Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yes We Can!

Today was another whirlwind, as we try to incorporate school-wide activities into our daily plans. We succeeded in moving forward with Math, and had a practice quiz. I am happy to say that all students did well, and I sent the test home with them. If they had any incorrect answers, this may indicate a good area to work on at home. We also finished the 1st drafts (in some cases 2nd) of our stories as well.

Student Council Elections are coming up next week, so we spent a period or so discussing democracy, representation, politics and the general roles and responsibilities of citizens. The concept is a fairly heavy one, but they generally embraced the idea. Especially in the context of classroom duties and importance of representation, the class was able to relate to problems they saw and what would be the best way to resolve them. This is a topic we will come back to frequently in subjects like Health, Religion and Social Studies.

Students interested in running as a classroom representative have been tasked with producing 2-3 paragraphs about why they think they would do a good job, and creating a POSITIVE ad campaign to convince their classmates of these virtues. I will use this heavily in class next week, as we move forward in Health and talk more about getting along, living in groups and healthy attitudes. I would encourage any interested students to create advertisements for their candidacy in whatever media they see fit. Videos, posters, speeches, songs etc. are all valid and interesting ways to go about this.

Our "class pet" habitat project is also drawing to a close, and has been very constructive. The students are very interested, and learning a lot in class and on their own time. Tonight I have asked them to consider the data we put together, so we can make a "decision" tomorrow. Starting next week, we will start a new project that will require them to make a habitat in a pop bottle. I will send home instructions about this tomorrow so that anyone who wishes to can get a head start.

I would ask all parents/guardians to get their Salmonier Nature Park permission slips and $11 in as soon as possible since the date is really sneaking up on us. I realize the cost is somewhat higher than usual, but have elected for this field trip rather than doing several others (ie. Fluvarium + Botanical Gardens +, +, +). We will be doing some lead up activities on Monday and Tuesday for this trip.

In Religion we read a story about compassion, framed around the parable of the Good Samaritan. The class was very responsive, and it meshed well with how we have been addressing the school's Positive Behaviour Support program. The discussion today centered around the idea of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and the concept that any person in need is deserving of our unconditional help and support. The class provided many examples, which was nice to see.

Today's link will take you to the Canadian National Library and Archives, which provides a wide variety of good sites for kids in French. It would be worth exploring, and can be seen in English as well.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Like sand through the hourglass...

I just lost the entire text of my post, so here goes again. We had a busy day, losing a fair amount of instructional time to some other activities. Gym was extended to an hour (outside) to accommodate a concert in the gym. We reviewed Math and Language Arts in the morning before gym, and shared responses to the questions that had been answered at home last night. To name a few, the students told each other about subjects such as Myra Bennett, pizza, Bey Blades, Billy Bishop, bat guano, cloud formations and Stella Burry. I will begin compiling these soon, to create a classroom book of resources.

We attended a concert in the gym, put off by a very experienced French-Canadian performer called Edouard. He involved the students in a variety of games, songs, lessons and dances that focused on a wide range of french themes, vocab, interest areas and concepts. The class loved it, and were very adept at recounting what they had saw and sharing their ideas on what had made it a good show. This, along with gym class, ate up our morning very quickly.

We watched a video in the afternoon, a mock weather report prepared by one of the students in class. During the event and aftermath of Igor, he took videos and put them together with the help of his parents. It was done in French and English, and was a huge hit with the rest of the class. It led into a great class discussion and we also had a short quiz on its content. I have kept a copy in class, and hope to use it as an example when we carry out similar projects throughout the year. I am planning on using video/computer/oral/drawn/written modes of communication interchangeably this year in an effort to appeal to the interests and talents of all in class. If your child is ever interested in doing something like this at home on their own time, by all means go ahead and let me know if you want/need any help getting it together.

We completed a 1st (in some cases 2nd) draft of our french stories, which are coming right along. I will use this writing to help plan our weekly homework, as it is giving me a great idea where individuals and the class as a whole are "at" in their language comprehension and exploration. On another topic, I also sent home a number of sheets for you to take a look at.

