Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Blog!

For those still following my Grade 4 Blog (where you are right now), I would suggest that you also add my Grade 5 Blog. The address is, and it will provide more of the same as I embark on a new year at Beachy Cove Elementary. There will be plenty of useful links, updates, hints and musings in the fashion you came to expect on this blog.

Thanks for your support, see you in Grade 5!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The school year is running on fumes...

Well, here we are close to the end of the year! Just a few loose ends to tidy up and the kids will be ready to trot off into their respective summer vacations. It's been a real pleasure to work with this class throughout the school year, and I'm amazed by their growth and current maturity.

We have had a few fun days, while still getting things done over the last week. We have built a robot, worked on SmartBoard skills and techniques, finished up our hockey pool and done lots of written work to get the kids tuned up for grade five. We have a couple more events and activities coming up in the last few days, so here's a heads-up.

  • Tomorrow we're watching a movie in the afternoon. We will be watching it on the SmartBoard with Mme Natalie's class, with snacks and drinks provided. I have invited students to wear their PJs, bring a cushion or pillow, and bring their stuffed animal along for the ride if they wish. 
  • Several students are bringing in things to show the class tomorrow and Thursday. This is welcome, just let me know first.
  • One student has already sent me a sound file that they created using iNudge (see my last post). Great work, Robbie! I welcome any feedback or creative output like this.
  • I will be trying to get the class outside at some point in the next few days, to make up in small part for the lack of a Sports Day this year.
  • Most students brought home at least some of their year's work today. I have asked students to bring in a fabric/reusable plastic bag to aid in the transmission of all this material. Trust me, they kept busy this year!
Thanks again for all your support this year; I can't wait to see the class back at Beachy Cove next year. I'll post again tomorrow, but feel free to email if you have any questions or comments.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some fun sound experimentation programs

We had some fun today with the SmartBoard, particularly with two sound manipulatives. Here are links to both.

Hope you have headphones for your child to use, and if not I apologize in advance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Canucks Waleyan Ne

We watched this at the end of the day today, as a way of cheering on the Canucks. It was created by 3 Punjabi Canucks fans from Vancouver, and shows just how popular and cross-cultural hockey can be! The kids had an impromptu dance party, something that I imagine will repeat itself if the 'Nucks win tonight.

If they don't, I will have to eat my words but at least I'll get to see the cup when it comes to Bonavista with Michael Ryder!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another sunny day

Hi parents and kids! I won't interrupt your sunny Tuesday for too long, so here are a few notes;

  • I reference a site in today's Agenda notes. This site is also linked in my last post. Please have your child practice their division estimation and calculation techniques. If you notice any particular issues, please let me know.
  • Tomorrow afternoon we are making "Fraction Pizzas", so I have asked students to pack a lighter lunch than usual. This will fill prevent them from crashing, but leave room for tasty, tasty pizza. They can also bring an apron or other cooking attire if they would like (yes Abby, you can bring your chef's hat)!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

News in brief

Today was another whirlwind, as we get things wrapped up before the year-end shenanigans. We were slightly sidetracked for the morning, but it was okay because THEY FINALLY INSTALLED OUR SMARTBOARD!


After I ran the necessary cables to connect it, we were able to do some fun work for the afternoon that built on our Canadian Geography and Math work. The kids were very engaged, and excited about the new element to our classroom experience.

Tomorrow will be another busy day, featuring presentations of our "Provincial Tourism" projects. Students will be using our new SmartBoard to highlight important geological, geographical, political and social elements of the province they were assigned. I can't wait to see the results.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Geography tools/games

I have assigned some online work for homework tonight, as we get further into our Canadian/World geography unit. This site has many games and quizzes about world and Canadian geography, some of which will be too challenging, and other very easy. I would encourage you to explore the site a bit and play some games, since we will be talking about this more in class tomorrow.
I would suggest scrolling down the page, as well as clicking on tabs such as "Quebec" or "Monde" on the top of the page.

This site is more geared toward open-ended exploration, and will help build students' understanding of vocabulary related to landforms, places and regions as well as their mapping skills. Click on "Click here to use the map" to open the necessary window.
Please have your child play around with the map a bit, since they will need to be familiar with it for our upcoming activities.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hello public!

Hi gang, just a short post so I can get back out into the beautiful sunshine. First, some notes:

  • The school calendar was supposed to go home last week when I was out for a few days, but apparently didn't get distributed as intended. I will rectify this tomorrow!
  • Students performed very well on their Measurement test in math, so I will not bother sending them home. Full evaluations of students' Personal Projects will be available by the end of the week.
  • We are participating in Math Day early next week; I will be sending home a notice to let you know exactly when (although it looks like it will be Monday morning)
  • I will be posting frequently for the rest of the year, with a particular focus on websites and activities that will help students study material related to Canadian Geography and Multiplication/Division
In other news, our SmartBoard should be installed shortly. Yay! In an intentionally ironic move, I have been using the still-boxed SmartBoard as a bulletin board. Such amazing technology. 

We had a great chat today about moving on to grade 5, mostly focused on the added responsibility students will have next year. To that end, I stressed to students that they should keep their foot on the accelerator until the end of the year, and to try even harder to take responsibility for their own learning and achievement. They have all come so far, and I would love to see them close out the year with a bang. Speaking of which, I have several commitments that I still need to live up to. This includes a small hiking field trip, building a robot and having a pizza-making party. The latter will be tied to our recently-finished unit on fractions, and all should be done by the last week.

Have a great day, talk to you soon!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Satuday Update

So, here's a quick update to fill everybody in on the key things we will be hitting on over the last few weeks of the year:

  • I will be giving students a chance to earn their "SmartBoard" licences. Because of Beachy Cove Elementary's admirable focus and drive toward enabling this technology across the school, I believe most of the grade 5 classes next year will have SmartBoards in the classrooms. (A big thanks here is also due to parents and community partners, who have been infinitely generous and encouraging in the whole process of acquiring this technology). To that end, I will be spending time with students to give them a good base in SmartBoard hardware and software use that will help them become more comfortable when the start to use it in-class next year. 
  • We will be moving through 3-D geometry in the next few days (this is only a minor extension on work we have already done on geometry earlier in the year), and will then move into multi-digit multiplication and division. This will require some work at home, so I will send home some sheets to work on to support this learning.
  • The "homework DuoTang" concept seems to be working out very well. I am happy with students' progress, but would like to stress that it is very important to check agendas and make sure that your child is able to take the time to read the assigned article and highlight any things they do not understand.
  • Thanks for your help with the class's Musical Instruments projects
  • We will be focusing on landforms, geology and political divisions within Canada in social studies. The class seems to enjoy this type of material, and I have lots of fun activities to go with the subject matter.
Have a great weekend, and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!

Friday, June 3, 2011

As the year winds to a close...

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post, since I have been relying more heavily on email and personal contact as we move into the final hectic weeks of the year. This being my first time going through the year-end process, I'm amazed at the amount of work that has to be done to wrap things up. We have picked up the pace in a few areas of the curriculum, and brought some very interesting ongoing projects to a close. I am participating in an External Review today, so thought I would catch you up on a few things while I'm off for lunch.

