January 30, 2013

What works one year, doesn't always work the next

So we're working away on our paragraphs this afternoon in Writer's Workshop. I look around the room and I'm not seeing enthusiasm. I'm not seeing spark. I'm not used to this level of ho-hum from this crew.  
They're not into it.  
The writing topics that were a hit last year are not working this year.  
You'll recall from yesterday's post that we're focusing on thinking about the questions our reader might have about a topic of choice.  Many kids were successful today in generating questions the reader might have about their topic, but I could tell they weren't excited about it. They need to be excited about it.  

Parents, would you please let your student know that tomorrow, I'll share new topics to choose from.  Those kids who were happy with what they created yesterday and today are welcome to keep their work, but if your student is looking to change, they'll have the opportunity to do so.  

If a writer is not enthusiastic or passionate about their topic, it's not fun, it doesn't produce great quality work and it's rarely creative. 

So hopefully tomorrow everyone will feel more inspired!  

January 29, 2013

Writer's Workshop Update

Today was a challenging Workshop!  

The boys and girls learned that a good writer thinks about the questions a reader might have about a topic and tries to answer them in their writing piece. 

As the kids will tell you, this is not easy!

For example, if I were to write about my Barbie collection, I think you might have these questions for me prior to reading:  
And she's still in the box! 

  • How many Barbies are in the collection? 
  • How old is the oldest one in the collection? 
  • Are any of them very valuable? 
  • Why collect Barbies? 
  • Where do I keep them? 
  • Which one is my favourite Barbie?  
After considering the questions a reader might have about my collection, I now move on to writing the actual paragraph where I make sure I address each of them.  

Today, the students were given four topics to choose from. They must first ask five questions a reader might ask about their topic of choice.  This is a whole new way to think about writing and it helps the child to focus on their reader, which is what good writers do.  

Everyone was all ready to jump in with both feet and simply start writing their paragraphs but when you have to pull back and think not as a writer but as a reader, it takes the task up a level. 

At first, I suspect it's not very fun to write this way, but I think once the kids see the high quality of writing they produce, they'll see their hard work pay off! 

Spelling Inventory

I'm not the biggest fan of spelling tests,  but at the same time, as we all know, there are some spelling rules in the English language we simply need to memorize.  It helps us communicate more effectively and it assists us with spelling unfamiliar words. For example, since I know how to spell "cries" I can use that to help me remember the rule about changing supply to supplies. 

On Monday, we're going to have a good ol' fashioned spelling test on these words. We've had this test before, at the start of the year and I'd like to see how the students do now that we are at the midway point of the year. We've done a lot of word study via our Morning Message and Poems of the Week and I want to see where we're at. 

Our goal is for all students to achieve at least 22/26 on the Spelling Inventory.  
By memorizing the spelling patterns for all of the words on the list, students of all learning abilities can be more successful writers and communicators.    

January 26, 2013

Coolest. Class. Ever.

Sit on down.
Turn up the sound. 
Be prepared to be entertained. 
This might just be the greatest video we've ever made.  

Your toes will tap. 
Your head will bob. 
Your smile will last long after this video is done.  


Please be sure to give us the "thumbs up" after you watch it. We want 100 thumbs up by the 100th day of school on Monday February 4. 

Are they the coolest class you've ever seen or what?  

Let The Good Times Roll!

January 24, 2013

Lost and Found Math

Here we are working very hard on a math activity this afternoon called, "Lost and Found" math.

It's both unscripted and unedited, but it's fun to see the kids in action.  

Lost and Found Math

I wear my sunglasses at school.

I couldn't resist. 

Anyways...tomorrow, as part of our Fun Friday/100th Day of School celebration, I'm asking the kids to bring a pair of sunglasses to school. A jean jacket or similar would also be great. Anything that has a collar you can pop up works. 

We're going to make quite possibly the greatest video of all time.  

We're hoping to get 100 "thumbs up" when we post it on youtube.  This will also mean we'll need at least 100 people to view it.  

Can you guess which song we're going with?  No, it's not my beloved Corey's tune (although the 13 year old in me would so love to go with that), but it's a good one.  

I'll give you a hint...the good times are gonna roll. I think I just gave it away didn't I?  It's going to be so awesome! Can't wait to share! 

No sunglasses? 
No problem, I'll bring extra.  

January 23, 2013


Any kids online tonight? 
Can you figure out what this poor fella has done wrong? We're going to talk about this chart tomorrow in class. I'll give you a hint: it's the most common mistake made when interpreting pictograph data. 

What do good writers do?

During our Writer's Workshop we talk about adding interesting details, sparkle, voice and making your writing memorable. These charts hang in our room to remind the boys and girls of the three key ingredients to making sure that their writing includes details and ways they can self-evaluate to make their writing a huge hit with their reader!  

