September 30, 2013

Babysit some base-ten blocks!

Our base-ten blocks are available for nightly sign out to help students develop and improve important place value skills.  
Here's a video with all the details! 

P.S  they don't need to be fed and they always do as they're told! ;) 

Sign out the base-ten blocks! (click here for video)

September 28, 2013

Fall Art

Notice how organized this artiste is in the bottle left corner ;) 

We made some beautiful Fall art using some gorgeous scrapbooking paper I found on sale at Michaels.  Look how beautiful and bright these look! 

Fall Art photos

September 27, 2013

Making Words

On Thursday, we completed an activity called, "Making Words".  We'll continue to do this once a week as part of our Literacy Block. 

Making Words is a really fun and effective exercise that helps students develop and improve both their spelling and word study skills.

Students receive a "mystery word" all jumbled up, and from those letters they must try to make: 2,3,4,5,6,7,and 8 letter words.  It's really a lot of fun and a terrific learning activity.  

You can do your own making words at home and you don't even need the fancy worksheet to go with it.  

September 26, 2013

I like this photo

I took this photo after Curriculum Night last week. I like it for so many reasons, but especially because even though it's passed everyone's bedtime, you can still feel the energy of the kids in the room.  

We had our first Math quiz today!

As part of Unit 1, we've been talking about patterns on the hundreds chart, place value and addition strategies.  We've also been discussing how to write our responses in full sentences.  

The quiz addressed all four of these areas.  

A copy of the quiz can be downloaded here.  

The quiz was scored out of 4 and it will come home on Friday for your signature.  

One Cool Friend

As we carry on through our study of "What good readers do", we talk a lot about how good readers ask good questions.  
On Wednesday, I gave each child a Post-it Note and asked them to join me on the carpet for a story.  

The story was called One Cool Friend. It's a great book and you really need to be on your toes from the start in order to fully appreciate it.  

Just before we got to the end of the book, I stopped reading and asked the boys and girls to consider two questions they had about the story.  

I was THRILLED with the results!

We generated some really rich and thoughtful questions.  

After a few more experiences with Post-it Note questions, we're going to move on to something called a Reading Response letter. Writing questions in this manner is step one toward that goal and the students did a fantastic job!  

You can read a

September 25, 2013

The Listening Station!

I think just about every primary classroom has a Listening Station, but this is the first time I've ever made a video where I give instructions for how to use it to the boys and girls.  

There's a reason for this.  Good readers and viewers have a purpose for reading and watching.  Today I told the boys and girls that I was going to show them an instructional video about how to use the Listening Station and if they had any questions, they were to ask afterwards. It sounds so basic to you and I, but it's very important to articulate this to kids so they develop their critical thinking skills and consider their purpose for an activity. And what a great conversation we had after the video! There were excellent questions about some of the Listening Station procedures. 

There always has to be a purpose for our activities and this is what I want my student to know so that they are active listeners and thinkers. 

Our focus today in our "What do good readers do?" discussion was around asking good questions about what we're reading. In this case, the students were to watch a brief video and ask their follow-up questions. 

It's not about the Listening Station itself, but it was very rewarding to try this little experiment: to tell the kids they're watching a video about a new classroom routine and that the purpose was to watch, learn and think about their follow-up questions. 

Here's that video:   

The Listening Station

The power of the timer!

A timer, whether it's old school like the one in the opening sequence of Days or a digital one broadcast on the Smartboard is a very effective tool in helping keep students on task and focused.  We had a number of workbook pages to blast through this afternoon and I put the timer on up on the SB and it was very quiet and very productive in our little learning factory. Students knew that if the work wasn't completed during the designated time period, they would use their Fun Friday time to do so. We had about 22 minutes to finish up 15 minutes worth of work and I was really pleased with how well everyone did.

Some children accidentally did work they didn't need to do (I know!What kind of teacher says this?) and I told them to bring their booklets home to finish up the assigned work.  I chose a variety of questions from about eight pages, so I can see how this could have happened.  Certainly no Fun Friday time lost there ;)   

A word about the workbook.  I don't mark every single question. While the kids are working in their booklets, I'll zoom around and check in with each child and do a quick review of where they're at and make sure they're on track, but it's not an effective use of my time if I'm marking each and every question. 