2 pertain to a field trip scheduled for next week; we would have let you know sooner, but there were issues securing transport in the wake of a certain large storm who shall remain nameless. Okay, it was Igor. Anyhow, if you have any questions or comments please let me know. I also sent home School Council nomination forms if anyone is interested.

Today's link is a great resource for information on Canadian plants, animals, culture, geography and history. As we begin to do more and more research and inquiry-based learning, it will be handy to maintain a list of useful sites such as these. This one is very user-friendly, as a fun site and as a resource.

Coming soon....

Today's main post will be coming a bit late because of a staff meeting. The Coles Notes version: we had 1 hour of gym, a concert, a fire drill and a short video. Lots of fun, lots of action, means lots of Math and Science tomorrow.

I'll post by 7pm.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A shot in the dark?

We had the immense pleasure of being visited by the School Nurse today, as well as an entourage of other Community Health workers. Students were given their needles, which generally went quite well. There were a few tears and a bit of anxiety, but in general it went just fine. There may be a few sore arms tonight, as I heard a bit of moaning today. I scheduled a lesson on Terry Fox immediately after the ordeal, which seemed to help put things in perspective.

I have sent home a letter outlining the expectations I have for an upcoming math test. Our test on Unit 1 (Chapter 2 in the book) will go ahead later on next week, so I wanted to be clear on the expectations. This letter is in their Yellow Math DuoTang, third from the back. It details everything they will need to know. We also reviewed how to write numbers in French, and practiced by writing cheques. There are 2 blank cheque templates in each child's DuoTang as well, which you can do with them if you would like to.

On today's date in the students' agendas, I stapled a list of questions to use as test review. These are not to be done immediately. I think that doing a few per night would be good, as a way of getting them used to answering questions independently. If they have issues translating questions, remembering techniques or finding an answer I would first encourage them to look at examples on the previous sheets in their DuoTang. Then, rather than making it a stressful situation, I would leave it be and write a note in their Agenda so I can review it with them in class.

In other news, we are moving ahead with our Class Pet research. Tomorrow we will use some reference books to do fill in some trouble areas, then begin putting the information together. The students are very engaged in this activity, and would likely be more than happy to tell you about it. Some have mentioned that they want to look up more things tonight, which I would always encourage.

On that topic, I've been really happy with the response to my "Personal Question" that I have been writing in students' Agendas. All students presented a part of their information to the class, something that I have really been trying to encourage. The more they are interested in exploring and finding out at this stage, the faster we will be able to move along and the more detail we will be able to go into. I have given each a question tonight as well; some are specific to their interests, and others are more general. Any document, pictures or lists they make in response to these questions will be great class resources and useful as an ongoing record in their portfolios.

We discussed toy etiquette today as well, since there have been a few arguments and general rudeness when playing with toys and games that get brought in. I restated that I don't mind games coming in, but people have to be respectful, careful and polite when playing with them. The class is generally all of these things, but it bears mentioning every now and then I think...

We began writing our stories today, using the template of 5 elements from yesterday (Character, Place, Time, Action, Theme). The students are going to write a story in French first, then a different story in English that uses the same parameters. I want to focus on the process and structure of good writing, something which will be served well by limiting the distractions that usually arise from trying to think up these 5 elements. The class will be starting group reading soon as well, in an effort to help promote critical literacy. For those unfamiliar, critical literacy refers to reading for content, understanding and posing questions rather than just focusing on the literal text.

In a final note, I gave about 40 minutes today to finish up any leftover work. This was quite fruitful, as most students are now up to speed. Some will have a bit of work to do at home or during lunchtime (their choice) over the next couple of days, but nothing overwhelming. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we are getting a lot of things accomplished and seem to be on schedule.

Today's link gives practice math tests. Not all questions will be 100% relevant, but I would impress on your child that getting them all right is not the crucial thing. They are more useful as a diagnostic tool, to give them ideas of what to work on. I would also suggest that you look through previous math-related posts for some of the other ideas, activities and games I posted (search "math")

Monday, September 27, 2010

Who's been caffeinating the children?