Math Update

We had a short quiz today around pictographs and interpreting the data. I'm pleased to share that just about everyone scored perfect!  The most common mistake was mis-counting the data or not paying attention to the key (so in this case, counting one cupcake as one cupcake rather than 4) 
We also completed a partner activity where students had to create a bar graph using the data from a poll I took. The data collected was all about the unique pets of students at our school.  Students had to use my data to generate their own bar graph that followed all the expectations they've been taught:  

  • three titles
  • all words begin with a capital 
  • scale is clearly indicated 
  • data is represented correctly based on the survey results
  • the whole thing looks smart and easy to read
I added one twist to the task: students were not allowed to use a scale of "one box = one pet". Most kids went with a scale of two. So when it came time to chart 5 pets on the graph, they had to problem solve. I'm pleased that all students were able to solve this problem on their own.  Just one thing we needed to work on and that's making sure we colour the bars neatly.  If we don't stay in the lines, especially when going vertically, it can lead to a misrepresentation of the data.  

Social Studies Update

We took a trip to a pioneer home today! The boys and girls learned all kinds of interesting facts. Some are more diner table appropriate than others.

Some of the more interesting facts covered were: 

  • churning butter was a great punishment for naughty kids
  • a yolk was used to fetch water
  • most pioneer families had many, many children (they weren't all like the Duggars, but they came close). 
  • most homes had a sick room near the front of the house where the doctor could visit the ill family member without spreading any germs he was carrying from other patients around the home
  • teachers...those poor teachers: no jewelry, no nail polish, no lipstick, no fun.  Oh, and they often lived with their students for months at a time! Can you imagine? 
  • chamber pots were a pioneer's best friend in the middle of the night
  • outhouses are...well, let's just say we talked about the lack of indoor plumbing 
  • your sheep needed to be protected from wolves
  • flax was used to make linen
  • wool was used to make sweaters, rugs, blankets, etc.  
  • since there were no thermostats on the fire, a pioneer woman shoved her hand in and could gauge whether or not the temperature was right for baking 
  • salt was a great way to preserve meat (I can feel my rings getting tight just thinking about this one)
  • while the pioneers had things like checkers, marbles and dolls to play with, they also had a lot of toys that were really just "watching toys". They were fun for only a few minutes.  
So there you have it! Quite a number of interesting facts to fill that Social Studies journal, wouldn't you say?  

Our next lesson is all about how Maple Syrup was made!
Kids can have a hoot watching this video!  
Be sure to watch part two as well. It usually comes up next to this link. 

January 22, 2013

A quick message

Our day ended differently than usual. I attended an in-school workshop and left one little nugget out of my day plans for my Substitute Teacher: "remind the kids to pack their Practice Page book." 

If your child forgot to bring their book home tonight, not to worry, they can bring it tomorrow and complete it then. 

Now as parents, you could really have some fun with this tonight.  Surely there are chores around the house that could be done with those extra 20 minutes that the kids will now have.  ;) 

On a different note, my Supply teacher called my class her "dream class" in the little note she left me tonight.  Isn't that a great way to end my day?  But still, 20 minutes is 20 minutes, so get out there kids and fold that laundry, vacuum that rug, make that lunch! Move, move, move!  

But seriously...thanks for being my dream class too kids. I'm one very lucky teacher. 

January 21, 2013

A Math Update

We are moving nicely through our Data Management Unit. Our focus over the last few days has been on pictographs. 
Students have learned that: 

  • a pictograph displays information using symbols instead of numbers
  • each symbol represents a specific number or amount
  • when creating a pictograph, we must also creat a key or legend 
  • when only half the symbol is displayed, it means just half the amount (as per the key) is represented. So if one happy face represents 4 people, then half a happy face represents 2 people
  • when creating your pictograph, it's best to stick with one symbol representing an even number  
  • there will be times when we are asked to interpret pictographs where one symbol represents an odd number, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it 
  • your ruler is a very important tool when creating pictographs (or an graph for that matter) 
  • the biggest mistake students make when interpreting data from pictographs is to count each item displayed as "one" and ignore the key 
  • we use surveys and polls to ask questions and then create different kinds of graphs such as pictographs, to display this information 

January 19, 2013

Hmm...what happened to my background?

Since I just can't leave well enough alone, I thought it would be fun to try playing around with some different backgrounds on my blog.  It's worth mentioning that as a child, I used to ask my Mom to help me rearrange my bedroom furniture once a month. 



While trying on new backgrounds, I went ahead and somehow managed to delete my gray chevron pattern. So until I can figure out how to get it back, I'm going to try black out for a while.  I kind of like it. It makes the blog area itself stand out more and I hope that makes it easier for visitors to read. 