I want to devote my time to planning and marking really rich problem solving activities that really allow my students to demonstrate their comprehension and understanding. The booklets will find their way home and in case you're wondering, "Where's all the checkmarks?" I wanted to explain. 

As I've said, there is a place for some of these "computation" type questions, but I want to be selective about how much time is devoted to those; fully appreciating that if a child can't add to begin with, there is no point in trying to have them solve more higher level thinking questions. 

It's a fine balance, that's for sure.   

A Math Update

We have gotten an awful lot covered in the first 17 days of school. Some has been simply the start-up review work that's necessary to get everyone back on track and some has been from Unit One of the Math Makes Sense program. I do this throughout the school year for two reasons:  

  1. So parents and families know where we're at in terms of our unit of study.
  2. So parents can review each item with their child as extra home practice 

Here's what we've covered thus far: 

  • a review of simple addition and subtraction strategies 
  • we've looked at some of the patterns on a hundreds chart -here is a helpful video made last year that demonstrates what we're looking for when we ask children about patterns on a hundreds chart
  • we've talked about how a hundreds chart is very helpful when adding and subtracting 
  • how to "build" numbers using base-ten blocks
  • identifying even and odd numbers (we have a song for this!) 
  • estimating a number's position on a number line (e.g. "This number line runs from 10-20, where would 15 go?")
  • ordinal numbers 
  • we've started learning a song to help us remember how to count by threes which assists with multiplication skills. 

Here is a copy of a hundreds chart to assist with home practice of the above skills. 

September 24, 2013

Unable to attend Curriculum Night?

If you were not able to attend Curriculum Night last week, please visit the post called, "My Teaching Principles" on this blog.   

This was presented as part of a much larger photo slide show that depicted some of the day to day activities and traditions we have in our wonderful classroom.  

Have trouble remembering how to spell "doesn't"?

I have a nifty little rule I created to help kids of all ages remember how to spell the word: doesn't

We've been practicing this as part of our Morning Message since the second or third day of school and since we're about to move on to something else I thought I'd post it here to share with families and visitors in case extra practice is needed.  

How to spell "doesn't"

September 23, 2013

Our First Social Studies lesson!

We had our very first Social Studies lesson today and it was terrific!  

I presented the general learning goals for this unit along with the expectations for the student Learning Journal.  

We also looked at some of the key vocabulary for the first few weeks of our lessons which really helped fire up everyone's enthusiasm for this topic. I shared lots of interesting and quick facts that I hope will spark everyone's interest.     

As for the Learning Journal itself, please visit this post from last year for an explanation of how this tool works and the expectations for students.   

Here's a copy of a page from the Journal that students will complete after most lessons. 

My Teaching Principles

If you were unable to attend Curriculum Night, this is a condensed version of the slideshow that was presented. 

I love being a teacher. The day I was accepted to Teacher's College remains one of the best days of my life. Anyone that knew me back then knew that this was the start of a dream come true.  

From playing school at the age of 4 in the basement, to living the dream now, some *ahem* many years later, my love for my profession is constant. 

I have a set of principles I would like to share with you. These are my "rules" for staying true to that little girl who wanted so badly to be a teacher. 

Thank you for this opportunity to share these with you. 

My Teaching Principles

September 20, 2013

I just couldn't get a break today!

As you know, I hit the jackpot with a great group of kids to spend the next 10 months with, but lemme tell you, my electronics FAILED me today!

A laptop that was freezing (shakes fist at Windows 8) and a DVD player that decided that today was *thee* day to call it quits, it looked like our Fun Friday was in trouble. And this, ironically, after I had joked with parents last night about how hard I would find life without my technology! Oh the Seinfeld episode that was my day!

One thing that didn't let me down was my terrific class. I asked them to read for a few minutes while I sorted things out and contemplated launching my dvd player out the window to the dumpster, and sure enough, within ten minutes, we had a contingency plan in place, but let me tell you...I think from now on, on Fun Fridays, I'm gonna make sure I have me some good ol' fashioned board games just in case!   

Thanks to all the boys and girls for a terrific third week of school.  I'm loving getting to know you all and we are off to a great start.  It's a little crazy, Mom and Dad, just how fast this trip goes, so I hope you're having a ball too!  

