January 24, 2016

"Mining" for learning!

Right now in Social Studies, the boys and girls are learning all about mining, specifically mining in Ontario.  We've talked a lot about land use lately. We've already talked about forestry and now mining is our focus. Students are using an article that discusses the following: 
  • What is mining?
  • Why are some regions more appropriate for mining than others? 
  • How do we use minerals in our lives?
  • What are the environmental implications of mining?
  • What happens when a mine closes?  
Students are working with partners to answer that last question. We talked about how finding the answer will require a higher level of thinking. The article doesn't come right out and scream it. 

I explained to the boys and girls that their answer will be like the milk after they eat their cereal. A mix of two different things:  information from the article (the cereal) and their own schema (the milk).  It's a funny analogy, but it seemed to help my kids understand that this is an exercise critical thinking. The article points readers in a specific direction, but it's up to the reader to more fully connect the dots. 

Working with a partner helps keeps students engaged and accountable. It's also been a great opportunity for my students to discuss their opinions and work collaboratively to come up with a response to this question. 

January 20, 2016

Those lessons we don't plan...

I'm not entirely sure how it came about, but today we had a good talk about having what I referred to as a "critical eye". This is a bit different than those critical thinking skills you so often hear educators talk about.  
I've thought all afternoon about this blog post, trying to recall just how our discussion came to be, but that's the thing about teaching, sometimes the most incredible stuff just *happens* and there's no neat and tidy explanation for it. 

So we'll have to pretend this discussion came as a result of some profound cinema-worthy event and we all know the exact moment where the teacher's light-bulb went off.   

This morning I explained that having a critical eye means that in order to self-assess and have the confidence in their work that we all want them to, the boys and girls need to be able to look at their own work (or performance, game, whatever) and say, "Yes. This project, answer, quiz, you name it, demonstrates my knowledge and understanding. It's neat, precise, easy to read, makes sense and shows my teacher/coach/parent what I understand about xyz."  

When we teach children to think critically about their own work, habits and choices, we quite literally teach them how to be leaders, how to be successful, how to be problems solvers.

Self-assessment is the key here.  And this is not about nit-picking; but rather, this is looking at my own work and saying, "Is this my very best? Have I demonstrated the required understanding? Have I delivered something I'm proud of? Does this show my new learning?" And I'm sure there's more, but the key is that by teaching my students how to think critically about their own work,  suddenly their learning doubles and who doesn't love a bargain? 

Think about it, if just before you handed in an assignment, someone told you, "Now look at this with the eyes of a stranger," (cue The Payolas here) you'd likely be able to assess that piece very thoroughly and take it to a whole new level.  

We're going to continue this discussion tomorrow and my hope is that my students will be able to tell you all about it in their own words. 

I once found this photo/meme on Pinterest that said, "I do my best proofreading after I hit send" and oh my stars, can I ever relate. Well, my hope is that I can teach my students how to do that BEFORE hitting sender-oo. 

Right now, there's an apple spice cake in the kitchen calling my name. While I eat a giant piece, I shall reflect on my apple-to-spice ratio and consider what I'll do differently the next time I make it! ;)

January 18, 2016

All About Me Portfolio

Today I introduced the boys and girls to a great new resource they'll be able to access for many years to come.  The "My Blueprint" portfolio is a tool designed for students in Grades 2-6 to store their work and explore a variety of goal-setting resources.  

Here's a quick video I made to demonstrate how students can login at home. 

We'll be doing a lot in class with this resource over the coming months, but I know the boys and girls were excited to get in tonight and have a look around.  

Here's a link to the site:

January 14, 2016

Thursday Round-Up!

Ask, and you shall receive! Thank you so much for your tissue and classroom supply donations! I can't tell you how much I appreciate your support in helping me to help make my classroom just like home for my students!
We've had one very busy week! We wrapped up Unit 3 (Geometry) in Math today with our unit test.  We're moving on to Unit 5, which is Data Management. As part of Math message, we've been dipping our toes into the world of data and interpreting information from a graph.  The boys and girls have enjoyed learning about how we vote, how we construct a picto-graph and how to express what we interpret by examining data.  

As part of our most recent poll, we talked about how it's always a good idea to include an option for people who don't like or "fit" any of the options provided (see photo below).  

You're probably thinking, "Mrs. M, that's all fine and dandy, but what happened to Unit 4?" Well, that's the unit all about multiplication and division, and we've been covering the expectations in bits and pieces as part of our Math message. We do this with Unit 11 as well, which is all about probability.  
As part of my small reading groups instruction, I've been sharing a story that I wrote myself called, "Trouble in Aisle 12".  It's all about the nightly battle for turf between grocery store products. The focus with this story is all about making a movie in our minds as we read.  With no illustrations and plenty of wackiness, the story is really only super-funny and entertaining if the reader uses visualization while they read. 

