November 30, 2012

Christmas Kick-off!

We had so much fun today making this video! It's hard to believe that today was the 60th day of school! 

60 days together!  
60 handshakes in the morning!
60 Morning Messages!
60 happy faces in the agenda!
60 days worth of great memories!  

November 29, 2012

Thursday's Message

We were very busy today! 
The boys and girls attended an exceptional anti-bullying presentation this morning. Our presenter, Jim Jordan had everyone engaged and ready to hear his positive message about a serious topic.  

Jim Jordan

This afternoon, the boys and girls wrote their Unit Two math test and by the looks of it, this is a group who cannot be fooled! They know the clue words to look for in a problem that tell them to add or subtract.  

We're having lots of fun in our Morning Message these days. Did you know that each morning, in our message, the boys and girls: 
  • learn the weather forecast
  • continue our countdown to the 100th day of school
  • solve a sorting rule on a Venn Diagram
  • examine a sentence with all kinds of errors to be corrected
  • enjoy a mini-story to be read aloud by volunteers (the story addresses all kinds of reading strategies and text features we've been learning about) 
  • multiplication and division practice
  • learn how to tell time with an activity called, "What time is it Mr. Wolf?" 
  • solve the "Mystery Word" via a really fun Smartboard feature/game thingy (that's a real word...promise)
  • review the math songs they've been taught 
  • learn how to multiply and divide
  • read the "Letter of the Day" to the Student of the Day, where our learning goals are outlined for the day ("day" three times in once sentence...sigh) 
Morning Message is one of my favourite times of day because it's engaging and holds all kinds of surprises that energize the class and bring us closer together as a learning community.  

November 28, 2012

Weekend With Wendell

We read this fantastic story today!  A Weekend With Wendell is all about thee worst house-guest ever! 
The boys and girls are working on an RRWE (Reading Response With Evidence). We completed our first one yesterday as a class (Fly Away Home)and for this task, the students are writing their responses with a partner. Next time, the boys and girls will write their's all on their own. We call this the "Gradual Release of Responsibility". We take our time getting familiar with the expectations of the activity and then it can be completed more effectively when the time comes to do it on our own. It's a lot like learning how to ride a bike, first you start with a tricycle, then training wheels, then a little help from mom or dad and then you're on your own!  

For this RRWE, the students are asked to identify how Wendell is a difficult house-guest.  There is plenty of evidence in the story and the kids should have no trouble with this task.  

As the students' confidence grows, the tasks will become more challenging and we will move away from literal questions such as this one and to those of a more open ended nature involving higher level interpretations of the text.     

November 27, 2012

Extra Practice Math Problem #1

Little Batty is going on a field trip.  He is going to the doughnut factory to learn how to make doughnuts.  
The factory is 42 kilometres away. 
Batty will take a bus 27 kilometres and then ride a taxi the rest of the way.  
How many more kilometres will he have travel when he gets off the bus and into the taxi?  

Meet the Head Family!

It's literally a fire-side chat with Mrs. M, complete with crackling fireplace and all!  

Please watch the video at the link below to learn how we use the Head Family to help us solve subtraction problems.  

My video is a wee-bit loud...I'm still getting used to the microphone on my computer. Even when you think you're speaking softly, it still sounds like I'm hollering! My apologies for the Lucy-Loudmouth voice.  

The Head Family

November 26, 2012

Reading Response With Evidence

Our focus in our Writing Block over the next few weeks will be on writing what we call, "Reading Response With Evidence" answers.  We also call them RRWEs for short.  
Here is a video that explains the steps involved in writing a level four RRWE.

These types of questions are excellent because they prepare students not only for EQAO but they lay the foundation for effective essay writing in later years.  

How to write a Reading Response With Evidence answer   

November 23, 2012

Weekend "Blog" homework

Here is our weekend problem!  There are two problems posted in this video. The first is the "must-do" and the second is optional, for those kids looking for a real brainteaser. Parent support might be required for that second problem. 

Have fun! 

Cupcake Smash-Up

November 21, 2012

Subtraction Quiz

Subtraction Quiz #1

We had a Math quiz today. We've been working on problem solving using subtraction. We have also talked heavily about how one can use addition to check their subtraction. The boys and girls have learned that when we are asked to "Explain our thinking" or, how do you know you're right?  They can refer back to the "Checking by adding" method.  

Have a look at the attached quiz. Here is what a level four answer looks like: 

Mrs. Linse has 25 more points than Mrs. Mihalides.  I know this because I used addition to help me and I flipped the question around so it was 25+46 and it equaled 71. That's how I know I am right. 