If you were unable to attend Curriculum Night last night, I'll post a little something for you over the weekend.  

September 18, 2013

Round 3 of Problem Solving

Today we had our first work solving problems in Math independently. We've done two rounds with partners, so today was an important one.  
I was really pleased with how this went. This problem came from the later lessons in Unit 1. Boys and girls were encouraged to use the base-ten blocks to help them solve the problem. Many students found that when they didn't use the blocks, they were less successful, so back they went to give it another try using the blocks.

I'm going to mark the assignment and send it home to be signed. Please have a look at any notes or comments I might have recorded.  
If no assistance was required, there's typically no notes.  

Here's a copy of the problem.  You are welcome to print it out and have your child try it again at home. A little extra practice never hurts! 

Problem Solving Day 3  

Wednesday Funnies!

Everyone needs a good laugh and let me tell you...this year's crew knows how to crack me up!  

So we're in the Gym for Picture Day.  Each child receives one of these cards with their name on it.  

When I give one little fella his card, what does he say?  
"Woo hoo! I got my credit card!" 

Too funny! 

Then this afternoon, while working on some problem solving in Math, some girls wanted to colour the rock star in the picture. They figured that since the little girl in yesterday's math problem was supposed to be me, that today's rock and roller was also me. Oh to have that cool hair! 
So after they finish colouring, two little girl classmates bring their work on over to me and at the same time say, "We made her look like you."  

So if we haven't met yet, and you don't know how to recognize me at Curriculum Night tomorrow, just look for the gal with the super fabulous running shoes, green skirt and fancy hair (not sure if I'll have my microphone or not ;)    

Curriculum Night! Come on in!

Thursday night is Curriculum Night and I'm going to take a slightly different approach this year.  Typically, parents come in, the teacher gives a brief presentation and then there is an opportunity for questions.  

Since starting my blog almost a year ago, I've really been able to take home-school communication to a whole new level. I feel as though any information I would share with parents at C Night can be found here on the blog. And what's great about the blog is that this is an ongoing conversation that lasts all year long.   

So on Thursday night, I'd love for you to come on up  to the classroom, have a look around and see where we spend our day. It's our home away from home and I think you'll enjoy poking around my classroom. I've very proud of my room and would love for you to come see what I think is a very warm and enriching learning space. 

I will be sharing a slideshow that I've created, but that'll be playing in the background throughout the evening.  If you're unable to make it tomorrow night, I'll be posting a modified version of the slideshow here on the blog over the weekend.   

September 17, 2013

What's all this "stuff" you write on the tests and quizzes Mrs. M?

In the months to come, the boys and girls will be bringing home all kinds of goodies to share with you. To assist parents in understanding how the different questions on tests, quizzes and other assignments are scored, I'll write things in the margins. Because sometimes the score itself doesn't tell you everything,  I like to write these notes to help everyone understand the test results.  It also helps us to track any patterns in a child's work and other test performance observations.   

Here's how my notes work: 

w/a means the child completed the question "with assistance". This type of assistance might mean a prompt to help move thing along or other minor support to help the child to be successful. It means that some level of support was required, but not to the extent to where I sat down with the child and we worked through it together. 

s/b/s  means the child and I completed the question "side-by-side" This means the child required significant support to complete the task. 

What do the minutes at the bottom of a page mean? 

I often like to record the amount of time it took a child to complete a task, especially when extra time is provided.  This helps us to monitor the child's use of class time and can be useful when citing any strategies that assist a child in being successful. 

Other anecdotal information might also be recorded on the test/assignment.  Information that is for you and I is typically in cursive writing. Note to the child are in printing.  

Because of all my notes and what-nots, the test may look a bit messy by the time it comes home, but it's very helpful for me in terms of getting to know my students as learners and identifying their strengths and needs.    

What do good readers do?

Have we covered a lot in just 11 days!  
You'll recall that we're working our way through the "First 20 Days of Reading" from the Fountas and Pinnell book called, Guiding Readers and Writers.  

We are moving through things very nicely. I'm really pleased that we're pretty much on track in terms of the 20 day plan. We're approaching the stage where things will slow down a bit and that's when we talk about how good readers write about their reading. We'll likely spend a week or two on that one idea. 