We wrapped up our Personal Projects 2 weeks ago, with a grand day of presentations in our classroom. It was a chance for students to showcase all of there hard work, and to see what others had been up to. Although I had been quite involved in the classroom/conceptual side of the project, I hadn't yet seen what students were working on at home. I was, to put it simply, amazed by what I saw. The projects ranged from written texts to movies, with everything in between. There was a Japan-themed boardgame, a model CN Tower, a scale reproduction of the invasion of Utah Beach, and even Viking lemonade!

It was open to the whole school and parents, and the most frequent comment I got was that they were amazed that all students had started off with the same assignment. Each set goals, planned carefully, reflected and altered their ideas when necessary, and ended up with a very cohesive project that was a reflection of their interests, skills and expertise. Since the intent of the project was to maximize the use of students' abilities and differentiate my own assessment models, I think it was a great success. Students and parents embraced the idea, and I look forward to doing it again next year.

We had a great trip to the GEO Centre earlier this week, as an introduction to our final unit in science. We had a great time, and I think that the pace and focus of the lessons they taught had great effect on the kids. So many children in the elementary grades react very well to hands-on learning, and this was no exception. I wish I could do something like this for every unit, since it makes it so easy to reference concepts and topics when they have already seen and manipulated them first-hand.

Lunch is drawing to a close, but I will give a further update and an idea of things to come when I can post again later.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Good geography game

We're currently working on an activity related to continents and oceans, so I thought I would repost this game I linked to earlier in the year. Other than leaving out the Antarctic Ocean (a small detail), it is accurate and uses the terminology the students need to be familiar with. I would suggest using it to build familiarity with the continents and oceans over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The weekend is upon us

After another week of fun and learning (although you'd have to ask the kids if that's accurate or not), we find ourselves at Friday once again. Some students are fairly ambivalent toward the onset of the weekend, others count down the minutes, and small group are actually disappointed that school is over for another week. I guess that means I'm doing my job, right? I am personally looking forward to getting in a good weekend of spring cleaning and socializing as we move into what promises to be a fairly hectic last month of school this year.

I was reflecting with some other teachers earlier in the week (as we are prone to do), and the discussion turned to what effect having such a small class (14 in my case) has on the students' attitudes and dynamic with one another. It made me think, and I have really been paying attention to this over the last few days. My first conclusion was that there are probably positive effects in terms of the physical space we occupy. By not being able to run away or isolate themselves or others, students are compelled to work things out more often, and accommodate others in class. There is also a tendency to break down pre-existing cliques, and expose students' strengths and weaknesses as friends and "co-workers".

I think that the end result can be a more cohesive, focused group than in some larger classes. The added bonus of my being able to pay more attention to specific situations and students probably helps here as well. It allows me to direct conversation and activities in a way that help students gain a deeper understanding of each other an themselves, and become more comfortable with their abilities to share, interact and learn together.

I attended an interesting seminar at the ACPI (Association Canadien des Professeurs d'Immersion) conference I attended last October. The speaker's main idea was that students in contemporary North American classrooms stand to benefit most in the long term if they learn to work collaboratively in a way that benefits themselves and others equally. The jobs of the future, as he put it, will be filled by people with a wide array of skills, good leadership abilities and the ability to solicit and assimilate information from other people and sources. I think that this end is served well by the small class size we have enjoyed this year, because students' physical, mental and emotional comfort zones are pushed frequently and they are forced to adapt if they would like to succeed.

Continuing on that last point, my favourite thing (so far) about this late stage of the year is the personal and collective growth of the students in my class. Through the rich experiences they have at home, in the community and at school, they are quickly turning into very conscious, aware individuals. The speed with which they are now able to make decisions and find things out for themselves is staggering to me, and makes me very optimistic about all of their prospects in upcoming years. I was apprehensive at the beginning of the year, as I'm sure many new employees are. My pervasive concern was "What if these kids get to the end of the year and aren't ready for Grade 5?". I realize now that they would have been ready with or without my aid, but that their degree of readiness has been increased by their hard work and the efforts of their home and community networks.

Have a great weekend, and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Things will stay very busy up to the end of the year, so let's not slow down now!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Some Wednesday fun

A bit of a time-waster here, but this game is really fun and requires some serious thinking and experimenting. Hope you enjoy, and just a warning; don't start playing it too early in the day, or you might not get anything done...

More busy days at Beachy Cove Elementary

The morning was taken up by Spring Concert practice again today, which seems to be shaping up nicely. I have been trying to sit in on the last 20 minutes or so each time, just to see the progress and the excitement of the students involved. The parts from our Earth Day Assembly have been reassigned, and several exciting new elements have been added. The end result is a more detailed, coherent presentation that provides entertainment and information about water supply and conservation.

Because the students missed their gym class to practice, Ms. Tapper was kind enough to take all the grade 4 students outside after recess. This left enough time to go to the library, then lunch! After lunch, we did manage to get lots of good work done on fractions, health and social studies in particular.

To evaluate this unit on Summer Safety, I will be asking students to create a pamphlet on some element of staying safe in summer. This will require them to pay attention to formatting, content and composition of an informational text, something we have spent plenty of time on this year. Each student will have to discuss an activity, then outline possible dangers, preventative measures, examples they are familiar with and other important details. I will also be asking them to include pictures and diagrams as they see fit. More information will be sent home on this in the coming weeks.

As the playoffs move on, the disparity between the leaders and the rest of the pack (where I find myself) is growing larger. It is still causing some excitement, and stirring an interest in math which was the idea. I'm getting over the loss of my beloved Habs day by day, and am somewhat consoled by the fact that Ryan Kesler has started to accumulate some points for me.

Here are a couple links to sites that have ideas for activities and experiments related to the properties of sound. I mentioned last week that there will be an assignment requiring students to create a project that demonstrates the principles of sound in some way, so this might be a good starting point. Most are relatively inexpensive, straightforward and tidy (something I know is valued), and results are usually easy for students to see. Let me know if you try any at home!

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A second post

Hi gang, just a few more notes before I tune out (ie. tune in to hockey) for the night. The class is really humming this week, with a different dynamic since we are missing 3 students (in Florida). This makes it more challenging to keep things moving at our usual pace, but opens up some opportunities for more one-on-one work. On the other hand, it will be fun to see the presentations our "missing" students will have prepared after they return.

Students that have taken time away so far this year have returned with a wealth of stories, journal entries and other information that has proven valuable to other students' learning and enjoyment. I generally encourage students to take the time to engage in extra-curricular activities and travel, especially when they are able to take these opportunities to enhance their learning and elaborate on things we are doing in class.

Another note: the presentation of our Personal Projects will take place on May 25th. The exact details are yet to be finalized, but it will be open to parents and other family members as well as other students in the school.

Take care, talk to you tomorrow!

Here comes spring...