We've talked a lot about not telling a story when explaining one's thinking. For example, "First, I subtracted the ones column, then I borrowed ten from the tens column"...etc.  This does not justify the answer, it simply tells the process. We will continue our discussion about how to explain one's thinking but when the quiz comes home, it would be beneficial for families to review this as well. 

Parents are asked to continue to practice problems such as the one posed in the quiz with their children at home.  

November 19, 2012

Report Cards!

Progress Reports come home on Tuesday. I'm asking that all of my students complete the third page of the report where they need to self-assess. I'm hoping that you'll offer support with this exercise and help your child set their personal and academic goals for the remainder of the year. 

This will be the children's homework on Tuesday night in place of our Practice Page.  


Subtraction Action!


We are working on subtraction of two and three digit numbers in Math this week.  All the boys and girls are asked to practice their skills at home. Moms and Dads, could you provide subtraction questions where regrouping is required?  

Problems such as: 
Mrs. M has 71 stickers and Mr. M has 57 stickers. How many more stickers does Mrs. M have than Mr. M?  

I like word problems because they provide a higher level of practice. 

We've talked a lot about that phrase: "how many more", along with its cousins "how much longer, how much bigger" and "how much further".  They all mean ya'll need to subtract! 

Speaking of stickers, do you remember spending your recesses trading these scratch and sniff stickers? Did you have a fancy-dancy sticker book or did you use a photo-album that your mom bought you at K-Mart? Good times.  

November 15, 2012

Subtraction Strategies

Today we looked at the different ways to calculate subtraction problems.  
The boys and girls learned about: 

  • drawing a picture of, for example, 15-9. You draw 15 circles, cross off 9 and there's your answer
  • using a hundreds chart (just remember to count backwards!) 
  • Use a ruler for smaller calculations 
  • Count up from the smallest number to the larger number (15-9, count up from 9 to 15) 
  • Counting backwards 
  • just plain memorizing 'em!  

The boys and girls then went on to practice a few double digit subtraction problems with regrouping. This is where the Head family joins our Math unit. More on them in another post, but they do indeed help make this skill a little easier to understand for many boys and girls.  

Paint the Town Red Day!

Students are asked to bring a toonie donation and wear their red duds tomorrow in support of the United Way! 

Reason 1,907, 324 why teaching is the best job in the world

I participated in a fantastic professional learning opportunity yesterday here in the school with my equally fantastic colleague, Mrs. Linse.  
I was here in the school, but I was not *here* in the classroom.  
This was waiting for me on my desk.
This is why my job is the best.  

The new carpet's coming!

The new carpet is coming! 
The new carpet is coming! 

Let's just hope the crew from the "How Fabulous Is Your Classroom?"* TV show don't choose tonight to make a random visit.  

*no such TV show (but I'd watch it!) 

**note to self: find producer friend to pitch new TV show to 

November 13, 2012

Busy, busy, busy!

Everyone now and then, we need to take some time to get caught up on a few loose ends and and today was one of those days.  The boys and girls had about 40 or so minutes to finish up their: 

  • Social Studies journal from Monday
  • Reading Response Letter for A Bear in War 
  • a few bits and pieces from their Math workbook 
As usual, everyone worked very hard to get their work done and by the end of the day we have everyone all caught up and ready to start fresh tomorrow. Isn't that a nice feeling? To have all the things on your "to-do" list all finished! 

I'm also pleased to see that fewer and fewer students are having to take their Morning Jumpstarts home at night for completion. My hope is that in the coming weeks all students will have them completed during class time. I provide between 20 and 30 minutes each day and when I create the Jumpstarts, my goal is to give the students a task that practices skills, can be done independently, but does not take longer than 25 or so minutes to complete.  On average, most students complete them in about 20 minutes.  

In Math, we looked at addition strategies today.  Our focus was on using "near doubles" to add (e.g. 4+5).  I took a little poll after the lesson and asked the kids, "How many of you use near doubles to help you add?" and very few hands went up.  It seems that good ol' memory work is what most kids rely on for single digit addition.  The bottom line is whatever strategy helps kids to be successful is the best one and that's where our lesson will begin tomorrow.  

Speaking of tomorrow, we're going to take the next leap in our "writing about reading". We're moving on from Reading Response Letters (we'll come back to those again later).   We're going to talk about "Reading Response Questions with Evidence", or RRWE.  The boys and girls will start learning about the importance of providing evidence from the text to support their ideas.  I'll have more to say about RRWEs tomorrow.  