Here's what we've covered so far: 
  • good readers take good care of books
  • good readers return books to the correct spot in our class library
  • readers choose books for a variety of reasons
  • good readers can read a variety of books at one time (e.g. 2 fiction, 1 non-fiction, a comic book and a magazine) 
  • good readers make book choices according to their reading levels (we always aim for "just right" books) 
  • good readers know that reading is thinking
  • good readers ask questions about what they are reading (part of that idea that reading is thinking) 
  • good readers know how to "buzz" with their neighbor without disturbing others 
  • sometimes good readers need to abandon books for a variety of reasons (too easy, too hard,boring, too many characters, etc.) 
  • good readers make a movie in their minds while  they are reading or being read to 
  • good readers can use the pictures in a story to help them to know how to read the text 

Tomorrow is Picture Day!

Calvin and The Picture

September 16, 2013

Problem Solving Practice

Updated: Sept.17/13 The link now works. My apologies to those who tried to download the pdf unsuccessfully. 

Everyone did a terrific job on their first partner Math activity today! 

We solved the attached problem by using our five step problem solving model. You'll recall this was originally called a "Four Step" model, but we soon realized we needed that fifth step, where you write your answer in a full sentence.  

One area where the boys and girls require a bit of support is when it comes to writing their sentences. There seems to be some confusion around what to write. Some children are under the impression that we write a "number sentence" (e.g.  four plus five equals nine) and that's not what we're looking for when we ask for a "full sentence" response.  Instead students should be writing something along the lines of "Susie has nine cookies"; a sentence that includes part of the question, just like we do on our POTW tests.  We'll continue to work on this, but it's important to share with you so it can be corrected during homework time.

As part of Step 1, "Think", students are asked to highlight important information in the problem. I was very pleased to see that students could find the information in the problem that was relevant.   

Here's the problem we worked on today. 
We'll try one more tomorrow and then we'll begin Unit 1 of Math on Wednesday.  

September 14, 2013

What's Morning Message?

We start each day with Morning Message and I have created a video of just what this is all about so parents and families get a glimpse of how we begin each school day! 

This is Morning Message for September. As the school year goes on, I change up the mini-lessons presented. What doesn't change is the Student of the Day's role and the letter at the beginning; Morning Message always, always begins with a letter. This'll all make more sense when you watch. 

No kids in this vid...just me and my laptop screen. :) 

Morning Message

September 13, 2013

What are doubles facts?

As one of the short term goals poster earlier in the week, I'm asking that by Monday, each child has their doubles facts memorized up to 9+9.

Each child should be able to answer the following addition questions fairly quickly: 


If your son or daughter already has them memorized, please begin working on what we call "near doubles" such as 3+4 and 5+6.  

September 12, 2013

Teaching Math through problem solving

We've spent spent the first week of school doing the "back to basics" kind of work. This means we've been doing lots of addition and subtraction practice, place value review, and some discussion about even and odd numbers. We even have a song that we use to quickly identify an even/odd number! 

Here's a tune I wrote to help kids remember the difference.  This is last year's crew performing the song. 

Our Even and Odd Song

So now it's time to move on to the good stuff.  Starting tomorrow, we'll begin the shift to what will be our typical Math lesson:  

  • open with a Math game or story
  • I'll teach a concept or present a problem
  • students will use their slates, workbooks or manipulatives (sometimes a combination of all three) to solve problems 

When I think about it, this is really not all that different than what we're doing now. The biggest difference is that students are doing good ol' fashioned worksheets now so that I'm able to assess where we're at and establish expectations for independent work times. Some simple review worksheets this time of year are also really useful in helping children feel confident in their skills at the beginning of a new grade. Pencil and paper activities definitely have a place in the classroom at the start of the year.  

Now that everyone has had a chance to refresh their skills and feel good about themselves as math students, we're going to move on to a problem-solving based approach to Math.  This means I'll be teaching concepts through problem solving. I won't do this exclusively; I still need to teach students how to multiply and divide, calculate perimeter and round numbers, but once the boys and girls learn how to perform calculations, I want them to take those skills and apply them to problem solving situations. There is all kinds of evidence out there to support this approach to Math instruction. Like many of my colleagues, I find I get more bang for my buck when I teach through problem solving.  