Not much to post today, as we move along with numerous preparations. Here are a few notes for now, with another post to follow later (when there isn't as much sun to enjoy!)
  • I have been asking students to bring in/email things they are currently working on for their personal projects, since I will be giving them additional support and time to work on them this week. If you have any questions, please let me know.
  • We are preparing for the Spring Concert, which will take place at 7:00pm on Thursday, May 19th. Tickets cost $5, and will not be available at the door. For that reason, please send along money soon if you would like tickets.
  • A newsletter went home today, with lots of important information.
  • Students are going to start working toward gaining their "Smartboard License", which will require them to complete tasks and demonstrate knowledge of Smartboard software, techniques and terminology. We will be starting this soon, since we have a new computer with the Smartboard programming installed. Hopefully, our Smartboard won't be far behind.
  • Anticipate a math test in the next couple of weeks! We will also be carrying out a pizza-making activity that will wrap up our fractions unit.
  • Social Studies has now moved into the Physical Geography unit (much to the joy of the class). This will involve more hands-on work and possibly some additional tasks to be completed at home.
More later, but enjoy the sunny day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What a literate bunch!

Today was dominated by the PIRLS test, as mentioned in previous posts. It is a test that is administered every 5 years, to assess literacy levels, skills and preferences in English-speaking nations around the world. The test took about 2 1/2 hours from end to end, including a questionnaire similar to the one that was sent home to be completed by parents.

This was a more formal test than I would usually administer, so was good practice for students. Everybody complete it to a satisfactory level, and seemed to have a good comprehension of what they were reading and expressing. Since there is a lesser focus on levelled readers know, it was interesting to see students reactions when confronted with texts that are (theoretically) right on reading level. I kept some of the resource materials to extrapolate on these tests during class.

This afternoon, we completed most of the remainder of our ArtsSmarts projects. These will be presented at a school-wide Art Day celebration, something that the class seems excited to participate in. Today we attached pictures and decorated the covers to reflect the content in their project. As usual, it was neat to compare and contrast the finished projects as reflections of their varied understandings of the project. Fun stuff!

As a lead-in to our next unit in health (outdoor/summer safety), we went outside to brainstorm and explore some situations that can present risks during the summer. In groups, the class spotted possible activities that they could be involved in (boating, swimming, climbing trees, playing sports, etc.) and wrote a list of precautions they might take to make sure they can complete the activity in safety. This was a great way to assess their prior understanding.

I have decided that part of the assessment for out science unit on sound will be to create a simple demonstration of a noise-maker or contraption that uses sound somehow. This will be complimented by a very straightforward quiz, which should take place by the end of May. I will give plenty of examples, but some students are already thinking of instruments, noisemakers or demonstrations that they might be interested in creating. They will be accompanied by a short write-up/illustrations/presentation as usual.

I made a couple of omissions and errors on the revised player lists for our hockey pool, which will be rectified by tomorrow. As we stand now, everybody is within 25 points of one another and things seem to be getting closer by the day.

Have a great evening, and let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The golden rule and other light reading

We kept moving right along today, in an effort to get a good jump on the material we will be covering over the next couple of months. The main activity today was in social studies, where students worked in groups to compare and contrast the positive and negative consequences of exploration. Building on an activity from yesterday, students broke into different groups and made some tables that organized the information from 3 different case studies.

The groups each had to conclude by making a statement about which case study had the greatest net positive consequences, and which had the most negative. It was interesting for the students and I to see how different people took the same information and interpreted it. I think that this is an important lesson, as it was a great demonstration of bias, decision making and the difficulties of comparing information. It was also a good illustration of how searching for MORE AND MORE information (ie. online, etc.) isn't always necessary; what is most important is to process the information we have and use that to form well-rounded opinions.

The class presented their findings in front of the class, then carried out a group self-evaluation. This is a key part of the grade 4 curriculum, but is something I haven't focused on too much. I had students evaluate themselves and their group mates on several criteria, then submit it confidentially with their individual write-ups. I know that not all students like group work (understandably), but I feel like this gives them the time to reflect on their own contributions and share any frustrations they have about how the exercise went in general. It also allows me to tailor my instruction to address any persistent issues.

This afternoon, we had a religion lesson about The Golden Rule (do unto others...). It sparked some great discussion and questioning, which made me very happy. Discussion on the basic principles of morality that span religions, philosophy and other belief systems will be the foundation of our religion curriculum over the rest of the year. It was also particularly relevant today, as I fielded several questions about the recent assassination of Osama bin Laden. Students were generally either very resolute or confused in their opinions, so it was useful to talk about it in terms of our basic moral code. If your child has questions our concerns about any of the things we discussed today, I would encourage you to ask them questions and get them thinking about it.

Take care, enjoy the sunny day, and I will talk to you soon. Tomorrow we will be writing the PIRLS test and finishing up our ArtsSmarts, so hope to see all students in class for those things and a few surprises.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Back to school

We got right back at it today, with a flurry of activities designed to get the class immediately back into our daily routines and re-establish the patterns, roles and practices that they had been helping us progress greatly in the weeks before Easter. We carried out a small research project, some individual and group writing exercises, and an Easter Egg-fuelled "Math Blitz" to review and expand upon our work thus far on fractions.

For a first day back, not too bad! I was impressed with students' willingness and ability to pick back up on what we had been doing before the vacation, so thanks for helping your children stay in practice over the 10 days we were off. I did not collect students' Journal reflections today, but will take them in tomorrow to discuss with each child individually.

Corrected health tests were sent home today, and should be signed and sent back ASAP. I was happy with the results, but I did mention to the class that I see a very high correlation between "Time spent paying attention" and overall marks. There is also a very clear divide between occasions when students take their time and give good detail in their written and oral responses, and occasions when they rush. The resulting marks are never a coincidence!

A few other points on upcoming events:
  • I sent home a survey to be completed in advance of the PIRLS literacy test that the class will be writing on Wednesday. This is to be completed by each student's primary caregiver(s), and sent back in tomorrow (May 3rd). It is a confidential survey that will be sealed anonymously, only identified by a barcode that corresponds to each student's test.
  • It seems as though many students have finished their Personal Project, and others are quickly nearing completion. I was glad to hear that students were able to find time to get some things done over their holiday. They were very eager to share their developments. If there is work left to do or things that you are unsure of, let me know and by all means send things in for review.
  • We are starting a new unit on Summer Safety in health, and moving on to Sound in science and Geography in social studies. I will (I promise) post a few helpful links and resources relating to these topics in the upcoming days.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments, and lets have a great final couple of months!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Hope everybody had a great day today! I will be posting an update tomorrow with some useful info and links, but having spent the day painting I will now proceed to watch hockey and eat chocolate.

Have a great vacation, and if you have any questions or comments please let me know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Some bloggy math

I've been crunching numbers while watching the 'Nucks/'Hawks game, thought you may be interested. Since I started the blog last fall...
  • I have posted 166 times (with 9 unpublished drafts). This breaks down to:
    • 57,608 total words
    • 244 total pages in MS Word
    • An average of 347 words per post

  • The blog has been viewed a total of 10,928 times. This breaks down to:
    • A previous monthly high of 2037 "hits" in March, 2011
    • A current total of 2782 hits in the last 30 days

  • The #1 post in terms of total views is "Tomorrow's Forecast: Sunny with a chance of wildlife", with a total of 366 pageviews.