November 10, 2012

Christmas Craft!

It'll be here before we know it and we need two-litre pop bottles again. Our Christmas craft is always a hit and I'm looking forward to more crafting with my class!   

Once again, we're looking for the "Brisk" ice-tea or President's Choice/Walmart brand of soda-pop bottles. 

Pepsi and Coke bottles are the wrong size and shape.  


Top Secret Homework!

Our Monster Truck School bus is very popular. Sure, you shouldn't eat before you ride the bus and yes, it's a good idea to wear your bicycle helmet and padded snowsuit, and so what if we can never, ever go through the drive thru at Tim Hortons! When you're cool, you're cool and passengers are lining up to board this incredible imaginary school bus.  

In fact, it is so popular, the time has come to create a membership card for passengers. 

I'm asking the boys and girls to print out their Membership Card/Boarding Pass, complete the secret work in the video below and return it to school on Monday.  

The task this weekend is to find out the name of the Monster Truck School Bus. By printing out the pass and then solving the problems in the video, students will be able to ride our very cool bus and they'll also know the very appropriate name for our bus. 

Boys and girls, you might wonder about why there is a number at the end of the name of the bus.  I'll tell you on Monday. 

Monster Truck Boarding Pass (pdf)

Monster Truck School Bus (video)

November 09, 2012

A Big Round of Applause!

It was a great day in our class! 
The boys and girls did a WONDERFUL job reading at our Remembrance Day Liturgy!  I was so proud of them!  

Then, this afternoon, we switched gears and presented "There's Something I Need To Remember", this week's POTW.  We all enjoyed listening to one another's interpretation of this poem. Everyone did a marvelous job! 

I'm wondering if perhaps we should try more of these types of activities. I have quite the theatrical crew this year and after watching 20 different interpretations of this poem, I'm thinking I also have one very creative group!  

Thank you to everyone for working so hard and making today such a wonderful day!  

Like a Little Family

I follow a teacher blogger who recently posted her favourite things about being a teacher. She's from the U.S so I reckon it was her "Favorite" things, but you catch my drift. 

She said she loves those moments during the day where we share in a laugh and it feels like we're a little family with our own jokes and all.  

She took the words right out of my mouth.  We have moments like this all the time and they bring us a little family.  I thing this is why June is so bittersweet because, while I still get to see the kids in the school the following year, it's never quite the same.  What a short time I get to share with my little family of kids.  I'm so glad for hilarious and special moments like today.  

Grab a coffee and settle in for a cute story. 

It started while the kids were eating their lunch. One or two little chickadees were chewing on their sandwiches while working feverishly on some little bits of paper on their desks.  I carried on with my business, leaving them to their project.  

Suddenly one little cutie walks by my desk and without a word, leaves this teeny-tiny bit of paper on my desk, all folded up and looking very important.  

It's a note.
I love it when they do this. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the cute pictures they draw, but there is something about the notes they write that hit me right in my teacher heart.  

The note said, "How do you get your hair to look like that?" So cute! Not sure if this was a compliment or not, but I wrote back, "I wash it, dry it and then it looks like this."  The child wrote back, "Okay. Thanks."  

Then my mailbox started getting more and more full: 

  • How do you get to school?
  • Are you Italian?
  • How come the cartoon characters you draw have no bodies? 
  • Can you write me back?  
  • You are awesome!
  • You are a great teacher and I would know because I've had a lot.  
This lasted for about 10 or so minutes and then the bell rang and it was time to get back to work.  It was so much fun receiving their hilarious notes and writing back.  It's funny because as teachers we try to build this kind of community in our classrooms to make them a warm and safe learning environment.  

Doesn't it say so much about my students that they do it themselves?  


November 08, 2012


I forgot to return the Math quizzes to the boys and girls today, so they'll be unable to share them with you tonight (Thursday)as per their agenda. I'll be sure to send them home tomorrow night.  

Remembrance Day Discussion

As part of our preparations and study of Remembrance Day, we watched this brief video. We talked about remembering those soldiers who continue to fight for peace today and the families they leave behind. 

I think the video speaks for itself. 

A Soldier Comes Home

November 07, 2012

A word about homework

There will always be "those nights" where homework cannot get done. These nights I leave it up to you.  I need Moms and Pops to decide what's best.  The purpose of homework at this level is to help my students establish good work habits for the future. It also helps them to take responsibility for their own learning because the instructions are given in class (so they need to listen carefully) and then students go home and apply the skills (they demonstrate independence and responsibility).  

