October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

We had a great day today! We really did! Have a look at our photos from the day and you'll see what I mean. 

My favourite part of the day was the number of "Thank-yous" I received BEFORE I even gave out goodies or materials.  
What great kids you have.  

We're going to move our desks into rows tomorrow and we'll likely stay that way for the year. We take a really big step tomorrow in becoming more independent students and thinkers, that's for sure!  

Have fun tonight! 

Our Halloween Album

October 30, 2013

Halloween...can't wait!

We're going to have so much fun tomorrow! The boys and girls dance at the Boogie-A-Thon from 10:55 to 11:30, so come on out with your cameras and your boogie-shoes!  

During the rest of the day, we'll be working on all kinds of fun Halloween activities! We'll play Smartboard games, drink some creepy punch, eat some treats, do a craft and listen one not-so-scary tale of Mrs. M's childhood Halloween shenanigans!  

Hope your day is as fun as our's will be! 

October 28, 2013

Monday Funnies

Now and then, as a Fun Friday activity, I'll do some cartooning lessons with the kids. While looking for inspirational activities tonight, I came upon this gem.  ;) 

What's Math Message?

You know how we do Morning Message right? Well, it was taking a little too long in the morning. It's a really rich and meaningful exercise that combines both Literacy and Math, but by the time we got through it, we were looking at 40 minutes.  So I decided over the weekend to split it up. Starting today, we're going to have two messages: a Morning one that focuses on Literacy and also tells the kids what's on the agenda for the day and then a "Math Message" in the afternoon, to kick off the Math lesson.  

The Math Message will be a bunch of quick (30-45 second) slides/activities on the Smartboard where we review a few key skills, discuss the learning goals and then get rolling on the lesson. It went really well today and I can see it being more effective this way. In the photo below, you can see we had two main learning goals and then the third, the one about clockwise/counter-clockwise, that came from one of the "Math Message" activities.    

New Photos!

Since moving away from doing youtube videos (of the kids), I've gone back to posting our photos on winkflash.com. I just love the idea of being able to bring the classroom to you.

The kids know the password to the albums, I gave it to them today. Have a look at the awesome "Boogie Bones" the boys and girls made on Friday!  

If you've indicated that you would not like to have your child photographed in the September package of permission forms, your child's photo will never appear in any photo albums as per your wishes.

Boogie Bones Album 

October 24, 2013

How to Write a Reading Response Letter

Nothing good on tv tonight? Well, have I got the video for you! Here's how to write a Reading Response Letter in ten easy steps!  

I'm not saying turn your back on the Leafs, but if you're looking for a guaranteed win...this is the vid for you. ;) 

How to Write a Reading Response Letter

A Thursday Update

We had a very productive day today! Now that we've written a Reading Response Letter (RRL) together as a class, it's time for the boys and girls to write their own.  We read the story called The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland. It's a wonderfully written story with many, many opportunities for thick-questions.  

We stopped three times throughout the story to record our questions on our Post-it Notes and tomorrow we'll begin writing our letters.  

In Math, we learned about six key strategies for subtraction. The s'mores method is really all about drawing a picture and crossing out the number being subtracted. I'm all about making Math delicious, so s'mores it was.  

And a big thanks to Mrs. Linse, for the highlight of our day!!! We visited Mrs. Linse's room where she read the boys and girls the inspiration story for tomorrow's art lesson! A great story called, Boogie Bones! Then, because she's an awesome teacher, Mrs. Linse let everyone practice their own boogie-moves with this great video! 

October 22, 2013

Our First Reading Response Letter (A Language Arts update)

We're working very hard on our first Reading Response Letters for One Green Apple by Eve Bunting.  Since this is our first letter, we're writing it together as a class. To add some individuality to the letters, each child is asked to write certain aspects of the letter on their own (e.g. their opinion of the book). 

There are ten steps to writing a Reading Response Letter.  I created a powerpoint to share with the students outlining the ten step.I'll post that in the next day or two. 

We also talked about thick and thin questions today. Part of the Reading Response Letter includes a section where the student writes 3 or 4 questions they have about the text. Students are learning that the questions they ask need to be "thick" questions. Thick questions are those that would really influence how you understood the story. They would also make the story even more enjoyable to you if you knew the answer.  A thin question isn't quite as rich. Knowing the answer doesn't really make or break the text for you. 

I couldn't really think of a text that all blog visitors would have read so to demonstrate the difference between thick and thin questions, I thought of questions you'd ask Wayne Gretzky if you could: 

Thin questions:  
What is your favourite cereal?
What kind of cell phone do you have?

