a village, not just children.

I’m a life-long learner. I’ve said it before, and I’ll never stop saying it. I love learning. It’s the main reason why I never stopped taking university classes once I got my Bachelor of Education degree. I thought I would have had enough when I completed my post-baccalaureat degree in counselling, but I still felt I needed to learn more so I enrolled in the Master’s program, specializing in Inclusive Education. Learning from and with others is my thing. I used to say if I could get paid to take university classes to continue  to learn and grow, I would earn my living that way. What I didn’t realize at that time, was that I was already doing just that.

Allow me to explain.

A number of years ago, I used to think that I could only learn from attending university. I thought and was brought up to believe that this type of education was considered superior to any other form of learning. Was I ever wrong! Although I would never want to alter or take away my formal education (I value what I’ve learned and take pride in what I’ve accomplished), there’s so much to be said about spending time and learning from people who make you better- whether it be in person, on youtube or from the comfort of a good book.

Last summer I got my hands on Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and it was the spark that fueled my fire. Throughout the entire read, I wanted to be a student in his classroom. That had me thinking about whether or not my students wanted to be in their classroom. After reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz, I joined Twitter, read blogs and I was hooked. These high profile authors who had such an impact on me were educators who started out just the same. Today, they spread their message to better the system, to spread their passion, to make a difference… and are they ever making a difference!! Simply put, they are amazing, brilliant and what I aspire to become. Even though these authors are Education Gurus, at their very core, they remain teachers and still have those same everlasting qualities. They are kind, caring and compassionnate. They’re human and that’s what makes them so incredible. The people I have connected with through PD and my PLN/PLC are also outstanding. They are my village and my community. Because of them, I am learning more than ever and funny thing is, I am getting paid for it! I’m learning in my classroom with my students everyday as I put into practice what I’ve learned in my spare time.

img_3019.jpgI came accross a picture of dominoes and it reminded me that perspective is so powerful. Some may look at these tiles and see they are falling, crumbling, failing to withstand the pressure of others. For me, this image represents the very opposite. Each domino is standing strong and has a purpose. In a circle, they form one unit, a community. When someone in line falls, there is always someone within reach to catch them, support them and help them get back up. There is always someone to lean on and learn from. That’s what community is. You don’t give up on one another, you don’t all fall down. You help one another get back up and become a stronger unit… and that’s the mentality I plan on having this September as I welcome my 23 new community members into their village.

Everyone needs a village. I’m grateful that in the past year, I feel that I’ve found mine.


When Two Worlds Collide

At École Sage Creek School, both the French Immersion and the English programs are colliding, something that’s happened only once before in our division. When I applied for a teaching job in this dual track school, my friends who previously worked in one had many comments to share with me, some positive, and others not. But deep down, I knew this would be a different situation. I felt it would be different. ÉSCS would be a teaching and learning opportunity like none other I had ever experienced. When I thought of these two worlds colliding, I can’t deny that at first, I wondered how challenging it would be to maintain the integrity of the French Immersion program in a dual track school. I constantly worried about interactions in the staff room or learning commons and how I didn’t want to upset, insult or exclude anyone. I worried about my students having to learn a second or third language in an environment that didn’t allow them to be fully immersed. I worried about how all of our expertise and big ideas would fit into one building. How could all of our voices be heard? Thinking of having these two programs colliding led me to an old clip from Seinfeld. I haven’t always been a fan of the show, in fact at first I couldn’t stand to watch it, but when I met my husband – 15 years ago now –  we used to watch it early on in our relationship as teens (before life happened and we had kids). Low and behold, the oneliners and characters quickly grew on me and seeing how much my husband enjoyed watching the show, I couldn’t help but watch it with him. Even now, as he reads my post and watches the clip, his laugh still gets me! In this episode, George’s “two worlds” are colliding (his friends and his girlfriend) and he’s devastated. Nothing great can come out of his two worlds colliding. See SlapstickGuru2’s YouTube video below.