Having an energetic class is a double-edged sword, as I am finding out more and more each day. Today the students were humming like the air exchange unit at Value Village, which made it necessary to rein them in fairly often. On the flip side, it also meant that we were able to get an awful lot of work done. We had Choir, an optional book exchange, our first look at the new Social Studies text and an extended discussion about the relative merits of newts, not to mention a great deal of actual coursework!

We began touching on verb formation today, specifically the passé composé. This is a form that allows them to describe things they did in the past, and is something we use frequently when recounting stories, writing journal entries and conducting our "Saviez-Vous que..?" exercise. I won't worry too much about rote learning for the time being, but I am starting to correct them more as they go along. I am getting them to write and talk a lot during the day, which is helping me determine their comfort levels so I can move them along at the right speed.

In math we covered numbers up to and including 10,000. The class discussed what exactly 10,000 is, in relation to such variables as population, money and other relatable concepts. We discovered that $10,000 can by a Chevrolet Aveo, 1000 miniature hockey sticks, 20 XBoxes, 2000 blocks of cheese or even 200 LEGO kits if you were so inclined. We have 2 lessons left in this chapter, which will put our first test early next week. Tomorrow I will be assigning a set of review questions to be completed over the next week at your convenience, as well as some optional review questions. As I mentioned at curriculum night, I will also send home a rubric that outlines what students will be expected to know instead of a specific study guide.

The students also participated in an activity that had them brainstorm the elements of a story. They wrote ideas for characters, themes, settings, actions and time periods on slips of paper and picked them randomly to form a framework for a story. This caused some hilarity, and should be a good exercise for the rest of the week. Therefore, if your child comes home today talking about how Bob is visiting Pluto to play his DS in the year 2020 while eating chocolate cake, please do not worry about their sanity.

We discussed class pets again as well today, going into more detail about living requirements, logistics, specific habitat needs and limitations we face. The students were extremely engaged in this discussion, so much that I am altering my plans slightly to center this weeks activities around a research and presentation project. Students will evaluate the suitability of a wide array of animals in groups, then use what they find to help determine which (if any) would be the best fit for our class. Today, the discussion broadened to include stick insects, starfish, newts, plankton and spiders. Never a dull moment.

I have started incorporating technology more into the classroom, specifically giving research tasks and game/activity privileges to those who finish their work quickly. I will expand this in the next few weeks to get them more familiar with useful skills like editing documents and web pages, manipulating audio and video, and searching for/filtering information. Not only is this a major component of their required learning in our new curriculum documents, but it is a great way to engage the class and help them teach each other. This week's "Student of the week" will be using their spare time for the rest of the week to create their own entry for this blog! I hope to make this a recurring, more frequent feature.

A couple of housekeeping notes:
  • Check out the links from Friday and Sunday; you will find a number of resources that may be useful.
  • Vaccination time is coming up soon
  • There will be a permission slip going home in the next couple of days with regards to a field trip next week.
  • When time permits, I am going to write a question in each child's Agenda for them to try to answer. They can write or type the answer if they wish, or just remember it. I am targeting these questions at the individual student's area of interest, and would encourage you to help them out and push them to think about the answers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

More useful links for home support of French Immersion learning

Hope everyone is having a great weekend, and that the wrath of Igor hasn't left you scrambling too much. Coming off a shortened week, I have a busy slate for the class between now and Friday. We will be finishing up our first Science project, beginning French and English guided reading, finishing up our Numeracy unit in Math and delving into our Social Studies curriculum. I plan to put particular focus on French language and culture in Newfoundland for the first unit. This is something we have already discussed briefly in class, in a  lesson that really seemed to engage the students. I will refer heavily to resources and information found on the following site:

As we move into more intensive study of this year's French Language Arts curriculum, I want to draw your attention to a few more useful sites that may come in handy. As I have mentioned in past entries, ongoing reading, writing, viewing, listening and speaking is essential in an immersive language program. We are already starting to reap the rewards of increased student engagement in speaking only French in class, namely greater efficiency, better focus and increased student engagement.

