January 19

The week of January 20th – 24th, 2020

Hello R7A Families –

I hope you are keeping warm, and also enjoying the snow and sunshine. St. John’s, Newfoundland is digging out of a snowstorm that brought 76 cm of snow to the city that is now in a state of emergency. An enterprising snowboarder decided to take advantage of the snow-heavy streets.

This week, on Thursday, we say farewell to Mr. Patrick Catahan, U of O teacher candidate, who has been with our class since the first day of grade 7, taught and learned with us every Wednesday and then every day since the beginning of December. There will be a “surprise” party for Mr. Catahan on Thursday afternoon. Students are invited to bring notes and snacks to say so long and good luck to our wonderful teacher-to-be.

In Language Arts, we are learning about how advertisements are made and will ourselves be making ads with products and target audiences. Guided reading will resume next week with the reading groups deciding what types of novels they would like to read in February. Speaking of February, in that month, every day, we will be having a “February 15”, starting each day with a full 15 minutes of reading. Our next activities in Language Arts will include writers’ boot camp and a unit on the teenage brain and the film, “Inside Out”. Please ask your children what they wrote for their New Year resolutions. They worked hard to be precise and realistic and did a good job.

In Geography, led by Mr. Catahan, the class is finishing up their teaching posters on different kinds of natural resources. This week we will learn about how fossil fuels are extracted and processed, and what the implications are for the environment. A short research project will follow with my giving specific feedback on how students did in their first research project and what they can focus on to become stronger.

In Visual Arts, our Morning Star personalized mandalas are almost done. Some samples as included below. Our next project focuses on using perspective and shading in water colour representations of mountains.


This week promises a lot of cold and snowy days. Please ensure your pre-teens are wearing boots, gloves and hats!

Image result for teenager in shorts in a snowstorm"

IMPORTANT NOTE: This will be my last weekly blog to the R7A community until the end of the current labour situation. As  always, I am available by e-mail, and available for meetings at recesses. There will be no school tomorrow, Monday, given the walk-out and no school on Friday which is a professional development day for report card writing.

Take care,

Ms Swail

January 13

The week of January 13th – 17th, 2020

Hello R7A Families –

Image result for ottawa january

We had a very good first week into 2020.  Welcome to our new principal, Mme. Ginette Thibault, and all the best to Mme. Deschenes as she starts her new adventure into retirement.

This week, in Language Arts, we will be continuing our Wednesday guided reading and completing the detailed New Year’s resolutions we started last week. In this thinking and writing exercise, we are focusing on being detailed and organized to help us be successful in making small changes toward larger, ongoing change. Here is a copy of the slide show in which Ms Shiau, Mr. Catahan and I declared one of our own resolutions: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1aWsWCKEPcjTnhGPOIaeFsdxTkOPpOVIxA1mgo2Hdytk/edit#slide=id.p

Last week, Mr. Catahan introduced a unit on media literacy and here is the synopsis (thanks, Mr. Catahan):

Last Friday, the R7A class started its Media Literacy unit, where we analyze and reflected our media consumption in our everyday lives. Unsurprisingly, the R7A class spends around a total “33” hours on social media every day! With this in mind, over the next two weeks, the class will look at how this exposure to media, specifically advertising, can affect its audiences. We will delve into issues such as stereotypes used advertising and body image. As such, over these weeks I want students to be constantly reflecting about how much media they are exposed to every day and how might they themselves or others might be affected by it!

In Geography, we are learning about different kinds of natural resources and how they are extracted and used. We are always talking about the impact of our use of natural resources on the environment and climate change.

In Visual Arts, students are finishing their Morning Star adaptation mandalas. I will post photos of their lovely creations next. week.

Please ensure your children know how important it is to get to school on time. Last week was a shock for many after two weeks of sleeping in, I am sure. It is really important they are at school by 8:30 to start the day positively and not feel left behind.

Have a wonderful week!

Ms Swail


January 5

The week of January 6th-10th in the new year of 2020


Image result for new year snoopy"


I hope you are all well and your young wards are ready to start the “second half” of grade  7.