  • The top 6 countries, ranked by # of pageviews, are:
    • Canada
    • USA
    • United Kingdom
    • Slovenia (???)
    • India
    • Australia

  • The top Internet browsers used to access the blog are:
    • Internet Explorer: 57%
    • Safari: 19% (trending upward quickly)
    • Firefox: 14%
    • Other: 10%

  • The top Operating Systems used to access the blog are:
    • Windows: 76%
    • Mac: 17%
    • iPad/iPhone: 4% (that didn't take long...)
    • Other: 3%

  • The top referring sites (sites that people get directed here by) are:

Interesting stuff! I hope you've all been enjoying it as much as I have. Thanks to all the parents, students, teachers and other educators that have given such constructive feedback and support over the last months.

The last gasp before Easter

Mr. Bunny! I had no idea....
Hey gang! Today was another busy day in class, trying to get things prepped in the leadup to Easter vacation. Just a few notes, with another post tomorrow when time permits more detail.

Tomorrow we have Music, Gym and ArtsSmarts. Also included in the mix is an Art activity that we will be doing as part of a Student Council competition, and some work on Personal Projects. Needless to say, the time leading up to Easter will not be Status Quo as far as schoolwork is concerned. I think we all remember these times from our schooling! Thanks though, to parents who have volunteered to help with ArtsSmarts tomorrow. I developed the pics tonight and they look great!

We had a chance today to start some work on the finer points of writing (in French of course). My approach has been to introduce process writing in more meticulous detail, then start taking a closer look at elements like grammar, word selection, voice, genre, plot and action. If you are looking for more information on process writing and specific conventions, please search old posts for helpful links or look at the curriculum links on the right sidebar.

Today, we carried out a tiered activity to start our brainstorming. First, each student had a chance to pick a broad topic (action, verbs, adjectives, characters, nouns) and brainstorm for a few minutes. Then we shared some ideas, and students solicited suggestions to elaborate on their work. The next step was to pair up, and do some more focused brainstorming on some key points like the use of descriptive words, key verbs and means of creating action.

The result was a number of great lists based on these broad concepts. I collected these, and will use them to guide individual lessons with the end goal of creating a folder for each student that has these ideas sorted out. This should help when writing, by giving relevant information on focused parts of their writing.

Portugal Cove, 1908. Picture courtesy McCord Museum. For more interesting Portugal Cove pictures, search "Portugal Cove" on Flickr.

Finally, students worked on their ArtsSmarts project in the form of a journalling exercise. In the same spirit as the interview they conducted at home, students reflected on their impressions of life in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's. They talked about their favourite things, possible improvements, future goals and other key points. I think that parents will be very interested to see these finished projects; they will be a very interesting artifact to keep around. Students were excited to think, that, in 20 years their work will be seen as a real history of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's in our day.

Drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any questions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

46 to go... unbelievable!

I was making up my plans for the rest of the year over the weekend, and was shocked to find out that there are only 46 days of school left in Grade 4. I was a bit taken aback, for two reasons. First, it seems like the beginning of school was just a few months ago. Second, I'm not entirely sure how everything is going to get finished! After some hyperventiation and a chat with another Grade 4 teacher, I was satisfied that I was going to be able to take care of business and get things to where they need to be in plenty of time. That being said, things are advancing quickly for sure.

We are moving along quickly in our Fractions unit, since there is a lot of crossover with the previous unit on grouping and multiplication/division. The class is enjoying fractions, particularly because it is a topic that lends itself well to visual and tactile examples. I think we will get an opportunity to do some fun activities later that incorporate food - Pizza anyone? That being said, it is still worthwhile to keep looking over things at home. There are a number of links on the sidebar (to your right) that have fractions quiz/study/practice pages, all of which will provide your child with valuable practice on which to build their projects and in-class work.

Another interesting things we have coming up is an International literacy test. We were randomly selected by the Council of Ministers of Education (Canada) to participate in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). This is a test given every 5 years around the world, meant to measure trends in reading, as well as school policy on reading and literacy. I have decided that the class will write the test on May 4th, in the week after we return from Easter Break.

This test is not an evaluation, and will not count toward student grades. It will be confidential and goes directly to an international evaluation committee, with no results available that would reflect school/student/school board achievement. Even though it will take some class time to administer, I think that participating in research that will increase our understanding of literacy trends worldwide is incredibly valuable. This is information that I use frequently, and helps us make better decisions about how to increase literacy and refine students' reading, writing, speaking and viewingn skills.

I will be sending home a pamphlet that explains more, as well as a survey to be completed by parents. Again, this will be confidential. If you have any questions, you can let me know.

In other news....
  • I have rescheduled the health test that was originally meant to be written tomorrow. It will go ahead Thursday instead, and students have already brought home a study guide to help them review. This will be a short, fact-based test on legal and illicit drugs. There are a few opinion-based questions (to be supported with fact) that I have already given them to study.
  • I am very happy with the progress students are making in their personal projects. I will be giving another block of time to work on them tomorrow, and I am still helping many students make final revisions on their written work. Some students have made it clear that they want to work on them a bit over Easter, which I encourage. I will be available by email over the break, so please contact me with any questions.
  • For the parents of children who are going on vacations during instructional time: Please double-check that I have exact dates, so I can assign relevant tasks to be done while/before they are absent.
  • I will be assigning some light reading over Easter, with the expectation of them doing some reflection as they read daily. If this will be a logistical problem, please let me know.
  • ArtsSmarts projects (interviews/memory maps/pictures) are due TOMORROW! Also, I am looking for a few parent volunteers to help us out on Wednesday afternoon. If you are interested or available, please let me know. Sorry for the short notice, but I was only informed of this today.
Talk to you soon, and please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What a day!

I checked in at school after I finished up my session at 4:00, just to see how things had gone today. Looks like the science test went really well, and I'm glad to see that students are already racking up points in our NHL Playoff Pool!

My session today was intended to get teachers' ideas for the ongoing development of the Grade 4 English Language Arts curriculum. It was a great opportunity to look into some of our curriculum outcomes in greater detail, and to get the input and ideas of some very dedicated teachers with a great deal more experience than I.

I will post more over the next couple of days, including some more links and hints for the upcoming weeks. If you have any questions or concerns about our ongoing/upcoming tasks, please let me know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Getting everything together

Today was very busy, as the class carried out its ArtsSmarts activity, and had gym and music to boot. This made it challenging to get much else done, but we succeeded in moving ahead in Math and our Personal Projects, as well as putting the final touches on the "Hockey Pool" activity and finishing up our studying for the science test.

Students will start recording their players' point totals tomorrow, using their French exercise books. They will have a chance to do this in the morning (in place of Saviez-vous que for the time being), but I am sure many will be interested in finding out before they get to school. To that end, here are some links to a few sites that will help students find these stats:

The science test is tomorrow, and most students seem well-prepared. I will stress again that ALL MATERIAL ON THE TEST is taken directly from students' study guides. For that reason, there will be no need to ask for help or clarification during the test. Good Luck!

I'm off to prepare for the next couple of days, but if you have any questions about anything (ArtsSmarts interviews, Personal Projects, etc.) please let me know via email.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A late post

Hi gang! After a few busy days, here's a quick update of where we're at. I will have a more complete update tomorrow as time warrants, since tonight has been dedicated to preparing the class for my absence later in the week.