The first site links to the Games section of the Radio Canada (Francophone CBC) site. It has a lot of fun games that your child can play, allowing them to have fun in a passive French environment.

The next site is maintained by the School District in Delta, B.C. it links to a number of game and activity pages that students will enjoy. Encourage them to explore the site, and figure out which sites they like more and why.

This is a commercial site that offers FSL learning resources.

A final site I wanted to show you is also maintained by the School District in Delta, B.C. It provides a number of good general ideas and strategies to support French Immersion studies at home. Whether you are dealing with a weekly spelling test, your own trouble understanding the language or issues with keeping your child on track, this site has many good ideas to help.

Hope these are useful. As always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions feel free to contact me at by email or send a note in. Enjoy the last of the weekend!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Going Once, Going Twice...

Gone! We had our first auction today with our "French Money", which was a fairly resounding success. Everyone who wanted to get something did, and others bankrolled their money for the next auction 2 weeks from now. It was a great lesson in problem solving, basic math and French as we worked our way through prizes. Some overpaid, others waited it out and got a great deal, and everyone had a good laugh.

After the auction, we had a very constructive discussion about the value (real and figurative) of speaking a second language. We talked about the immediate returns we were seeing in class, such as the money they were making, the time we are saving, the activities we are able to do, and the priveleges I am giving. We also spoke about the larger ramifications, including wider employment opportunities, travel and making friends.

Today we also gave out new jobs for next week, named a new "Etudiant de la Semaine" and created a drawing that summed up what students had learned and enjoyed during the week. Safe to say, there were a lot of hurricanes involved. I also showed the class the games I posted on this blog yesterday, and left them going for students who finished early. This was a big hit, especially the manatee featured in the "Create a Habitat" game.

We also discussed homework at length, trying to figure out what issues we were having and how best to correct them. I sent home a letter outlining what we discussed, and would welcome your feedback. The general idea was that students are responsible for knowing what they have to do, and to ask for clarification if they do not.

I also provided abundant details on what to do if you aren't sure about something at home, and talked about the idea of setting priorities. For example, if the exercise is to answer a question about a passage we read in class, it is more important to get your ideas down than to spend half an hour looking up words on Google Translator. As you can see below, the results are not always ideal.

On that note, I would prefer that students guess at a word or look it up in an online or paper dictionary than use a translator. The results are often wrong or out of context when using the latter method, and it tends to undermine the intent of immersive language learning. I would suggest using a translator if you are trying to understand something your child has brought home, but only to get a general idea. In the end of things, your child is the expert.

We discussed class pets today, much as we have every day so far. I floated the idea of getting a class fish (sorry for the terrible pun), which was met with a great response. However, we spent the next 10 minutes discussing it in Science class, in the context of habitat requirements, personal responsibility and other less exciting elements of pet ownership. Before long we had a list of more than a dozen issues we would have to reconcile, something we will begin to talk about next week using what we have learned about Scientific Discourse.

Today's link is just for fun! In all the talk about class pets I remembered a very funny Minute Maid commercial.

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and don't hesitate to be in touch if you or your child have any questions about homework, fish, juggling, hurricanes, base 10 blocks, jump ropes, fake money or any other issues.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The day so nice, I posted twice

I was wandering the Internet this afternoon in search of resources, and found a fun game that ties in really well to our habitats unit. Don't worry too much about small details, just let your child play and enjoy it if you think it is something they would enjoy.

This is also a great site that I hauled up from my Internship Archive, relating to Food Chain concepts.

Both of the links are English, but I see no need to discriminate if resources are this fun and useful! Also, it helps become familiar with concepts without worrying too much about vocabulary.

Please don't forget to vote in the new survey on the right hand side of the blog (you can vote for more than 1!)

Talk to you soon!

Why did this week have 2 Mondays?

After an eventful couple of days off, we went straight back to work today. The first order of business was to let the class vent about Igor, the infamous "Tropical Depression". More than a few classmates seemed to be going through their own tropical depressions, but an equal number were bouncing off the ceiling with excitement about what they had seen, heard and done during the storm.