Thick questions:
Who were your hockey influences growing up?
Why the number 99?  
How did you feel when you played your last game for Edmonton?  

Thin questions have a bit of a "who cares" factor to them; the information requested in a thin question doesn't really make much of a difference in your understanding of the book. Thick questions are more along the lines of "once I know this, I'll feel more connected to the text, or in this case, a person.  

October 17, 2013

Answer key for Math Practice Test

Given that this first Math unit is huge and very long, I can appreciate that some parents might be feeling confused about just what is covered on tomorrow's Math test. The practice test posted last weekend is all the preparation students require. If a child can complete all sections successfully, they'll do very well on the real thing.
I can assure you that moving forward, all of our units are neat and tidy and packaged up nice and tight. This unit feels a bit clunky. Most units usually take about two weeks to go through and they are always accompanied by just one set of workbook pages. This unit was broken down into three booklets. The first was a booklet of review pages to get the year rolling. The second and third related directly to the expectations for Unit 1. Because I was still getting to know my students and their Math skills, we completed tasks in a variety of ways. Some were paper pencil, others were hands on activities and some were done together as a class.  This served two purposes: 1) it helped me get to know where my students were at in terms of their skills and 2) it helped me determine how students worked together during less structured times (when they were doing partner math or hands-on activities). 

I've been working hard over the last few years to shift my focus in Math to more hands on problem solving and less "simple computation", so even though there will be a workbook for the next 10 or so units, not all questions will be completed in it.  There will be lots of opportunities for students to demonstrate their skills in different ways (e.g.  hands on activities, interactive Smartboard activities, etc.) 

A parent had requested some clarification on expectations for a few of the answers on the practice test and I thought this was a great idea. I've attached the answer key for this test to assist with studying tonight. I don't think this will be necessary for all tests; we can go unit by unit and see, but I think it's going to be especially helpful for the first one. 

For the sake of time, I did not draw the base ten blocks for the chart in Part 5. I think it's pretty straight forward. I apologize for any typos or errors I've made. This was a great idea and I wanted to get it online as soon as possible. 

October 16, 2013

A Warm Fuzzy

I ran into the Mom of child I taught after school today. Her child is now in Grade Four. With her permission, I share this story. She made a point of telling me how quickly our year together passed by. She said it was fun for her to be a part of the adventure via the blog. 

It's hard to articulate how much I love what I do for a living. I know I'm lucky, not everyone loves their job. I'm halfway through my career and I have no idea where the time went. How can new teachers be 25 when I still feel like that's *my* age? ;) 

For me, it's always Grade Three...even in July and August when I'm stalking the Targets and Walmarts in Erie, PA for cheap markers. For my students and their families, it's only about 190 days.  It really does fly by. I mean, doesn't it seem like yesterday was the first day of school? We're now 30 days in. Thirty days! Thanksgiving has come and gone and in a few months, I'll be blogging about how my class runs itself and my students are ready for Grade Four.  

I want to take this opportunity to invite you along for the ride. Seriously, grab a coffee, hop in and giddy up! 

Please post your comments on the blog. Please visit often. I hope this place makes you smile. I hope you feel like you are part of our room and our day. I hope you feel like you are a member of our class family. I know you can't come to school with us everyday, but I hope this blog makes you feel like you do. I know some of us haven't met yet, but I hope you feel like you know me. I hope you feel good about how your child spends their day. 

I hope everyone makes the most of this year together. I really do. 

It just goes so fast. 



A "round" of applause for my great class!

We learned how to round numbers today and we had a ball doing it!  

I've made a quick lunchtime video to show you how I taught it to the boys and girls. I also prepared a powerpoint presentation for the kids that I was really excited about but as usual, it was our funny skits and demonstrations that stole the show.

Watch the video (it's just me, no kids) and you'll learn about what a disaster the banking world would be if we rounded our deposits.

How to round to the nearest 10  

October 15, 2013

Thanksgiving Memories

I created this printable for the students in my class over the holiday weekend. The boys and girls worked on this page today and it was a really nice way to reflect on our Thanksgiving Weekend.  If you are a teacher visiting this blog or perhaps a parent who would like to have other children complete it, you can download a copy right here

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to reading all the memory pages my students created! 