January 18, 2013

Polar Bear Art

Have a look at these wonderful artistes!  Have you ever seen a more talented group?  

Polar Bear Art 2013

January 16, 2013

Let's graph in!

Just for fun...here we are graphing in on Tuesday. 

Graphing In 

January 15, 2013

Writer's Workshop

We've spent most of our writing time writing about our reading, responding to questions about what we've read and learning how to write an effective letter.  
We're moving on now to writing of a more creative nature.  For the next few weeks, we're going to spend a lot of time in the "Writer's Workshop".  

Like many of my colleagues, I use the resource called, The Write Traits.  The photo below is not my own, but very effectively explains the six traits lickety-split. 

Six Traits

Our first lesson focused on ideas. The big ideas were: 

  • all writing needs to have a main idea
  • using a web helps the writer stay focused on their main idea 
  • after making a brainstorming web, the writer should choose 2-4 ideas from that web to use in their writing piece 
  • if the writer is having a hard time coming up with ideas for their web, the topic they've chosen may be the wrong one. In other words, as much as you love the colour blue, it can be hard to write an interesting paragraph about why you love it. 
Our first workshop ended with students generating a web and then writing a paragraph based on their favorite pet, best friend or favourite food. 

Not my photo, but a good example how how we use webs to generate ideas 

January 13, 2013

A Change

I would like to share with you a change to one of the ways I communicate with parents and families. In order to make the best use of my time both in the classroom with my students and with my family in the evenings and on weekends, I will no longer be communicating via email with parents. 

This is a change that I believe is in everyone's best interest. Through the blog, student agenda, phone calls, meetings and letters, I will continue to maintain the high level of communication you have come to expect from me.

Although this changes the way we will communicate, and at times, makes it less convenient, it does not change my commitment to my students and their success. My goal, as always, is to be the very best teacher I can be.    

Polar Bear Art

We had Art on Friday and the boys and girls learned how to draw this polar bear.  We're still working on him and hope to have them finished this week so we can take pictures and create another fun video.

Some of the kids brought their's home this weekend to colour. They are asked to bring them to school on Monday to share with the class.  

January 10, 2013

Some short term goals

In order to keep their skills in tip-top shape there are some short-term goals I would like the kids to work on nightly (or as often as possible) over the next 3-4 weeks.  

Here they are: 

  • memorize times table facts (we've learned the cookies and plates method to help solve the problems, but memorizing the facts is an essential life-skill) 
  • practicing counting random handfuls of coins (an adult needs to confirm accuracy) This skill is beneficial on so many levels
  • read non-fiction texts as part of nightly reading and identify/share interesting facts with family members
  • all students need to know how to tell time (we've been working on this daily for about a month now as part of our mini-math lessons) 
  • speak and respond to questions in full sentences that use part of the question in the response 
  • also...just double checking here, but all students need to be able to tie their own shoes (I think we've got this one down pat, but thought I'd confirm) 

January 09, 2013

Quiz Answers

To help the boys and girls prepare for tomorrow's Geometry test, I've given them a practice quiz to complete tonight. This quiz focuses on identifying angles and parallel lines.  

Students were asked to complete the quiz on their own tonight and then, with your assistance, check their work here.

Students do not need to return the quiz to school as it's for study purposes only.    

The answers are as follows: 

1.   D
2.   E
3.   A
4.   B
5.   B,C
6.   E,C
7.   A,E
8.   C,D 

January 08, 2013

Everyone loves Tumblebooks!

Tumblebooks is a great website where kids can choose stories to either read on their own or have read to them. 

New stories are added all the time and it's a great way for chidren to read all kinds of popular and new books without leaving their home! There are stories for reading levels from K-3.  

Username is:  HCDSB
Password is: books 

Have fun! 

Tumblebooks (click here)

January 06, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!  
Did you have a great time? 
Did you eat a closet full of food? 
Are you like me and worried your pants won't fit tomorrow?  

That was my holiday. And then I ate some more because we were in the States and there's all that great chocolate that we don't get here! 

We spent our Christmas vacation at our new condo in Fort Myers, Florida. My very patient husband started 2012 looking for properties and here we are, a year later, with our dream come true and rooms full of wicker and rattan and I love it! 

We spent Christmas day by the Gulf. What we hoped would be a postcard afternoon picnic on the beach turned out to be a less glamorous event out the back of my husband's truck and it was awesome. Apparently we weren't the only folks who thought it was a perfect day for the beach because it was very busy!    

And now we're back and ready to go! 
Happy New Year!

Can't wait to see my kids tomorrow! 


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