It was a great chance to explore ideas we are currently looking at in a variety of subjects, namely Habitats (Science), Community (Social Studies), Numbers (rainfall, wind, etc. in Math) and Emotions (Health). A couple of students even spontaneously wrote a paragraph or two about what they thought of the whole ordeal. These paragraphs are now adorning the area behind my desk, and will be sent home by the end of next week after I get a chance to photocopy them.

Later in Science, we used a tree seedling that a student had brought in to talk in more details about the components of a Habitat. we made a big drawing on the board, then each student made their own. Again, I was blown away by the terminology, relationships, information and vocabulary they were able to contribute. I don't remember understanding photosynthesis that well as an 8-year-old. We will continue this exercise later, in more detail.

In math we are clipping right along. We got through another worksheet (not my preference, but a good way to evaluate), and they had a chance to use the Base 10 blocks and play a dice game. I'm happy to say this lesson went quite smoothly, to the point that I had some of them explaining ideas and concepts to the class and to their friends.

We have started a DuoTang for Science and Health as well, each of which now contains a variety of sheets that will act as reflective activities. The students will have ample time to learn, discuss and complete these sheets, so if they have to finish a sheet at home it means they perhaps weren't working their hardest when they needed to do so.

We started Religion in earnest today. I had been integrating the initial Curriculum Outcomes into Health and Language Arts thus far, with the intention of giving them some context before we jump right in. The book this year is called En Route, and focuses on the experiences of a boy named Daniel from St. Anthony. We had a great discussion to start with, where the students reflected on what Religion was, and what parts of it were important to them. I was happy about how much they were willing to share about their own beliefs and morals, as well as what they knew about others.
The focus of the Grade 4 Religion curriculum is on exploring the nature of belief in a personal context, as well as studying a number of world religions. My focus in instructing Religion, never a straightforward topic, is to spend time talking about what values people share and how we can be different as well. Individual religions will be studied in context, as will belief systems that do not center around a Judeo-Christian ideal. As with all other topics we are dealing with, I will be stressing the importance of inclusion, equality and compassion above all else. I will use relevant current events to draw attention to these, and frequently ask students to reflect on their personal history and have discussions with their parents, grand-parents and members of their community.

Beside a little bit of bickering, the $$$ incentive program seems to be doing well. The class is speaking at least 90% French during class time, and even starting to speak it during Recess and Lunch. They (as a class) have almost filled a container with Language-Reward tokens, which means a class surprise before long.

A few housekeeping notes:
  • I have extended the deadline for the Scholastic book orders until Monday. Thanks to all those who have gotten them in so far on such short notice.
  • I will also be sending home an outline of the first chapters in Math, Science, Language Arts, French and Health for evaluation purposes, if not tomorrow then on Monday.
  • Buddy Reading starts in a week. We will be reading to the Kindergarten children in Ms. Barela's class.
  • I have been told by students that they are required to bring in a bag to hold their recorders and recorder books.
  • When students leave class with a family member at the end of the day, please make sure they have told me they are doing so! Last week, I was beginning to suspect we were falling victim to alien abductions.
Hope everyone weathered the storm well. I will post a couple of new links tomorrow. As always, please to not hesitate to contact me at if you have any questions.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's pronounced "Eye-gore"!!!

Igor has landed! There will be no class Tuesday morning (and possibly Tuesday afernoon), so I had a couple of ideas that might be useful. Since there was such interest in the hurricane phenomenon, I would encourage you to talk with your child about the nature of weather and how it affects our lives, work and environment, especially in Newfoundland.

We also have a daily feature in class called "Saviez-vous que?", which means "Did you know?". It is a time where students can quickly share a relevant fact, personal anecdote or event, or news item with the class. I also ask students to question their classmates on what they have said, to gain more insight into why it is important, where the information came from, and how they can apply it to what they are learning. Wednesday morning/afternoon could be a great chance to share some piece of family, news or community information that they can tell the class.

Hope the kids enjoy the time off!

Show Me The Money!!!