In Language, we've begun our second procedural writing activity which is all about how to get dressed for winter play. Students are expected to implement their feedback from their Mrs. Claus piece this time round.  After this activity, we're going to move on to a really exciting writing task.  The kids will need to bring in a special stuffy and I can't wait to tell them all about it!  

It's hard to believe it's Thursday already! We have a few options to choose from for Fun Friday tomorrow and it's all dependent on where we're at in terms of our procedural writing activity. Either way, brace yourself for some seriously adorable artwork in the near future! 

January 09, 2016

Friday Round-Up

I always like the week back after Christmas. First of all, I'm ready to get back into a routine (how much fudge for breakfast can you really consume?) and second, the kids return to school enthusiastic and ready to learn. Something happens after Christmas break and I don't think it's related entirely to the fact that Santa has come and gone and the hype is over.  

Students just seem more settled overall.  It's like they've had time to let all their learning simmer nicely over the break and when they come back, they've made these incredible connections and their hard drives have consolidated all kinds of skills and files.  It's really something to witness. There's no "let me remind you of the routines and procedures of our classroom" chat on that Monday. They literally return ready to go...more ready to go than I am, and I'm usually pretty pumped.  

So having said that, it was indeed a terrific week! We had lots of great read-alouds, a few new Math lessons (test coming next week by the way-more on that on Monday) and started our Social Studies study (say that three times fast!) on the Canadian Shield.  
Our attribute folders are finished! They came home to stay on Friday.  
Students reviewed what they've learned over the years
about three-dimensional solids this week. 
Fun Friday consisted of this super-fun Super-hero activity I created, followed by a bunch of Math games I "borrowed" from Pinterest and customized to suit my needs.  

This week's POTW was all about some pretty imaginative plans, so to extend that theme, I asked the boys and girls to apply that same creativity to their own super-hero and they had a ball doing it! We're not quite finished yet, and it will make for a great start to the week on Monday, but I'm really pleased with how descriptive and creative their sentences were.  

I know I've said this before and I'm sure you're tired of reading it, but if you're not already doing so, please consider following Me and My Threes on Instagram. Just click on the link up there in the top right of the page. It's really like a mini-blog itself and it's so fun to share snapshots from our day with followers.  If you don't already have an account, create one and set it to private, just so you can follow us. You won't regret it, I promise.  

Here's more of our week in pictures: 

My resolution to keep a tidier desk throughout the day was a fail. I think
I lasted until 9:00 am on Monday.

To get students thinking about our next Math unit (data-management) we've been
looking at picto-graphs in Morning Message.

We've also been focusing on these two writing goals this week.
Correct capital letter use (e.g. we don't use them randomly in the middle of a word/sentence)  and
copying words correctly from questions/texts are
two areas where we need to focus, so we will stay with these goals for a while.  

January 07, 2016

And we're off!

We started Unit 3 in our Math program program before Christmas.  The boys and girls are learning all about geometry. 
Recently, we have begun a focus on a new word: attribute

I created a nifty little activity for the kids to complete that encompasses several lessons from this unit. I'm calling it our "Attribute Folder".

This is a very rich learning activity. In addition to learning about the related math concepts (attributes in general, sorting shapes according to two or three attributes) the boys and girls will also learn other important skills such as:
  • how to use a textbook glossary to assist with definitions
  • the importance of keeping one's learning materials organized 
  • cutting and gluing with care
  • listening to instructions closely
  • asking for clarification when things are not clear
  • the importance of laying things out prior to gluing  
It was lots of fun and we're not done yet! 
When this comes home, the boys and girls will be able to tell you all kinds of new things. They'll be expected to take you on a little "tour" of Grade Three sorting, if you will.  

I love rich activities like this. I certainly wouldn't call this an art-slash-math lesson by any means, but it is still a great learning activity. 

My hope is that by creating their own learning tool, students will develop a fuller understanding of the concepts related to this unit of study. I'm also hoping they will be able to use the skills learned from this task and apply them to some of the other higher-level thinking problems we'll be exploring over throughout the remainder of this unit.  

January 05, 2016

Tuesday's Practice Page

Tonight's Practice Page is taken directly from the "Have a Rockin' New Year" booklet that the boys and girls have been working on.  

This is the page to be completed tonight:  
Students know they must add plusses or comments where necessary and that the "5 centimetre"  rule applies to this assignment, meaning only 5cm of blank space can remain at the end of the last line.  


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