  • Personal Projects will not be due until after Easter. This will allow students to keep "puttering" over the Easter vacation, and I don't want to rush some very promising projects to their conclusion before necessary.
  • We had our hockey draft today! There was a great deal of excitement, and evidence of much preparation. I filled out the teams to 8 players each rather than the 10 I had suggested before, just to avoid thinning out talent too much, and to leave some players for pickup later on.
  • Thanks to parents who have been sending in their childrens' personal projects for review and elaboration in class. I love to see their project, and I think they benefit from a maximum amount of feedback.
  • We will be carrying out our ArtsSmarts project tomorrow; thanks to all who sent in cameras. The take-home part of the ArtsSmarts project went home today, but is not due until next Tuesday.
In tomorrow's post, I will link to sites necessary for monitoring players' scoring in our hockey pool, and wrap up my preview of upcoming material, concepts and resources. Off to watch the English-language debate while I plan for the home stretch up to Easter vacation! If you are interested (especially if your child is interested), the debate is on CBC TV, CBC Radio 1, and also CBC's Facebook page. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Update continued

I don't have time to finish up what I started yesterday, due to renovation commitments! It's such a sunny day, there is painting that can't wait until next weekend. That being said, I hope to outline our upcoming projects and information in Religion, French, Language Arts and a few other areas in the upcoming days. The work in these subjects will remain consistent until the week after Easter vacation, so is less pressing.

Hope everybody is having a great weekend; I'm off to finish painting, then put together the draft lists for our Playoff Hockey Pool. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Another Weekend Update

In the interest of keeping ahead of things, I thought I would create a post with some useful links, ideas and information about upcoming and ongoing topics we are working on in class. As with other times I have done this, I will break things down by subject. For parents, this might be a good post to bookmark for future reference.


Our next topic is fractions. This is a logical next step after the grouping activities in our multiplication unit. My approach to this unit will be very hands-on, and will also incorporate a lot of problem-solving techniques. One good resource to help with review and practice can be found on the right sidebar of this blog. It is called "Visual Fractions: Activities and Extra Work" and is a great resource. I have used it when tutoring students in the past, since it provides very concrete examples and activities.
Another useful link that is permanently on the blog sidebar is called "Virtual Math Manipulatives". This site provides digital renderings of many of the tools we will be using in class, including blocks, fraction disks and other manipulative materials. Throughout this chapter, I will be directing students to use this link to help them with homework and review.

This next site is not permanently linked on the blog, but will be very useful for this unit. It has a wide array of review activities that students can use to evaluate their understanding and get ahead of the game if they would like to.


In health, our ongoing discussion of drugs and medication will be tested on Tuesday, April 19th. We have had many good discussions on the topic so far, and I know the class is curious to know more. I think that anything beyond discussion and communication of basic details lies outside the scope of what we can discuss in class, but I would encourage you to talk more about this important topic at home. So far we have discussed the effects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as substances like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. We will go on to discuss illegal drugs in some detail next week as well.

That being said, here are a few links that have information about drugs and other similar substances. These sites cater to children and their parents, and provide information in a way that is age-appropriate and accurate.

For students reading the blog, I am happy to see how interested you are in getting the information you need to make good decisions, and I encourage you to keep asking great questions at school and at home.


Our science test is on Thursday, April 14th. It will assess the students' understanding of the important elements of our unit on Light, and will cover material that the students generated during an independent review session earlier in the week. Students will be bringing home their notes and text books on Monday to help study for the test, as well as a comprehensive study guide. We will be doing some light-related experiments in the time leading up to Easter, and starting our next unit after the vacation.

Social Studies

Our next unit in Social Studies opens up to a focus on global landforms, continents and weather. It sticks with the processes we have been learning, as well as our focus on Exploration. Along with the other grade 4 teachers at BCE, I have been developing a unit that focuses on the use of Choice Boards to pick a means of presenting what you are learning/have learned. We have already used Choice Boards in the Personal Projects, but the board we will use in Social Studies is very comprehensive and should provide some challenges as well as helping students express their skills and interests.

For help with this upcoming unit, I would direct students and parents to several useful sites that focus on many facets of Geography. The first is Geography for Kids, a site that I have already linked this year. It has lots of fun things to do, with a particular focus on political geography rather than landforms.

National Geographic Kids is perhaps an obvious choice, but bears mentioning because it is such an exceptional website. It has the basics you would expect from National Geographic (great pictures and content), but really makes an effort to address things kids find interesting in a meaningful way. A lot of sites tend to "dumb it down" for kids content related to math and science, but this site is at once fun, engaging and challenging. When confronted with projects or assignments that ask them to pick a topic or find information, I would highly suggest using this site as a primary resource.

Since a familiarity with the Continents and major Oceans is a necessity for the upcoming unit, I thought I would link the following site. It has some quizzes and activities to build familiarity with the location and names of the continents. The activity is in English, but will help nonetheless.

To follow up on these activities, students can complete some similar familiarity activities in French.

I will post links about the remaining subject areas tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Great job, everybody

Today we had our Earth Day Assembly, which was well attended by parents and students alike. The class did a great job in their retelling of a traditional Australian folktale that cautions about water use, and sang some beautiful songs. It was a very funny, upbeat presentation that was enjoyed by all!

I haven't assigned much work for the weekend, just keep going on the personal projects and read a few French books. If students are interested, I would suggest they start thinking about what players they would like to pick for our NHL Playoff Draft on Tuesday. As mentioned in an email I sent home on Thursday, I will send home the kids with a full draft list on Monday for them to review. Should be fun!

Have a great weekend, and I'll post again on Sunday with some useful links.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The glory and misery of the Hockey Pool

John and Kyle, this picture's for you...
 As the title alludes, we will be starting a class hockey pool in the next few days. I plan to have the draft on Monday, so will be sending students home with lists to choose players from over the weekend. It will be a neat way to teach media skills and work on some math concepts, and since it's just about all the class talks about it should engage them fairly well. I will send home full details with their "cheat sheets" tomorrow.

I have decided to push back the health test until the 18th at least, since we are not finishing the chapter before the end of next week. Also, the science test will be moved to Thursday, April 14th. We began our review today, in an activity that had students form an "anchor"group to brainstorm topics, then "jigsaw" with other groups throughout the class to fill out their list of terms and concepts. The last step was to return to their anchor group and finally share their ideas with the class. I have found that this helps the students take ownership of the information, and gives me a good idea of what might need elaboration.

Math tests went home today, with a complete answer key attached. This answer key also has hints about what steps they should take next in order to keep improving their understanding and results, which I think will be useful going forward. After the test comes back signed, I will give each student a copy of the answer key to use when studying for future math tests. The idea is to model a good answer more effectively, so that students will be 100% clear of the expectations I have for them. If you have any questions about test results, please let me know. Also, if your child isn't happy with their result I am willing to spend some extra time reteaching and offer a makeup activity next week sometime.

A note also went home today about a dance on Friday night. It is another benefit for the PCSP youth soccer team, and several students expressed interest in attending. All relevant details can be found on the slip in your child's "sac plastique".

In addition to the photography element of our ArtsSmarts project, we will be asking students to interview a senior member of the community and pose several guided questions. This assignment is not due for a while, so I will probably send it home on Monday. However, students may wish to start thinking of who they would like to interview. An accompanying letter with full instructions will be sent home with the project.