Well, Day 1 of the grand money experiment has come to a close. Students were allowed to request (politely) Monopoly Money from their friends if they spoke English in conversation with them. While it proved to be somewhat distracting for a few students, they net effect was remarkable. With the allowable exception of Recess and Lunch, students spoke almost exclusively French. It was like I had flicked a switch! I am very proud of what they were able to do, and reassured that we will make huge leaps and bounds this year.

After our Grade-level meeting today, I can confirm that starting next month students will be expected to produce one Book Report per month. These will alternate between English and French, or can be French every time if the student wants to. There will be a wide array of media and formats that the reports can follow, something I will outline later.

We are coming along well in math; I focused more on the practical, tactile side of things today as we worked on terminology, spelling and the use of Base 10 Blocks. I will be sending home a vocab sheet and some practice work before long, because our first test will take place in a few weeks. As I mentioned at Curriculum Night, I will provide exhaustive rubrics and specific expectations for all graded work.

Our first "Etudiante de la Semaine" presented today, and besides being a very engaging, complete presentation it gave ample opportunity to discuss the elements I mentioned in my last post. We talked about strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and more in an effort to begin examining more involved vocabulary and conjugation related to emotions and dispositions.

The class was quite preoccupied with Hurricane Igor today, so we took the opportunity to look at live satellite weather maps and discuss the path, origins, naming practices and severity of hurricanes. I will reiterate here that I am incredibly happy and lucky to have such an engaged class! We found out that Hurricanes were originally named after Presidents (circa 1896), then Presidents' wives, then Women, then Men, then Women, then Men and Women.

We will be starting our first real analysis work in French and English Language Arts this week, in an effort to help students look more critically at what they are reading. The focus will be on pushing their boundaries, asking questions and developing a greater curiosity about the world around them and the printed word.

In Science, we have elected to do one or several of the following to represent the data we gathered about the habitat on the lawn of BCE. The first idea is to create a simple board game, the other would be to create a video, and the third to create and bind a simple book. The first thing to do is combine and analyze the data (graphing), but everyone seems fairly interested in the process.

Since we haven't had a chance to analyze Art much in the last couple of days, I am attaching a site that helps explain a lot of the things we are talking about in class. They are arranged as Powerpoint Presentations, and there are also some games and reviews.

If you are looking for review or additional activities for French vocabulary, I would suggest exploring QUIA. This is a Quiz/Review/Game website that is linked to the right of my blog.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Getting a hang of this whole "Friday" thing.

Today there was briefly a puppy outside the school, a student asked me what I would think if I had 14 puppies in class instead of 14 students (aged 8-9, I might add). I had to stop for a second and consider the options. In one case, I would have to deal with them making a mess on the floor, whining, attacking each other and refusing to do what they were told. In the other scenario.... I would have pupppies!  I kid, of course. Today was a great day, as we were finally able to carry out a larger-scale project by going outside to gather data for our Habitats project. This was thoroughly enjoyed, and carried us through until Recess.

We spent a lot more time on Math, something that has been causing minor issues. I'm focusing on the relation between place values to start with, before I move on to manipulating them. I think in doing so I will build a better understanding of the concepts, even if it takes a little while longer to do so. There are a number of games and extended activities for students to complete when they have finished, and 1 student decided to take his home to finish rather than doing it on Monday.

We gave out new jobs for next week and I also named my first "Etudiant de la Semaine", which means "Student of the Week". In keeping with the behaviour and socialization philosophies used by Beachy Cove Elementary, I will isolate one or more admirable character trait and name a Student of the Week who has shown it. This week it was Friendliness and Positivity. The student who was chosen will gain some special priveleges next week, and also have a chance to tell us more about themselves as the week goes on.

Prefecting duties have been further clarified as well; they have an orientation session on Monday at 11:45.

We also discussed the situation we will be in next week, when they will be allowed to start asking each other for money when they speak English during class. For Monday and Tuesday, we will not be including Recess and Lunch in this regime. We discussed how the intent wasn't to punish, but to reward those who were making an effort. We also talked about reasons why it was useful to speak French, and how using it in conversation was WAAAYYY more fun than listening to me speak French all day.