Teaching a concept through a rich problem provides an opportunity to consolidate skills from previous units and as a result achieve a greater understanding of the practical applications for math.  If I just tell you how to solve a problem, you might only use my method for the remainder of the year.  If I give you the problem, provide some level (not too much though) of support and encourage you to find your own solution, just imagine the learning that would take place! It's pretty exciting!

So this means that while we'll have a workbook for each Math unit for practice, most of the work will be completed doing hands on activities and investigations together on the Smartboard.  It's a lot of fun and really maximizes our time together. There will always be a place for traditional paper/pencil activities, it just won't be our focus.   

Starting Thursday, I'll introduce the problem solving steps to the boys and girls. These four steps will help guide them as they tackle a variety of different problems over the course of the year.  By Monday, we'll begin our first official unit and then after a bit of instruction, start working on solving related problems that week.  



September 10, 2013

Some short term goals

From time-to-time, I like to post short-term goals that I would like the boys and girls to work on.  

By Monday, I'm asking that all students: 

  • are able to tie their shoes
  • know their doubles addition facts up to 9+9 (2+2, 3+3, etc.) 
  • spell all the words from their "No-Excuse" list by heart -a copy of the list can be found at the top of the blog 

Instructions vs Suggestions

During these first few weeks of school, I cover a few new routines each day to help the boys and girls have a smooth and not-so-overwhelming transition into Grade Three. Today, we didn't focus so much on new routines, but on the ways we work together to create the best possible learning environment. We all agreed that we want a happy, peaceful classroom where everyone can be successful. This means everyone needs to follow expectations and instructions. As grown-ups, we know what happens on the highway when people don't follow the expectations. People who follow too close or cut us off are frustrating and make it hard for the rest of us to be successful (or get where we need to go!). As drivers, we find the whole driving process frustrating and difficult and it certainly takes away from everyone's overall enjoyment. 

Today we focused on something simple: what is the difference between an instruction and a suggestion? Through a number of examples over the course of the day, boys and girls were able to decipher between the two and they understand that instructions are a "need to do", while suggestions are optional.  

Both require full listening and attention but following instructions is what will make this classroom most successful.  Everyone wins when instructions are followed. The boys and girls also learned that since this isn't a very loud classroom, there will be very few instances where instructions will need to be repeated. We discussed how it might signal a problem if I have to repeat instructions several times(e.g."Please do not talk during the test").

This is totally different than not understanding instructions as they relate to a specific concept or lesson. I'm talking about following the basic ones such as, "Please stop talking" or "Please put your books away and walk to the carpet". You might say we're talking about instructions as they relate to self/class management. Instructions related to lessons (e.g. "Please solve this math problem") are very different and that's where students will receive all the support they need, as many times as they need it. In fact, I'm able to provide the support required because first those basic instructions are followed. 

We also talked about showing leadership and encouraging others to follow instructions. 

On a related note...this afternoon we had indoor recess due to the heat and the suggestion was given to the boys and girls to use recess time to finish up any incomplete math work thus far. It's so rewarding to see that the class made really smart use of my suggestion!  

September 05, 2013

Tomorrow is our first POTW test!

Please see this blog post regarding how to prepare your child for the weekly POTW tests.  

Preparing for the POTW test

Sometimes I get a good feelin' :)

"I had a wonderful day and I hope you have a great evening Mrs. M" 

That's the comment I received from one of my students as we were saying our goodbyes today and did it ever make me smile. What a terrific way to end the third day of school. 

It's funny. Tomorrow is our first Fun Friday and our theme for the event is "Good Manners".  I have a bunch of funny videos and games to play with the kids that focus on respect, kindness and courtesy. We don't really need to discuss manners though. As I mentioned last night, this is a very polite group of children (as evidenced by that departing comment this afternoon!).  I think we'll still have a great time tomorrow even though we all have outstanding manners! Can I also just mention that the boys and girls are exceptionally thoughtful? There's a whole lotta helping each other out with the chair tucking and the pencil dropping! 

Our first Fun Friday together is always a great opportunity to set the stage for what's to come in the year ahead and judging by the first three days, I think the next 39 weeks are going to be terrific! 

September 04, 2013

The second day of school!