January, despite its sometimes gray-ice-cold, is an opportunity for a bright, brand new start, or at least a re-boot. Image result for boot cartoon"

This is Mr. Catahan’s (teacher candidate) last month with us and he will be taking the lead on Geography and Language Arts.

This week, we will start off by talking about and setting some New Year’s resolutions that are realistic and achievable. Ms Shiau’s background talks with each of the students on current reading levels and progress may feed into some of the students’ resolutions. Here is a link to the slide show we will be showing the students:  https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1aWsWCKEPcjTnhGPOIaeFsdxTkOPpOVIxA1mgo2Hdytk/edit?folder=0AC1eeuSC8w8DUk9PVA#slide=id.g764017c3a9_0_287

January is also the month when teachers are preparing first term report cards and consulting with students on both their academic and social progress.

Please continue to encourage your children to read for an average of 30 minutes per afternoon/evening. They are always to welcome to borrow from the class library as well as the school library. It is quite obvious, at this point of the year, which students are progressing more in their reading skills due to extra practice and discipline. Please also negotiate appropriate, daily screen times.

Thanks very much.  Here is to a very good 2020!!!!!!!!!

Ms Swail

December 15

The week of December 16th – 20th, 2019

Hello R7A Families –

Greetings on this the beginning of the last school week of 2019. It will be an event-packed week with concerts throughout the school, special outfit days, teachers v. students volleyball, an Intermediate assembly and class holiday parties.

About a week ago, representatives from the Royal Ottawa Hospital came to speak to the students about the Early Intervention program, a weekly discussion group for grade 7s that will start in the new year. The group is facilitated by a professional and enables students to talk about issues, social skills strategies, and to develop a supportive network. ABout 5 of our R7A students indicated an interest and a form was sent home. Please take a look and get it signed. If you have any questions about the group, please contact me.

Pizza orders for the new pizza season were announced on the VM Friday update a couple of weeks ago. If you did not get your orders in, students can purchase pizza every Thursday for $2.00.

On Thursday, December 19th, this week, the leadership group will be holding THE GREAT VM CUPCAKE WALK FUNDRAISER in our classroom, then called the Chateau Gateau. All junior and intermediate classes are invited to come and view about 20 tantalizing, sugary platters of cupcakes. All classes are invited and encouraged to donate to the class collection fund, say a toonie per student, The highest bidder wins first choice at selecting their class platter of confections. Any class that raises a minimum of $15.00 will get a class set of cupcakes. Special cupcakes – egg, dairy and gluten-free,  will be available as well. All proceeds go to the WE Foundation, specifically to education initiatives in the global south, countries like Ecuador and India. PLEASE, PLEASE help our R7A students to remember to bring in some change – to bring about change for other children. Here is the link to the WE organization site: https://www.we.org/our-work/we-villages/. Please take some time to read the WE Villages information – it is quite inspiring.

A Black Excellence club just started meeting and all intermediate students are invited.

Lastly, this year, like many years before, we teachers and educational assistants are asking that families choose a donation to Harmony House, a shelter for families, over giving us a material gift. (A note saying hello is always welcome!) Thank you to Callum’s family for the very generous donation.


Please consider sending in a gift card for Harmony House INSTEAD of a staff gift.

The following gift cards are always in need of at Harmony House. They use them to support their women and families throughout their stay.

Gift cards for local grocery stores:  Independent/Loblaws/Metro/Food Basics

Gift cards for pharmacy/drug stores:  Pharma Plus/Rexall/Shoppers Drug Mart

Gift cards for Walmart

Please note – if you choose to give to Harmony House, please send it as a gift to your child’s teacher, clearly labeled for Harmony House.  We will thank your child as if it was a gift intended for us. We will then pass it on to Harmony House to help someone in need.

This week, we will continue to work on our morning star art pieces and on starting to learn about natural resources from Mr. Catahan. On Wednesday, in guided reading, we will be reading an inspiring holiday story and then decorating sugar cookies made by Ms Swail. Half of the cookies will be for us; the other half will go to the Somerset West Community Health Centre drop-in with cards we are making to give people who get little community appreciation a little gift and hello.

I wish you all a Happy Holiday and a fun two weeks with your families! Keep warm!