We also read a comic strip in our French books today. It was about Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space. The format really seemed to keep them engaged more than others have to this point, and I was able to get a lot of reading observation accomplished. After the fact, I showed them a video of her launch in 1992, which I think helped contextualize it a bit. It is funny to think that this event, which I remember as a 9 year-old, is now ancient history to them....

Sorry to drag on, but no shortage of excitement today. Thanks again to all who came the other night, and talk to you soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Live from Beachy Cove, It's Curriculum Night Live!

It was great to see so many of you here tonight, and nice to have a chance to fill you in on what we're up to. For those of you who couldn't make it, most of the material is covered in a handout that your child will bring home. For those of you who attended, I hope I didn't talk too fast or say anything too foolish.

Today was a lot of fun, as we worked on the 1st draft of letters in Language Arts and finished up some Math work from yesterday. Good to see that so many students are writing in their Reading Journals, as well! I requested that students also take out an English-language novel, which they are also welcome to write about in part or in full.

We had an attack of the plague, as several students were out due to illness. All's well that ends well it seems, since most will be back tomorrow. I always appreciate being contacted whenever your child will be out of class; it really helps me plan and make sure your child doesn't miss much work.

Just a reminder as well, we will be conducting a science experiment tomorrow that involves going outside. Please make sure that your child is dressed appropriately!

On the previous note, I did want to reiterate my stance on homework. I want work that is done at home or in class to be a positive experience, done to facilitate future fun and learning rather than as punishement. For example, rather than addressing it as "Do it or M. Paterson will be mad", I think using language like "If you don't get it done, the class won't be able to move along" or "You need to finish this, or you might miss things tomorrow" will work better in the scheme of things. Most of the students seem to have a fairly healthy attitude about work, so I'm not that worried.

No link for tonight, because I think I can hear my dog barking from here. Please contact me if you have any questions, as always.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Midweek Mayhem!

Despite having gym and music today, the class was pretty energetic all day. We had to have a few discussions about classroom behaviour and the repercussions of our actions on others (although nothing too serious), which was a good way to tie into the personal identity and self-esteem issues we have been addressing in Health. Lots more money was doled out for speaking French, and the class was informed that, starting next week, they will be allowed to get money from their friends if they hear them speaking English.

Our guidance councillor came in and outlined the duties and joys of being a prefect; something that a lot of students are looking forward to. She has requested that students nominate each other tomorrow, and we will vote to appoint 7 prefects. Their duties will be to supervise younger grades 2 times per 7 day cycle. There was some anxiety about being nominated and having to vote, but I think it will be a great way to explore some ideas of civil society and active democracy.

We had much more success with Place Value in Math today, and started doing some sheets in a new Math duotang. 2 students who had played the Place Value game I posted online the other day showed the class how it was done, so hopefully it will be a resource the students will enjoy.

We also "dissected" another painting in class, focusing on the use of colour. I was impressed once again to see how interested they were and how they were able to put the art in context and draw some meaning. Then, they had an opportunity to create a picture using line and colour in their Scrapbooks. This was quite a hit, resulting in some very interesting work.

I have started using a sticker system to monitor how/if work is done in class. A small red dot on the corner of your page means that it is not done, and must be completed ASAP. A yellow dot means that there are things that need to be fixed or completed, but not at the expense of other work. A green dot means.... you guessed it... you can go ahead to the next thing you need to do.

Today's link is reflective of a science experiment we will be doing on Friday. We will be going outside to sample a habitat; more specifically, the grass and organisms encircled by a hula hoop we will put on the school lawn. The idea is to gather, organize and present data, something we have already addressed a few other times.

This site contains a number of fun science project lesson plans, and outlines the general "Questioning - Hypothesis - Testing - Observing - Concluding - Communicating" framework that we will be using.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday... Aaaaafternoon....

Sorry for the Moody Blues reference in the Title, I couldn't resist. We had another successful day, with a few new wrinkles to deal with. The students had no Gym or Music, which really stretches the day out for them. We did a full morning routine in which I checked Reading Journals and Agendas, got them to get new library books, and outlined what would be happening during the day. I also tightened up on speaking English a bit more, something I am doing incrementally each day. Self-discipline is also becoming a bit more of an issue as the initial buzz of being back to school wears off, but I think we are managing it quite well.