I'm okay with the occasional note in the agenda letting me know that homework could not be done. Rather than stay up super late or mess with the entire family's evening, I'd rather see the child complete the homework the next night or over the weekend and then everyone is happy.  

If you're finding homework to be an ongoing problem, please give me a call and we can discuss some strategies, but for those "once in a blue moon nights" where it's just not going to happen, just let me know via the agenda. 

Keeping the child in at recess to complete homework is not possible as I may have yard duty or have other top-secret teacher work. ;) 

More agenda notes...

This is one busy week!  
I want to give parents a heads up about what'll be in the agenda tomorrow (Thursday): 

  • read for 30 minutes
  • Poem of the Week presentation Friday
  • Please sign the Math quiz 
  • Remembrance Day Liturgy: Friday at 9:30 
  • Finish Jumpstart
It's been one of those weeks where we've had lots to record in our agenda! 

Oh! There's also no Poem of the Week test this week.   

Here's a copy of the Poem of the Week just in case.  

Rounding Numbers

We put our rounding skills to the test today! The boys and girls were given a quiz and they were asked to solve the following problem:  

Little Batty has 21 cookies.
Turkey Lurkey has only 4 cookies.  
Together, they say they have about 30 cookies. 
Is this correct? 
Explain your thinking.  

Everyone worked very hard to solve this problem! We took the test up immediately so we could discuss strategies and level four answers. Then, I gave a quick tutorial to those children who were not as successful on the quiz, followed by a second quiz.  

We are really great at rounding numbers and I would love for us to continue to practice solving word problems such as the one above. I want the boys and girls to be able to take the rounding skills they've learned and apply them to  problems such as the example above. 

As promised, here's a bonus video-problem for the kids to work on tonight. 

Turkey Lurkey plays with rounding  

November 06, 2012

Oh the questions!!!

You would be so impressed!
You'd be so thrilled! 
You'd wonder, "Are these third-graders?"  

We had a good chunk of time to work on our Reading Response Letters today. We're writing them about the story called, A Bear in War.  I re-read the story to the boys and girls and a light-bulb went off for me.  

"How many of you think you have really good questions for your RRL, but you're worried they're thin questions?"  

All hands go up. 

"Tell you what, write your questions down on your Post-it note and bring them to me. Don't worry if you think they're thin or thick."  

I had goose-bumps. 

The questions the boys and girls were asking were so rich, so sophisticated, so thoughtful. It was one of "those" moments teachers hope for.   

I cannot wait to read the next set of RRLs.


Extra dessert tonight for everyone!    

November 05, 2012

What's a Math Mystery?

Math Mysteries are so much fun and who doesn't love a great brain teaser? 

Here's a video I made explaining how I use Math Mysteries in the classroom and how you can create them at home for your child. 

The program I used to create the video is new to me, so if the video doesn't work, please let me know. 

What's a Math Mystery?

A Bear in War

We began our second independent Reading Response Letter (RRL) late last week. I've read the boys and girls just half of this story and asked them to reflect and record three or four questions they have about the text. 

The key is to ask what we call "thick" questions. These are questions that take a little longer to answer and if we knew the answer to them, we'd feel more connected to the characters and plot.  Thin questions are very literal (e.g. What is the father's name? What colour was the girl's hair?)  Knowing the answer to thin questions doesn't usually make much of a difference in how we interpret the text.  The type of questions readers ask themselves affects the kind of meaning they make.  

I'm really looking forward to reading this set of letters because the students have all received their feedback now from their previous letter (The Lotus Seed).  The expectation is that they are to use my feedback to improve this current letter.  

The kids are bringing home their feedback from The Lotus Seed on Tuesday.  Please review it with your child and sign it.   

The Agenda This Week

There are a lot of important things being recorded in our agenda this week and to avoid any confusion, I thought I'd write a post about some of the key events this week. 

  • The Morning Jumpstart is written in the agenda every night. If the child finishes it during class, they are asked to write, "done" next to it 
  • Picture packages came home on Monday 
  • The candy drive continues at our school
  • Interview forms come home on Tuesday, please complete and return by Friday 
  • The Math test came home for review/signing on Monday
  • The boys and girls have a POTW presentation on Friday 
  • There will be no POTW test this week 
  • My class and Mrs. Linse's class are delivering the Remembrance Day Liturgy on Friday at 9:30 -students will receive their readings on Tuesday-they do not have to memorize them
  • On Tuesday, the boys and girls will bring home their Writer's Notebook, please review and sign their feedback on their Reading Response Letter for The Lotus Seed 

Rounding Numbers

We're in the middle of a mini-math unit on rounding numbers. The boys and girls are having fun aboard my monster truck school bus (a regular bus just wasn't "cool" enough for us).  