If you have a chance the Imagine Van Gogh exhibit in Montreal, running now until early February, is quite incredible. I include a few  photos from my visit.


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Ms Swail


December 1

The week of December 2nd – 6th, 2019

Hello R7A Families and Welcome to December –

There was no doubt today that December is here – very cold on my dog walk!

This week, we welcome Mr. Patrick Catahan, our 2nd-year teacher candidate from the University of Ottawa. He will be with us full time until January 24th.

I discovered a new poster on the Golden Rule and thought you might like to see it. We all work hard to impress upon our students and children the crucial importance of being kind – whatever our background. I am also including a link to an article from The Atlantic magazine on kindness and raising children.


Creativity in Creation Storyboards: below are some impressions of some of the scenes from the class’ storyboards. We are mounting and laminating them this week. Assessments went home on Friday. Please sign and return. Thanks.


The Vincent Massey PS pizza lunch program (part 2) is being offered every Thursday during the 2nd nutrition break starting on January 9, 2020. Profits raised by this program all go towards supporting students and programs at the school. This term orders go from: January 9, 2020 to March 26, 2020 (11 weeks)We are offering both Cheese and Pepperoni pizza at the cost of $2.00 per slice.Cost for 1 slice weekly is $22    Cost for 2 slices weekly is $44. There is also an option for gluten free, please only order this if your child has an allergy.

It is preferable if orders are made using the new online ordering system. If you have not yet used it, you will first create an account. You need to create the account online at: https://ocdsb.schoolcashonline.com/Once you have received a confirmation email you will be able to login and “Add student” for your child(ren).If you are unable to use the online system, return any forms and money to the school.

 Refund Policy: No refunds or replacement lunches will be given for missed days due to sickness, vacations, or snow days. Pizza is still provided on snow days. Please complete orders by Wednesday, December 11, 2019.After this date you will no longer be able to order pizza online or by paper order.

Our focus this week will be on completing the Geography Natural Disasters project.

Keep warm!!!!!

Ms Swail

November 24

The week of November 25th – 29th, 2019

Greetings on the beginning of this last week of November –

Only four weeks left until the holidays and we have a lot to do in R7A. Mr. Catahan, teacher candidate, will be joining us full-time next week until close to the end of January. He will be working with the class on media literacy and guided reading. He will also be team teaching with me in Geography as the students work through their natural disaster projects and head into learning about Canada’s natural resources. In Visual Art, this week, we will be starting a brand new artistic process, planning and then creating our own morning star mandalas.

Image result for morning star alex janvier

Please ask your children to show you Google Classroom for the Geography project and Language Arts resources and assignments.

We had a wonderful field trip to the Museum of History on Friday. The students who attended were amazing and seemed to enjoy our tour of the Grand Hall,  learning about the Pacific Northwest Coast peoples, seeing beautiful art and walking through and interacting with the Canadian History Hall. Here are a few shots. Hajara will be creating a slide show based on all of the photos she took. I think many of the students would love to return to the museum – there is so much to see and experience. Thanks again to Taurean’s mom for coming and helping us out. We had many volunteers as the U of O Faculty of Education History class students were with us.

Hope you all had a chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful sun and “warmer” air.

Ms Swail

November 17

The week of November 18th – 22nd, 2019

Good evening R7A families – 

This blog will be brief as we are still carrying on many of the activities scheduled for last week. With the snow day and a short week, everything is (almost) sliding forward into this week.

The number one item is our field trip to the Museum of History on Friday, November 22nd. Please, please sign and return the permission form with the $5 fee by tomorrow. Thank you to Taurean’s mom for volunteering. It will be a full, wonderful day. As the students and I discussed, this is a great opportunity in a beautiful museum. Considerate and mature behaviour (on my part too!) is essential. We are representing ourselves, the R7A class and Vincent Massey. Students should bring a snack and lunch and water. We will be having a scavenger hunt and will be touring with Mr. Catahan’s History class.

It was good to meet the families who came on Thursday evening and Friday morning for interviews. Those of you who wanted a phone interview – I will call you this week.

Temperatures are promised to be a bit more temperate this week but students should all be bringing and wearing hats, gloves and outdoor boots.

