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Principal's Message

October 2019

​Wow! Can you believe it is already October? It has been a busy first six weeks at Cambrian Heights School, and the time has flown by. Hopefully you have had a chance to read through the monthly e-newsletter for September (sent via SchoolMessenger), our website news stories, and your classroom blogs. I am truly inspired by the dedication that our teachers show towards each and every learner in the school! This is a special place!
I have to say that it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know this learning community so far, and I have very much appreciated how so many families have communicated that they value the balance between community events at school, and a strong focus on academics as well. This has led to many rich conversations. In particular, I have had quite a few conversations with families who are asking some very thoughtful questions about teaching and learning in our school. One topic that has come up repeatedly is classroom configuration, as it pertains to team teaching and 'multi-aging'. We had a short conversation at the September School Council meeting about this topic already. Knowing that not everyone is able to attend School Council, I have compiled a short 'Q & A' that reflects a few of the conversations I have had with families, both at School Council and otherwise. Hopefully, you find it informative!

Q - Do you have split classes? How do teachers manage doing two grades at once?
A - Our Regular Program Grade 1-6 classrooms are multi-aged. This is different from the traditional 'split class'. In a split class, usually the entire program of studies for each grade level is presented each year, so there are two grades worth of topics presented in the same classroom. In a multi-aged setting, students are in a combined class of Grades 1/2, Grades 3/4, and Grades 5/6. Ideally, they spend two years with the same teachers before moving to the next grade grouping. In a multi-aged classroom, students learn the entire English Language Arts and Mathematics topics for their grade level. In other curricular areas, topics are grouped in meaningful ways so that the students learn half of the content in the first year of the loop, and half in the second. For example, some Science topics in Grade 5 (Wetlands) can be connected with some topics in Grade 6 (Trees and Forests). Essentially, half of the topics are covered one year, and half the next. 

Q - Why are there 65 students in my child's class? Isn't that a rather large class size?
A - Our teachers work in collaborative teaching teams. Our teacher to student ratio is currently at about 1:20 - 1:25, depending on grade level. At some points, you may see the students working as a large group, in a single space, with all of the grade team teachers supporting them. Most times, our teachers intentionally group students into smaller groups. This is a wonderful way to provide targeted academic support or enrichment for students who require this. 

Q - What are some of the benefits of teaching and learning in this way?
A - There are many positives to multi-aging and team teaching. From a practical standpoint, it allows us to ensure that class sizes are balanced across grades, and mitigates the challenge of one grade level having many more students than another. Having multiple teachers work with various groups of students allows students to connect with more adults, and increases the likellihood of forming a strong relationship with at least one of them. This also has helped our school to build a very positive, collaborative environment among both staff and students. By supporting each other in teaching teams, teachers are able to pool their knowledge, discuss strategies for student success, and share knowledge with one another. There is a great advantage to being able to group students flexibly based on short-term learning needs, and targeted supports throughout the day. Lastly, in cases where teachers spend two years with students, they are able to know the learner's abilities even more deeply, and can refer back to lessons or conversations about topics of study that occurred the previous year. This helps to build enduring understandings about topics of study. 

Q - Isn't it loud and busy with so many students? How are they able to work?
A - Actually, many of our classroom tasks are designed for collaboration and conversation, so often, talking and active learning is very encouraged! We are also keenly aware that different learners require different environments, so our teachers are very intentional about how they ensure classrooms are student-centred learning spaces. Each of our rooms has a variety of working locations, a classroom calming space, and accommodations in place for those who need a quiet space. Our teachers work diligently to ensure each student has the learning environment they need to be successful each day!

Q - If some topics of study are taught every other year, what happens if a student 'misses' a topic?
A - Great question! Regardless of multi-aging, this can easily happen in any school, since not all teachers teach the same topics in the same order. Our teachers are intentional in 'spiraling' through the program of studies. This means that, especially in Mathematics, topics are revisited several times through the year. For students in Grade 5/6, there is a review of all Grade 6 topics to help students feel confident when they write their Provincial Achievement Tests in May and June. Students who may have already engaged with a topic at a previous school are supported with ways to enrich and extend their learning. 

Q - How does my child receive the necessary support in such a large group?
A - Again, the flexibility of multi-aging helps teachers to personalize learning for students, to provide timely feedback for learning, and to provide interventions as needed. Teachers often break the large group into smaller classes for much of the day. They collaborate to design tasks with entry points at a variety of levels, so that all students can be successful. Teachers may intentionally group students to focus on a key learning outcome, or for a variety of other needs. As well, students are provided access to a range of supports such as educational technology, personal learning plans and personalized learning outcomes, in addition to flexible groupings. 

Thank you for reading! As always, feel free to let me know if you have any other questions, or simply pop by the school and say hello!

-Kevin @MrWhitsClass
P.S. I hope to see many of you at our School Council Meeting on Wed Oct 23 6:30-7:30pm! We will be sharing our School Development Plan draft and data from last year. 

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Cambrian Heights School

640 Northmount Dr NW Calgary, AB, T2K 3J5
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School Contacts

Mr Kevin Whitton
Assistant Principal
Mr Adam Eakins
Education Director
Ms Teresa Martin
Althea Adams

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