Reading Response Letters

Earlier in the year I mentioned how we'll spend approximately the first 20-30 days talking about what good readers do. We still have a few good reader habits to discuss, but we've covered the big ones. Even as I type this post, I think to myself, "Are we ever really done talking about what good readers do?" and the answer to that question of course, is no, but for the sake of keeping families and parents informed about what's happening in my classroom, the phrase "moving on" seems to fit the bill. 

I mentioned that these first 20-30 days would incorporate writing about our reading.  We've been doing a lot of little writing tasks but it's now time for us to take the next step. Beginning Wednesday, the boys and girls are going to learn how to write something called a Reading Response Letter. 

We've talked for weeks now about how good readers ask questions about what they are reading. Now we're going to take those questions and use letter-writing as our text format to express our response to a story.  

The story we'll use for our first letter is called, "One Green Apple" by Eve Bunting. It's a really rich text with all kinds of opportunities for connections and questions (Eve Bunting's books are great for this).

In keeping with my policy to use the Gradual Release Method of instruction, we'll write this letter together as a class. Then, I'll invite students to compose their own with just a bit of my support (using this same text...I think-it's possible that we might need a new story).  

Finally, students will read a brand new story and write their very own, no help from the teacher, Reading Response Letter.  It'll take us a while to get there but it's so worth it.  

So here's where we're at:  
Last week, I read just the first page of "One Green Apple" to the kids.  I had them record a question they had on their Post-it Notes.  
That same afternoon, I read them a few more pages and asked the boys and girls to write another question.  On Wednesday, I'll finish the story and ask the students two write two more questions they have. 

From there, we'll go through the letter writing steps together. At this stage in their academic career, I believe strongly in providing students with the steps to success when it comes to all kinds of writing tasks. I'm very thorough in my instruction and provide things like checklists, powerpoints, examples, you name it to put the kids on the right path for success. There's also plenty of room for creativity within those steps.  

It's more of a spaghetti sauce recipe than a pastry recipe...lots of room to add your own flair. 

So to end what might be this blog's longest post, please continue to visit and watch for "Reading Response Letters: Part 2" coming soon!  

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting 
This was the first page. I read only this to the students and asked them to record a question they had. 

Next, I read a few more pages, (only a few!) and asks student to again record a question they had. 

October 11, 2013

Types of Text

I put this bulletin board up on Thursday night after the boys and girls went home.  We're going to spend a few minutes a day talking about types of texts for the next week or so. If possible, parents, please review the photos below with your child so they can refresh their schema before Tuesday. 

October 10, 2013

Math practice anyone?

"I xl" is a great website for students to practice their Math skills. It's a subscription site but you can play for quite some time for free. 
Mrs. Linse and I both like it very much because the concepts covered are in line with the Ontario Grade Three curriculum. It also offers opportunities to solve higher order thinking problems which is something that we're always looking to develop. 

We Are Thankful

The boys and girls finished up their Gratitude Pages this morning. Here's what we're thankful for: 

  • Mom and Dad
  • Mr. Mihalides
  • brothers and sisters 
  • cupcakes
  • chocolate
  • Legos
  • Uncle Carlos
  • God
  • Auntie Carol
  • Grandma and Grandpa
  • great teachers
  • Nonna
  • Uncle Tom
  • Auntie Linda
  • great friends
  • a ton of sports to play
  • doctors and hospitals
  • First Nations people
  • glasses
  • containers
  • I-pads
  • drinks
  • tv
  • Olivia
  • elephants
  • dogs 
  • Piano lessons
  • pumpkin pie
  • my Church
  • Father John
  • birds
  • lights
  • trampolines
  • seasons
  • clothes
  • Florida
  • my brain
  • my life
Isn't that a beautiful list? 
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

October 09, 2013

Our Counting by Threes Song

We had a blast making this little video today! We've been practicing our times tables as part of the Morning Message (more on that in a later post). We've learned that we can use our Counting by Threes song to help us remember our times tables easily. 

I can't remember what exactly prompted all this "Who are you folks?" teasing in the video but it was something to do with me pretending not to understand that I was a teacher and wondering why, each and every day, the same 18 kids showed up to my "office" and hang around 'til 3:20.  

Please have your child practice this song regularly. More songs are coming! 

Counting By Threes Song

Our pal, the comma

We're going to have a mini lesson today (Wednesday) on how we use the comma to separate items in a list.  

The boys and girls will be completing this gratitude page I created for this purpose. 

I'll send it home for keeps as I think it's one of those treasures that children would enjoy looking back on ten and twenty years from now.  

If you're a teacher and you'd like to do this activity with your class, here's a copy of the printable. 