When I think of our two worlds colliding at ÉSCS, I know we won’t combust, we will strive to work as one unit. The staff has only met a handful of times and in the few interactions we’ve had (only four to be exact), it’s clear to me that we are all focussed on building one learning community and one school culture. One where learning will take flight and we’ll lead by innovation and collaboration. This was evident in our first meetings when a teacher I had met once before took the time to share the division’s reading and writing continuums with me so I could better be prepared as we planned in our respective teams. It was also confirmed when we toured our building for the very first time last week. What a masterpiece!

sage creek photo blog.jpg

After our walk through the school, teachers had the rare opportunity to decide where their second home would be (as all the classrooms are different in size and in function). As neighbourhood teams, we’ve also been emailing back and forth constantly, sharing materials and creating resources, offering suggestions, providing feedback, voicing our opinions and knowing how to dance – when to push, when to pull.  The same is true with same grade levels in both programs when it came to idea sharing, placing classroom orders and creating our supply lists. It was incredible how we were communicating through email, text and phone calls to get our lists completed over the weekend. It was a daunting and overwhealming task but this collaboration piece was critical to ensure we’ll be well equiped when our doors open this fall. As individuals, I sense that we are all open and excited to trying new ideas and firm on continuing what works best in each of our classrooms. Collaborating takes time. An awful lot of time, but I firmly believe that we were able to reflect a little deeper and make decisions that were clearer while we get to know who we are and who we are working with. Although there is still so much work to be done, we are well on our way towards making incredible cohesive learning spaces come together.

As I walked though the learning commons and our classrooms to get a feel of what our space will look like and feel like, I imagined our students using these spaces together to develop their 21st century skills along with their soft skills. I could see them collaborating, discovering, trying, failing and finding solutions. I could almost hear the buzz of students questionning, negotiating, celebrating and tinkering. The feeling I had when I walked through those doors is one I won’t soon forget and I just can’t wait to witness the students’ reactions as they walk into their learning spaces this September.

Unlike the Seinfeld video, I assure you that if I start using your lingo, it’s because I love your creativity and I am inspired by you. When I’m in the staff room and you’re looking for a place to sit, I will pull up a chair for you to join. If you offer me to join you at lunch to grab a bite to eat, I will take you up on it. If I come to school dressed in a puffy white pirate shirt (if you’ve watched Seinfeld, you’ll understand), please note that I am so inspired by Dave Burgess and that I am not impersonating Jerry Seinfeld (I mean, I LOVE the show, but I don’t love it THAT much!). When we give ideas and people a chance- we may surprise ourselves- just like me learning to love this sitcom. And lastly, even though the West Wing is forbidden in Beauty and the Beast, ÉSCS’s West Wing is open to all :).

We’ve been told time and time again that this process wouldn’t be easy but it would be worth it. That statement couldn’t be more true. Although there will be some courageous conversations to be had and difficult decisions to be made, the result of having these two worlds collide will be out of this world!

Comfort Zone Quotes - A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but n


Brain Train

Since reading Sheila Vick’s  post on teaching kids about the brain and self-regulation, followed by Annick Rauch’s post on how she followed up these lessons with different breathing strategies, I found it necessary that my grade ones follow suit. The brain is so complex and I immediately knew I wanted my students to better understand how their brain works in terms and visuals they could understand. The earlier they can name their own emotions and identify how they are feeling, the earlier they can develop their own tools and techniques to self-regulate. Subsequently, they’ll be able to do the same with others who are struggling and will be able to offer them help and support. It’s a true lesson in empathy because we all know there are times where we are all overcome with big emotions. We must not add fuel to the fire. Giving the students the proper vocabulary to use during these times is essential for them to be able to verbalize their feelings and begin to understand them.

My current school uses Diane Gossen’s Restitution to build school culture. Each class follows a set of monthly activities to determine each individual’s needs and together, we create an environment based on trust and understanding that is always solution- focused. This month’s task was a lesson on the brain and I knew I wanted to blend Sheila’s lesson on Big Brain, Little Brain and introduce Siegel’s hand brain model to what we were already doing in our school. Siegel's hand brain model

After our Big Brain, Little Brain lesson, I gave each of my students a Tootsie pop. This sweet treat was a great way to have students see the prefrontal cortex as the Big Brain and the amygdala as the Little Brain. It was a clear visual to them that the soft, dark, chewy center (amygdala) was malleable and could be molded to interpret or misinterpret information that could cause a person to “flip their lid”. The hard, clear candy shell was a perfect representation of how the Big Brain can think clearly and can reason with the amygdala to make good decisions. Two heads are better than one. Both the Little and Big Brains have to communicate effectively to work together and they cannot do so until we are calm and can think logically.

Inspired by these posts and videos as well as Caelin Phillipot’s bulletin board, my class decided to make a video of their own calm down strategies to use when they “flip their lid”. They were full of ideas…and making this video allowed them to understand what they can do to regain control of their bodies and minds and get back to thinking with their Big Brain. These are such important lessons to learn. It’s a no-brainer that these need to taught! 😉

Merci Annick, Caelin et surtout Sheila de votre partage et de vos connaissances!