Becoming an Expert projects seem to be moving along well. A few more students handed in drafts for me to correct today, as I requested earlier in the week. The correction process is very fruitful for development of good editing, spelling and grammar habits, and has resulted in some great final products so far. I will also reiterate that students are welcome to stay after school if they need help or technology to work on their project. I need advance notice, but this process has been going well so far.

I thought it might also be interesting to list some of the cool things students have made so far, for inspiration and for interest's sake!The list includes:
  • A recipe for Viking apple juice
  • A Mexican "Ball and Cup" toy
  • A model of the CN Tower
  • 2 stop-motion videos
  • PowerPoint presentations about Australia, Building Techniques, Minor Hockey, Vikings and Animation
  • A virtual tour of China
  • A travel brochure
  • Hockey cards
  • Interviews with builders, animators, professional hockey players and their mothers
  • An SPCA-themed Bingo Game
  • A diorama of the D-Day invasion at Normandy
  • WW2-themed poetry
  • Texts about the history of Tokyo and China
This is a partial list, but gives an idea of the breadth of scope of this project. Sharing ideas each class has been a very useful enterprise, so hopefully posting them here will inspire some feedback and encouragement as well.

Have a great sunny day, and please contact me if you have any questions.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Another math test bites the dust! (Part 2)

Just to follow up on what I posted earlier today...

The math test went very well, and this time I offered several bonus questions. They were all on topics that relate to the content the class covered during this chapter, but took things to the next level. Everybody in class attempted them, and everybody managed to get some of them right. As mentioned before, I am going to give more feedback on this test than I have on others; multiplication is a very important concept and will be coming up over and over throughout the rest of the year.

Several of the girls in class are part of a new basketball team that has been organized this year at BCE. They are making huge progress already, and competing very hard against some very experienced teams. To that end, we will be creating some posters this week to support them in their upcoming games against teams from Mount Pearl and St. John's. I will be posting results and progress reports about the team on upcoming blog posts, and hopefully some pics as well.

Also, I hope to have some new videos posted by the end of the week. For the first half of this chapter in health, we talked about medication. The culminating activity had students divide up into groups and present sketches that discussed a variety of topics such as Prescription Drugs, over-the-counter medication and drug safety. It was fun to see the progress from the last videos we created, especially in terms of scripting and presentation.

Have a great evening, and let me know if you have any questions about upcoming activities.

Another math test bites the dust! (Part 1)

We persevered through another math test today, and I am very happy with the overall results so far. I have decided to give more feedback on this test than usual, so I will be taking them home tonight to work on. Each will come back with a list of suggested things to work on, which will range from specific concepts and topics to review to more complicated topics that they can move onto.

I will post more later, but I just wanted to mention a few key points in the meantime.
  • The Earth Day Assembly is this Friday. Grade 4 parents are welcome to attend (you can arrive just before 1pm), and I have asked the class to dress entirely in blue, green or brown
  • I have been stressing to students that they should submit any written work from their Personal Project to me for revision at some point. This will allow me to monitor progress more effectively, diagnose and correct any difficulties students are having, and result in a higher-quality project.
  • I am planning to push the presentation date for Personal Projects to the week after Easter. This will allow a bit more time to polish things, and avoid scheduling it in the pandemonium-filled week before Easter. I will talk more about this with the class tomorrow, and let you know a final decision later.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Quel heure est-il?

Today was just as busy as anticipated, but was very rich in learning experiences. We worked on the presentation for Friday's Earth Day Assembly, and I have to say that it is a very polished, well-executed show they have put together. It deals specifically with the protection of our water supply and careful water use, incorporating a traditional Australian folktale with songs and interesting facts.

I also noticed today that students are spending an inordinate amount of time watching the clock as they get close to recess and lunch. I understand why this is tempting, but there has been a tendency lately for students to miss information or not complete tasks because they are too busy anticipating the end of class. My solution today was to cover up the clock!

Even though it caused some initial anxiety, we got a remarkable amount of work completed. My goal in doing so is to impress the idea that it doesn't matter whether the time is 2:30 or 8:45, because we've always got to be doing our best work and keeping on task.I don't plan to continue with this full-time (sorry for the pun), but I will do it when it comes in handy.

We also had a discussion about using social networks such as Facebook and online gamerooms today, since this is becoming a pervasive element in our class and throughout the school. We talked about the complete absence of privacy online, and how people (especially kids) can be very vulnerable. On the other hand, I also talked about how they are liable for the things they say and do. I think that it is important to communicate to students that the things they do, say and share online will follow them into school the next day, so they have to conduct themselves appropriately at all times. This was well-received, and is a discussion that we will certainly continue as we incorporate more online elements into our class routine.

The math test is tomorrow afternoon, so I have asked students to review their math sheets and have anything they are uncertain of prepared for tomorrow morning's review session. I think students are generally comfortable with the material, but please don't hesitate to bring anything to my attention. Have a great evening (in the snow, unfortunately) and talk to you soon.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The busiest week ever?

Things are really starting to accumulate quickly around here, as we move into the final push before Easter. The class (along with the rest of the Grade Four students) will be presenting an Earth Day assembly this Friday, for which we are still preparing. They also have a math test on Wednesday, and science and health tests next week.

We didn't get much chance to work on Becoming an Expert projects today, so I just did a quick check-in with the students. Most seem to be meeting their time lines, and many are moving on to work on things that they didn't even plan to in their original outlines. Great job, everybody! Tomorrow I will give ample time to keep working on things, and several students are staying after class to work on elements of the project that they can't accomplish at home due to technology/software restrictions, etc. If this is an option that you think would work for your child, please let me know.

Today in health, we moved into the "Drugs" section of our unit on Medication and Drugs. Today we talked about Caffeine and other common substances, but the discussion (inevitably) meandered into the myriad of questions they had about other substances. I make a point of treading lightly around this issue, trying to stick more to the scientific facts and legal information than any moral/ethical aspects at this point. The students obviously have a lot of constructive information from home already, since they seemed fairly well-informed. The main point the text book makes is that whether we are talking about alcohol, caffeine, tobacco or Advil, all substances have some effect on our bodies. I imagine some of your children will want to discuss this further tonight, so just a heads-up!

A few notes went home in Agendas today, so keep an eye out. ArtsSmarts starts up for us next week, and students have been asked to bring some tools for this. There is also information about the Book Fair, and April calendars went home on Friday.  Have a great sunny day, and talk to you soon.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ending the week with a bang

I had some great experiences today at our PD session, as well as at an Early French Immersion Resource Working Group at ESDNL district office. It was a great chance to pick up some new ideas and resources, as well as to share what we have been up to in class. That being said, it will be nice to be back in the classroom tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will be putting a big focus on students' Becoming an Expert projects, all of which are well underway. The class will have ample time to work on things, and I will be consulting with them and giving tutorials on PowerPoint and a few other tools they would like to use. I will also be giving back some first drafts that have been edited. As I mentioned during the Parent-Teacher meetings last week, I will be sending home support documents to help you with the writing process.