October 08, 2013

A Math Update

We had a great Math lesson but I'll be honest here, I didn't do a whole lotta teachin'!  The boys and girls worked together in partners to solve a number of problems using their base-ten blocks.  One problem to solve was this guy: Make the number 315 using only 36 blocks. If students didn't know the meaning of the phrase "exactly 36" they do now!  

They also had to solve another, more challenging problem and the strategies were really impressive.  
The problem went like this:

Mrs. Linse wants to buy 1000 seeds. 
They come in packages of 50. 
How many packages of seeds will Mrs. Linse need to buy?
Explain your thinking (we call it "EYT" for short) 

I was really pleased with how this went today. Each pair of kids first warmed up their mental math skills on the Ipads and then off we went to solving these problems. It was a very productive and focused afternoon.  

October 07, 2013

Mr. Linny Boyette

A dream came true for me on July 18, 2012.  My husband took us to New York City to celebrate my birthday and it was a wonderful trip.  
I had a lengthy list of things I wanted to do and I was so thrilled to have done them all by the time we came home. I've been a Today Show fan for years and I wanted to be "one of those people" who went to the show and watched it live. I wanted to see Al Roker and Matt Lauer and be a part of the fun.  I did all that and more.  

For years, my husband Paul and I would watch the show and look for Today Show super-fan, Mr. Linny Boyette. He would be there in the audience, each and every day without fail in exactly the same spot.  The cameraman always seemed to make a point of catching Linny and Linny would point at the camera confidently, as if to say, "Patti, you can leave for work now". 

For the last six or so years, once I saw Linny, I'd put my shoes on and head to school. It was weird...just one of those things you start doing and then you don't stop.  So if Linny came on at 7:05 or 7:30, I'd grab my gear, kiss the dogs and Paul, and then make my way to work.   

I got to meet Linny last summer, as part of my list of "must do these things" in NYC. It was such a treat to meet him and tell him how I don't leave for school until I see him on TV. He was so gracious and kind, posing for photo after photo with me and the other fans. And what really touched me was that he genuinely seemed interested in what I was saying. Word is, he has more fans than all of the Today Show hosts put together!   

Linny passed away over the weekend and I wanted to take a moment to celebrate him and share my story with you. Meeting him was a dream of mine, part of a special birthday that I'll never forget.  

All of the stuffies in our classroom are named after special people in my life. Of course, after actually meeting Linny, I named the newest stuffy, a very friendly looking shark, "Linny". He's one of our most popular pets. 

It is the season of gratitude and I couldn't be more grateful for the many blessings in my life; one of them being that memorable trip with my husband Paul. I hope that by reading this, my students know that we all make a difference in even our smallest gestures. I hope my students know that they have the capacity to be like Linny each and every day. I know they say "don't sweat the small stuff" but isn't it funny how sometimes it's the small things that make the most profound difference? Three minutes of his time made a great day even better for me. And the photo? I'll treasure it always. I bet there are countless stories about Linny being shared today. I wonder if he knew how much happiness he brought to so many people.   

What a difference a kind heart and a generous spirit can make. 

Thank you Linny.  

A Social Studies update

Talk about terrific! This morning we had our Social Studies lesson. Today was the first time the boys and girls would complete their Learning Journal on their own.  They receive a 20 or so minute lesson and then from there, they must record three interesting facts they learned, along with one question they still have.  
The goal is for children to write compound sentences. Instead of writing: 

One interesting thing I learned is that the women planted the three sisters.  

We'd like them to write something along the lines of: 

One interesting thing I learned is that the women planted the three sisters, which were corn, beans and squash.

I am thrilled that we are well on our way to achieving this goal! The quality of the work that the boys and girls are producing is outstanding.  

One area that we are continuing to work on is making better use of our No-Excuse word list (on their desktop) and our Word Wall words. As we have more writing experiences, no doubt the boys and girls will get into the habit of checking those two places for frequently misspelled words.  

I did not expect for all students to get rolling so quickly and confidently on this task so I'm extra pleased that everyone is able to make great use of their class time and write some very interesting sentences so early in the year!


October 04, 2013

Another phrase that pays!

We've been talking a lot lately about stating our purpose in our writing and how important it is that we identify this for our reader. To set the boys and girls on the write path for future experiences with expository writing or any form of non-fiction writing, we use the phrase: Today I'm going to tell you all about... (or some variation of this).
As students get older, they'll learn about stating their thesis in the opening paragraph of their writing, but this statement lays the foundation.  


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