We're learning that if the bus stops in front of house number 100 and 200, we have to figure out where to get off if your house is #120, #150, or #190. We're having a lot of fun with this mini-unit and I'm really pleased to see that most students can easily round to the nearest ten and with a little more experience, we'll be able to round to the nearest hundred in no time (we just learned about rounding to the nearest 100 today).

The boys and girls are learning that when rounding to the nearest ten, we look at the ones digit and when rounding to the nearest hundred, we look at the tens digit.  You can see how essential it is that the kids know their place value chart.  

If you're looking to take it up a notch and promote some higher level thinking, I like to ask the kids to, "Name a number that rounds to X"  and it certainly gets the wheels turning! Sure, it's easy to tell you that 13 rounds down to 10, but when you ask a child to tell you some numbers that will round to, for example, 90, that is a much richer, more multi-layered (is that even a word?) exercise.  

Check out our cool monster truck. It can't carry the whole class at once and it doesn't always start up the first time, oh, and the stereo doesn't work, but we can do something most cars can't: we can make our own roads.  


My Email Policy

Home-school communication is very important to me. In fact, it's really the main reason for this blog. Being able to bring parents into the classroom so to speak, is one of the reasons students in my class are so successful and I think it's a great way to build community. 

In addition to this blog, emailing is another great way for us to keep in touch. Of course, there's always phone calls, letters and meetings.  At this time, I'd like to share with you my policy regarding email. 

When it comes to emailing, it's my policy not to discuss any personal matters as they relate to my students and their families via email.  This includes student progress, behaviour or other information that is highly personal.It's in everyone's best interest that our emails concern only minor matters. If you would like to know how your child is progressing, please call me and I would be happy to share this information with you either by phone or in person. 

I am happy to offer an email service to parents but for everyone's protection it's best to have limits and I ask that you respect my policies.  
I am pleased to receive or exchange emails about matters such as the following:   

  • an upcoming absence 
  • homework questions
  • funny photos that can be shared with the class
  • photos or information that I've requested via the blog
  • an offer to help out in the classroom with a trip/craft/special event
  • other questions that relate to classroom activities but are not questions regarding a student's progress/behaviour or personal family matters. 
I hope you understand that I will only respond to emails Monday through Friday. I will not respond to emails on the weekend as this time needs to be devoted to spending time with family and friends and preparing my lessons for my students. 

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.  Our's is a very important relationship because we share an interest the happiness, success, safety and privacy of one very special person. 

November 04, 2012

Who wants to get ahead on their week?

This Friday, the boys and girls will be asked to present the Poem of the Week. It's called There's Something I Need to Remember. We're going to talk all about the presentation on Monday but if your student would like to get a rolling on memorizing the poem, there it is! 

The kids and I will talk tomorrow about what good presenters do (e.g. make eye contact with the audience, speak in a loud, clear, expressive voice, use actions or hand gestures).

We'll do a lot of the memory work in class, but in the meantime, here's a copy of the poem to give kids a head start. 

There's Something I Need to Remember 

November 02, 2012

Our Halloween Party videos!

Our Halloween Party, October 2012

Halloween Dance Video!

Fun Friday was all about homework?

A very funny video about a not so funny topic: good ol' homework. As part of Fun Friday we watched a great video! It was chocked full of all kinds of tips for staying on top of your assignments. Students don't receive a whole lot of homework at this grade level, but it's good to develop an excellent work ethic at a young age.  

Some of the tips and strategies include: 

  • get to your homework before it gets to you
  • have a healthy snack prior to starting your work
  • start with the hardest questions first to get them out of the way and then everything else seems easier
  • it's best to do your work as soon as you get home
  • whining, complaining or procrastinating just prolongs the task and can ruin your night or weekend
  • homework is a part of life and in most cases, students do homework nightly right through graduation of college or university
  • ask your teachers for help if you're not understanding your homework assignments
My hope is that after today's video and discussion, the boys and girls picked up a tip or two that will help develop excellent life-long work habits!  

November 01, 2012

Here it is kids!

I promised the kids a spelling test tonight!
Here's the video! 

The kids need to take out a sheet of paper and write the numbers 1-18 down the page like this: 

And don't worry, there's nothing wrong with your computer, the video really is just a black screen with narration.  

Have fun kids and good luck!  :) 

 Spelling Dictation: "ies" words


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