Here is a link to the Museum of Science and Technology on St. Laurent Blvd., literally minutes from the school.  There is an exhibit on Women involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) https://ingeniumcanada.org/cstm.  What a great inspiration for our young women!

Have an excellent week,

Ms Swail

November 10

The week of November 11th – 15th, 2019

 Dear R7A Families –

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. The grade 5-8 Remembrance Day ceremony will be held at 11:45 am in the large gym. Parents and families are welcome. Our class is performing a recitation of the poem, “First They Came”. They will do this with meaning, respect and emotion, I know. I am inserting a link to a youtube video in which Leonard Cohen recites John McCrae’s famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”.

Later in the week, on Thursday at 1:15, the Late Harvest committee headed by Tesha, will be hosting an R7A potluck to celebrate autumn, harvest and our Canadian indigenous traditions. I will be sending out an e-mail tomorrow indicating what the committee requires in terms of food. It is an expectation that most of the class bring something for the potluck.

On Thursday and Friday, we are holding parent-teacher interviews in the large gym. I will be there from 4:30 – 7:00 on Thursday afternoon/evening, and from 8:30 – 11:00 on Friday morning. All Intermediate teachers will be in the gym. The interviews are designed to be brief. If you have a more serious issue or concern to talk about, may I suggest you contact the subject teacher(s). I have already met with many of you, and would be happy to see you again, preferably with the R7A student as the interview is about them. Please review the progress report and comment and sign the return sheet with the envelope.

There will be no school on Friday.

Photo retake day is on Wednesday. The student must bring in their original photo envelope. I wonder if Albert Einstein ever did photo retakes?!

Image result for einstein hair

All this week, Ms Shiau and I will be meeting and conferencing with R7A students about their reading and writing strengths and areas for improvement. Please, please, please, ensure your child has the time and develops the habit of reading every day. Reading daily strengthens language skills and fluency. It also expands our general knowledge and helps us become stronger thinkers. This is an incredible time for students in grade 7 – their brains are in a second, accelerated state of growth and need to be fed and encouraged. The Scholastic Book Reading Fair will be held in the library for VM students during interview times and on Thursday during school time. I will make sure the students get to the book fair.

On Friday, November 22nd, our whole class and the grade 7s from R7/8 will be going to the Canadian Museum of History to learn about Canadian indigenous culture and contributions and walk through the incredible History Hall. It will be a day-long field trip. We will be travelling by school bus, and we will be touring with a class of second-year education students from a University of Ottawa History class. Going on the field trip will be dependent on behaviour at school. We need to trust that our students will be on task and will be able to enjoy this opportunity. I would like to thank Mme Deschenes for finding funding for the school bus, and Ms Davies for contributing ISST money toward admission fees. Because of their generousity, the field trip fee will be only $5.00 per child. Volunteers pay no admission. Students will bring their lunches and we will try to get outside to see the Ottawa River and the back of Parliament Hill. Field trip forms will go home tomorrow.

. .


Enjoy your week. I hope to see many of you later this week. Here are some photos from a weekend hike in the Gatineau Hills concluding with a stop at the beautiful Mackenzie King estate.


Ms Swail

November 3

The week of November 4th – 8th, 2019

Dear R7A families – 

Hold on to your hats, it looks like November is here !!!!!!!!! (exclamation points in the wind)


Image result for person in hat struggling in wind

Tomorrow and Tuesday, we have a visiting artist who will be working with a number of classes including R7A. They will be integrating visual art with geography. The students will be working on paper topography sculpture reliefs. I am really looking forward to this activity. Here is a neat image I found when searching for examples of paper topography.

Image result for topography paper reliefs

There will be a Remembrance Day ceremony on Monday, November 11th and you are all invited. Please e-mail me if you are interested and I can confirm a time for the Junior/Intermediate assembly. I have decided our class will present a brief poem called “First They Came”. It is a poem about reluctance to speak up and is highly related to many of the world’s conflicts, past and present. Please take a look.


PLEASE return all of the information-verification forms the children brought home last week.

Progress reports will be sent home on Thursday this week. Please take some quiet time with your R7A student to discuss the progress report, particularly the learning skills section. As you know, it is really important that the student reflect on their term and carefully review and talk about what their teachers are saying and recommending. Interviews will happen next week with more information coming.