What a terrific day it was! 
Just about everyone has their indoor shoes and thank you so much for your support in this. A clean learning environment sends an important message to the boys and girls about work ethic and expectations. When we take pride in the way our classroom or workspace looks, we take pride in the work we do in that space.  So thank you again. 

We had our first Math lesson today. The boys and girls learned all about how to use a hundreds chart to help them with addition and subtraction.  I've posted a printable copy of the chart for use at home here.

We're also talking about what good readers do. Our focus this week is on the basics: 

  • how to take care of books in our class library 
  • making good book choices 
  • making a movie in your mind while you're reading or being read to 
Some of the routines we covered today were:

  • what to do when you need a pencil or your pencil has broken 
  • we wash our desks after lunch each day
  • how to copy our agendas/hand them in
  • where we put "mail" for our teacher
  • how to properly shake hands with someone
  • what's "Evening Meeting"?  
I know we're just two days into our journey together, but one thing that has really left an impression on me is how polite the boys and girls are. If you were a fly on the wall in our class, all day long you would hear, "Thank you Mrs. M" and "You're welcome Mrs. M" over and over. I'm really looking forward to our year ahead.  When you are surrounded by so much courtesy and respect, everyone wins and great things happen.  

September 03, 2013

The First Day of School!

We had a spectacular day today! It was just awesome! I don't know where the time went but I hope everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did. I have a wonderful group of boys and girls who are very eager to get rollin' and show what they know.  

I want to share with you some of the routines and expectations we covered today and ask that you review them with your child as well so that the transition into the new school year is as smooth as can be. 

Here's what we covered: 

  • we shake hands before we come into the room in the morning
  • we bring our lunches into the classroom in the morning and we park them in the "parking lot" 
  • we copy our agendas first thing in the morning and we copy exactly what Mrs. M writes on the board (we'll actually do this tomorrow-today's agenda is a note from me) 
  • we earn table points by getting our agenda signed each night and by doing other great things in our classroom 
  • Thursdays are double points day! 
  • we tuck in our chairs for safety whenever we get up from our desks
  • we're welcome to bring in refillable water bottles to leave at school
  • we need indoor shoes
  • we use each other's names when speaking 
  • we take care of books and store then in our book baskets that are shared by the other table group members
  • we don't doodle on our learning materials, including the agenda
  • when Mrs. M writes us a note in our agendas, we always write back (that's a note that I write to the child) 
  • we wash our hands after each recess
  • we respect the "Teacher Zone" 
  • the Student of the Day is a very busy person! Everyone gets to be Student of the Day, we work alphabetically by first name through the class.  
As  you can see, we got a lot covered today. I'm sure the kids are pooped and will sleep very well tonight. 
Parents, please have a look through the pages at the top of the blog for important information concerning my class and what you can expect for the year ahead.


September 01, 2013

Well now, this is pretty funny

Last year, somewhere between September and December, I delivered my Math lesson on how to round numbers.  Not sure why or how, but at some point prior to the lesson, I came up with this idea to take things up a notch. To demonstrate how to round a number, we usually use a bus stop analogy. We talk about how if a child lives at house #21 and the bus stops at house #20 and house #30, which stop does it make more sense to get off at? It's a great lesson that really makes the concept crystal clear for kids. To make it more fun, I use the kids in a little demonstration and we all pretend we're on the school bus together trying to decide which stop makes the most sense to get off at.  

So last year, I made the bus a monster truck school bus and we had so much fun with this. It was probably one of the most hilarious and memorable lessons of the year. I mean seriously, can you imagine waiting at the bus stop for your ride and a monster truck shows up, ladder drops down for you to climb in and off it rumbles to school? 

To my surprise, I then found this great clipart online and made each child a new name plate for their desks. It became our little inside joke.  After all, it's not everyday you walk into a classroom and see that each child has, of all things, a monster truck, name plate. Most teachers, myself included, tend to go with something with a higher "cute factor". 

I often talk about how we're like a little family in Room 208 and our monster truck math lesson was one of those family moments.  

So fast forward to this morning when, during my Sunday morning pinterest/coffee time, I come upon this little gem.  

I hope that all my little family members from last year get as much a kick out of this as I did!  

See you all soon! 
Love, Mrs. M 


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