More notes tomorrow, and have a great lead-in to the weekend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Google AdSense

You may notice that I have added Google AdSense to my blog sidebar. While I am normally averse to adding advertisements to a blog or personal website, I am curious to see what type of revenue could be gained through my current 2000 hits per month.

All money gained through adding the Google AdSense function will be dedicated to my classroom budget, with the principal goal of finding out whether or not I can get enough advertisement income to finance a wireless Internet account/router for the classroom. If I can accomplish this, I would be an interesting experiment in DIY tech support! If not, my hope is that there will be at least some contribution to our classroom resources.

I did a quick survey yesterday, and found out that we had a potential total of over 250 gigabytes (250,000,000,000 bytes) of computing power between the 14 students in the classroom. This includes iPods, DS's and other personal devices as well as my own computing tools. This is a staggering capacity, most of which has Internet access. To put his in perspective:

  • The first personal computer had a 256-byte memory
  • In 1977, the first Commodore home computer boasted 8000 bytes
  • IBM made a commercially available computer that had 1GB. It cost $140,000
  • In 1982, Commodore 64 upped the ante with 64,000 bytes in a home computer
  • In 1994, the first Zip Drive showcased a staggering 100,000 bytes
  • Since 2000, computing capacity has increased exponentially, from 1-GB iPods in 2002 to our current 32GB iPod Touch models, but...
                   (And quite remarkably, when you consider our in-class capacity)
  • Our entire computer lab currently has less than 1000GB total capacity (which is really pretty good!)
It seems negligent to do anything but take advantage of this computing power! Can't wait to see the results, especially with the upcoming arrival of our SmartBoard.

Let me know what you think!

Another 2 days in the competent hands of Ms. Bishop

From what I can gather, the students had a great time over the last couple of days when I was gone. They seem to have gotten lots done under the tutelage of Ms. Bishop, a former MUN classmate of mine. Personal Projects are ticking along, students continue to improve the quality and quantity of their written and oral French output, and my desk has never been tidier!

As I mentioned in Monday's post, we are moving into a time of the year that will require several pieces of formal evaluation. The first of these is a math test, scheduled for next Wednesday (April 6th). This will incorporate elements from the whole unit on multiplication, and I think the class is well-prepared. As usual, I have sent home the requisite review sheets to be completed by next Tuesday. Many thanks for doing so much work with your children at home to get their multiplication "mental math" skills up to and beyond par. This has been a huge help in class, and allowed them to move into very interesting and stimulating activities over the last couple of days.

Today for example, we worked on a big multiplication table. This was completed individually and as a group, and showed all products from 1X1 to 9X9. I have included a blank version of this table in students' Math DuoTang, which they should be able to fill in themselves. Seeing the table in such a large, coherent format allowed us to pick out dozens of patterns that emerge when multiplying, which helps the information on multiplication "gel" much better.

After we had time to mull over these ideas together (for example that products of 9 always have digits adding up to 9, or that the pattern of "ones" digits in factors of 8 repeat every 5 factors), students carried out a "Mystery Number" activity. They had to give increasingly specific clues about a secret number, until we could guess it.

Let's say the number was 28. The first clue might be that the 2 digits in the number add up to 10. This eliminates many numbers, leaving possibilities such as 28, 55, 64, 46, 82 etc. By removing all that are not products on our multiplication table, it gets down to only 28 and 64. The next clue was that the number is even, which is no extra help. However, after getting the 3rd clue that 7 is a factor of the number, students were able to identify the number as 28. The class wanted to keep playing this game all day (Mission Accomplished), so it might be fun to try it out at home. It requires solid observation, recall of rules and lateral thinking, which are all important problem-solving skills we are currently working on.

On Friday I will be taking ample time to work on students' Personal Projects with them. Several students need help with specific tasks, and others need help proofreading or planning their next step. For that reason, please make sure your child brings all Personal Project materials on Friday. This may include a USB storage device, a video, pictures, etc. If something is stored digitally, you can also email it to me. The projects are going very well, and again, thanks for all the support at home.

One last note; on Friday I am meeting with a French Immersion Program Specialist from Eastern School District. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, whether a student, teacher, parent or friend, I would love to have some feedback to pass along during this meeting. You can either leave your thoughts as a comment on this post, or email me at . I would love to have your feedback on things you enjoy, improvement I could be made, what the blog is useful for, or anything else you can think of.

Have a good PD day off tomorrow, and speak with you all soon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back in the swing of things

After another very constructive Professional Development session today, I will be back in class tomorrow. The session gave us lots of time to reflect on our practices and ideas as first-year teachers, and it was also a great chance to share what we have been up to.

Tomorrow, I will be scheduling a math test for the beginning of next week. We will be checking in on the class's Becoming an Expert portfolios as well, and starting a new read-aloud book. As I alluded to in the Parent-Teacher meetings, we will also be starting to gain greater familiarity with the intricacies of process writing as the week continues.

Let me know if you have any questions, and sorry for the gap in blog posting over the "Parent-Teacher Long Weekend".

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We are getting a SmartBoard

The title pretty much says it all! Very excited that I will soon be able to expand my resources in the classroom! Tomorrow is Parent-Teacher, so see some of you then. Kids, have a good afternoon!


We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!

Have a great evening.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday... Aaaaafternoon.... 2.0

Today was a very busy day in our class! I don't have much time to write at the moment (basketball at 7:30), but I wanted to pass on a few messages.

First off, we made some great progress on the kids' Becoming an Expert projects. The class seems to be generally on task and on track, so it was great to give them a chance to make some progress during class time. Thanks so much for all the home support; I think it is really paying off. The next big step will be setting our Week 3 goals tomorrow, and spending some time in the computer lab. Some students have started to bring a flash drive back and forth to school with them, which I would encourage because of the tidiness and simplicity factor.

I will be sending home the customary math review sheets soon, as a test will be coming up by the end of next week. A science test is also looming in the next couple of weeks as well, as is a health project about medication and drugs. I will post more info on this later in the week.

A note went home today about the school rezoning decisions that have been made recently at the School Board level. The letter contains all the information we have at the moment, and we also discussed it in class at some length.

If you have any questions at all, please let me know.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Out around the bay.

Just wanted to check in with a few messages for parents and students, since I didn't have a chance to post last night before leaving St. John's. I'm out in Amherst Cove for the weekend, spending some time in the workshop with my dad. A day in the workshop out around the bay never gets old, that's for sure.

I had students write in their agendas that they should review their report cards with their parents/guardians and discuss things they did well and things they would like to improve. We did the same thing last term, and it provided lots of good food for thought as we moved forward. All the kids in class will have a chance to review their running portfolios next week, and make some reflections in advance of Parent-Teacher meetings on Thursday. I would encourage you to sit down together and make a few notes if possible, in order for the students to be prepared for our discussions this week.

Have a great weekend, and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 1 = Day Fun

Wow, the puns are really going downhill these days. Seriously though, Day 1 (as today was) is a great opportunity to have fun and get some things taken care of. We have no out-of-class activities, so we can really get into a project or lesson and have some fun with it. Today that included math, social studies, french and English language arts, and a fun trip to the Learning Resource Centre.