As for reflections, here are two of the photos I took this weekend before hauling my kayak out of the water until next year. The lake was strangely still after the high winds and storm, and the reflections were magical.





Ms Swail

October 27

The week of October 28th – November 1st, 2019

Hello R7A Parents at the end of a beautiful fall weekend –

After such a beautiful Saturday, I hope you are dry and cozy on this exceedingly wet day. Sunday?!

The rainy weather kept me out of my kayak, off the hiking trails, AND intent on progress reports. I suppose that is a good thing! Students will be receiving their progress reports on November 7th. Parent-teacher interviews will be on November 14th and 15th.

Again, another busy week at VMPS. Hallowe’en or Black and Orange Day, is the students’ highlight, of course, on Thursday, October 31st. All students are invited to wear black and orange or an appropriate costume for an elementary school. Masks will not be worn during class or recess. We adults do not want to get scared! I have lots of Halloween decorations which the students can use to decorate our classroom. We will be having a Pumpkim Bowl football game, boys v. girls, and an afternoon dance.

Image result for boo!

In Language Arts, students are working on their summarizing skills and in creating an 8-frame storyboard based on a creation story. Writers’ Workshop on Monday will be focusing on punctuation, with very scary sentences. BOO! I will fit in a scary read-aloud and we will be visiting our little kindergarten reading buddies. Friday, November 1st is Day of the Dead, a significant Mexican family celebration. Sssshhhh, (students don’t know) we will be starting to watch the Disney film, “Coco”, and then do some media literacy work, learning about and discussing film techniques. In Geography, we continue to work on landforms and learning how to take jot notes. I showed R7A a brief video on Mount Kilimanjaro, a defunct volcano and the tallest, free-standing mountain in the world. They were quite fascinated and learned a lot about geographic terms and the 4 ecological zones of the mountain. We will watch the next video. I will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro next summer. I am including the link to the first video, if you are interested.

SCENTsitive – a new word. We are asking all Intermediate students to not wear any body sprays, colognes, perfumes, body mists etc.. Some of us at school are highly sensitive to these scents. Last week, after a particularly heavy application of mist on someone’s body, I was left with an immediate and severe headache. Please remind your children – common sense but no extra scents!

Being kind, compassionate and understanding are hard to do, but necessary for us all. We are still working on being kinder to each other in R7A and in showing consistent respect to all teachers at VMPS. Learning is our job at school. I have told the students there will be no more note-passing during classes, no more calling out, no more gum (which often lands on the underside of tables). If they can remember and practise being attentive, respectful students, then I will create a language unit based on notes and gum. Yes, I will! Please remind your children that school is a place of work, with endless opportunities for learning and growing. Passing notes is also risky business with secrets often becoming public. Please also remind your students that social media and messaging are very powerful tools. If they have nothing good to say, don’t say/send it.

Along this theme, Ms Davies, our wonderful student success teacher, is coming in every Monday afternoon to team teach Drama with me. Here is some information about what Ms Davies does for our students and our community.

Student Success

Vincent Massey’s intermediate division has a Student Success Teacher working together with our students, staff and families. 

Goals of Student Success:

  • Support students’ achievement and success
  • Support students’ social growth
  • Remove barriers 
  • Enhance students’ sense of well-being.

What Student Success Might Involve (depending on student needs/goals): 

  • Whole-class or small-group workshops on areas such as organization, time management, collaborating more effectively with other people, career exploration, high school preparation, etc.
  • Managing the transition to high school (including course selection)
  • Collaboration with:
    • Classroom and support teachers 
    • Parents, guardians and families
    • School administrators and support staff
    • Community organizations (e.g. Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, Rideauwood Addiction & Family Services, etc.) 
  • Meeting new people or friends
  • Helping students plan their personalized pathway through school and beyond
  • And more!
  • How Students Get Involved with Student Success:
  • By being in class (all students are part of some student success activities)
  • By asking
  • By being referred by a teacher or other caring adult

The Student Success Teacher: 

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons
  • Tuesday, Thursday mornings

Have a very good week. Here are two photos from my Saturday kayak ride.


Ms Swail