In the LRC, we went on the computers to start building a database of useful websites and resources for our personal projects. This was a great way to teach about techniques when navigating the Internet, something that is becoming an increasingly important part of kids' skill set. Many students already have extensive experience with computers, but others are still getting the hang of it. I heartily share the school board's philosophy that teaching students to process, evaluate and use information is becoming every bit as important as having the knowledge in the first place.

The class also took some time to set their Week 2 goals for their Becoming an Expert personal project, so they can get back at it tonight. All written and organizational materials should be brought to school each day so we can work on them, and I will keep them one day a week (usually Wednesday) as part of my ongoing evaluation of the project. Great work so far!

We had a good discussion today about what students heard on Radio Bell Island, which branched off into a writing exercise and a discussion on the importance of local tradition, history and knowledge. I know there were some bandwidth problems and time constraints last night, but I have encouraged students to listen in again tonight. This will help us compare different episodes of the show, which is an important part of our critical literacy programming.

Report Cards go home tomorrow, so I will have a couple fun little things scheduled for the class during the day to take the pressure off. The class is generally pretty laid back about evaluation, which I hope is a result of the time we have spent talking about authentic assessment and goal-setting. Regardless, I remember the tension of Report Card time quite well and certainly empathize with students and their families. In advance of Parent-Teacher interviews next Thursday, we will be reflecting on each student's portfolio during the week. To that end, I would encourage you to discuss your child's report in as much detail as you feel comfortable, focusing on what they feel their strengths are and what goals they would like to set for the rest of the year. They are certainly in full swing now, and I can't wait to see what they will come up with next!

I am out of town this weekend, but can still be contacted by email if you have any questions. Take care, and here's hoping we've seen the last major storm for this year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Live on the air: Radio Bell Island

If you have a few minutes at home tonight (alone or with the kids), why not tune in to Radio Bell Island? It is broadcasting this week from 4PM to 9PM, featuring all-local content and addressing many local issues. You can find it at 100.1 FM on the dial, or go to

It is very rare to find truly local radio these days, so please give them your support! The radio station has a great Facebook page with lots of information as well.

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!

Tuesday Post #2: Relevant website

Today in class, we read in the Telegram about a Newfoundlander that runs an animal rescue centre in Japan. Her name is Susan Mercer, and she runs HEART Tokushima. In the article, she talked about their efforts and how the tragedies in Japan have made her work more challenging. I thought I would post a link to the HEART Tokushima website, since many students wanted to know more.

Sheila's Brush

Today was a bit of a frenzy as we got back in the swing of things after an unexpected long weekend. I say unexpected, but Sheila's Brush does seem to come back with a vengeance every year around this time. It seems as though many students used the weekend to good effect, either resting up, playing outside or working on their Becoming an Expert projects.

Day 6 being a day that has both Music and Gym periods, it can be hard to get much of a flow going. On top of that, we had a great concert by Irish-Newfoundland entertainer Fergus O'Byrne after recess. He showed slides and talked about Ireland, and managed to do the impossible by engaging (and enthralling) a group of  three hundred 9-11 year old kids. He showed his great sense of humour and entertaining flair as he answered questions and told the story of Finn McCool, then played some great traditional songs. I think the students go an awful lot out of the experience; Thanks to Beachy Cove Elementary for scheduling this great event!

We had a lengthy discussion about the current situation in Japan, as part of our French class. Discussions like this are a great way to talk about current issues and concepts, as well as a way for me to get a bearing on students' written and spoken French skills. Some students already knew a lot about the earthquake/tsunami tragedy, and others were very interested to find out more. It is a very difficult story to deal with, but I think they got a lot out of it and I was able to clarify some things they were unsure of.

We took some time to check in on each student's Becoming an Expert project at the end of the day, and I was very impressed with their project. A lot of the children in class are refining their ideas more as they go along, and some have taken the project in directions I wouldn't have even imagined. Great work! Some students have already reached their Week 1 goals, and have no assigned work tonight. Others have some things left to finish, and have written these instructions in their agenda and/or Becoming an Expert exercise book. Tomorrow they will have some time to do more research, and begin/continue working on their first project.

Enjoy what is left of this sunny day, especially now that our evenings have gotten a bit longer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In defiance of "No Technology Day"

As part of Education Week at Beachy Cove Elementary, today was "No Technology Day". This meant we refrained from using electronic devices and other new-fangled contraptions for the bulk of the school day. To elaborate on this activity we had a discussion and writing exercise to think of types of technology that are used every day. This list ranged from iPods to toilets, and was a very thought-provoking discussion. Students found it harder to imagine that society could function without the ability to be in constant contact, than they did to imagine not having a stove or toilet. I guess this is to be expected, but it was still quite a strong signal about just how differently we communicate these days.

The students in my class are bringing home the materials for their Personal Projects for the first time today as well. They have already put in some great work, and now they are going to start planning in earnest. Their job for tonight is to write up a list of possible information sources, and plan their activities and goals for the first week. These will be modest goals, mostly about gathering information and planning their project as a whole.

Tomorrow is Career Dress-Up day, so I have encouraged students to dress up as their ideal profession. The school would prefer that students don't bring in large items like hockey sticks, and if your child want to grow up to be a Jedi (a noble goal) they should probably leave their light sabre at home. Also, I would prefer if any aspiring Jedi Knights refrain from using Force Push or Mind Control during instructional time.

Enough foolishness, please let me know if you have any quesions. May the force be with you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Becoming an Expert

Our new class projects, which we will be starting this week and continuing until Easter, have officially been christened "Becoming an Expert". Each student now has an exercise book, DuoTang and folder to keep things organized, and will be filling their DuoTang with organizational sheets to keep things in order. Today we had another good organizing discussion, and zapped some possible trouble spots. We looked at the students' options for presenting their topic in greater depth, and talked about how the project will be evaluated.
I will be using a Choice Board for this exercise, which is basically a way to organize choices in a way that keeps things organized, but allows for a degree of freedom in choosing the media a student wants to use. For example, they could choose one presentation style that appeals more to a visual learner (video, slide show, PowerPoint), but then would have to pick one that is focused on written word (timeline, history, informational text). Once they have satisfied a few different categories, the student can go back and pick another presentation type that appeals to their skills and interests. I will elaborate more on this later, and each student will have a copy of the Choice Board in their DuoTang.
I will also supply each student with an exhaustive marking rubric, and provide examples of what calibre of work will result in each possible grade (1-5) on the different elements of their project. I have already emphasized (and will continue to emphasize) that the important thing is that they remain organized and stay on schedule, and that their effort in the project be obvious to me. Again, more details later this week.

A few housekeeping notes:
  • We didn't get a chance to finish the last book reports today, but they will be taken care of tomorrow. If you would like to see a completed evaluation for your child's report, please let me know.
  • Tomorrow there is a food drive at school, so I would suggest students bring in some small non-perishable item if they are able to.
  • Thursday will be a Turn Off Technology day. We will make an effort to use the least amount of modern technology possible from 9:00am to 1:00pm.
  • Friday is Dress-Up Day! Students should dress up as "What I Want to be When I Grow Up". I plan to dress up as a pirate.
  • If you haven't checked in recently, there are a few links that were posted in the last 7 days that will help students work on their individual projects.
Have a great day, let me know if you have any questions!