A few parents had questions about the "Journal de lecture", which is their Reading Journal. All I am asking for (for now) is that students read at least 15 minutes of French a night in whatever form they enjoy. This could be a website, magazine, etc. or more likely it will be a book from class. They are to write the date an the name of what they read on one line, then a sentence or two reflecting on what they read. This can be a personal reflection, literary observation, or just an opinion. The important thing right now is to challenge them to think a bit and not to alienate them from the process.

We are currently lacking Social Studies texts (which are printed and on the way) so I began to explore some ideas with them via their French class. The main idea of this year's new Social Studies curriculum is Exploration, which covers a wide range of themes, places, people, things and ideas.

In the context of Social Studies/French, we talked about the idea of being "From Somewhere" and what this implies. I appreciate the fact that children at this age are so eager to discuss the things they use to identify themselves, and how accepting others are. We discussed the presence of French language and culture around the world, and reflected on the roots, current state and future of French in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We had our first formal Math lesson today, which seemed to either cause great joy or anxiety. We took a look at place value and what the relationship is between 1's, 10's, 100's and 1000's. The activity was quite challenging, for example asking for an alternate representation of "70 groups of 100". The answer they were looking for was "7 groups of 1000" or 700 groups of 10". This is an a very specific concept, and I had to come at it from a few different angles.

Today's link has a digitally manipulative form of the well-known Base 10 blocks we use in class. If a student is having any issues with Math questions they may bring home, please use this site to help practice. I will warn you that it has a persistent, annoying bongo soundtrack.

Not all students finished the work but I elected not to send it home, because those who had incomplete work were generally those who could use some more in-class support. If your child has any concern about the lesson or not getting the page done, please assure them that we will work on it further. I also have some enrichment activities on the subject for those who finished up on time.

Goooodbyyyee, Ruby Tuesday!!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday #1!

We had a great day today, a real whirlwind of activity as we get into the meat of this year's curriculum. We had our first formal art exercise, discussing the basics of form and using dry-erase markers to dissect the line and shape elements of Paul-Emile Borduas' L'Etoile Noire. I was very impressed by their interest and engagement in the activity, and their willingness to deal with what is (admittedly) very abstract, context-driven art.

We expanded this discussion into our Health topic, which is self-esteem and self-image. This was a fascinating discussion as well, and one that we will be returning to often.
Thank you to those who helped the students copy their recipes; this is an activity we will do later in the week. By the looks of it, I might have to start dipping into their lunches (kidding, of course).

In today's Language Arts class, I read aloud from a great book called Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. It is written as a narrative poem, and focuses on a boy who doesn't want to write poetry and who also harbours some sadness about an old dog he had. Throughout the novel he begins to engage in writing and we find out more and more about why he is so reluctant. Again, the subsequent class discussion was very interesting and they were more than eager to Journal about their thoughts.

We have begun to implement the Monopoly Money reward system, to much excitement. Periodically, they will be able to buy things with their accumulated cash. Starting next week, they will begin to monitor each other and will be able to accumulate more money as they "catch" their friends speaking English during class.
I would also remind everyone about Curriculum Night, which takes place this Thursday at 7pm. I will provide a lot of information about what we are doing and will be doing, and it will be a great chance to see what the class has been up to.

On another note, we did a fun Science Experiment today after we brainstormed about Habitats, our first theme unit. The experiment involved a Hair Dryer, and I would encourage you to ask your child about what happened. We also began our Math unit on Numeracy, which focuses on place value, number relationships and other basic ongoing concerns.

Today's link relates to the Self-Esteem element of our Health unit. It gives a number of ideas about activities you can do at home to build Self-Esteem and enhance their self-image.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Some ideas for supporting Math learning at home

I wanted to post this, just a a precursor to the work we are going to be doing with numeracy in the first unit this year. It is a number of ideas that someone forwarded me about helping kids with number awareness at home; often doing these type of activities in your daily routine can be more useful than piles of homework!Hope some of it is useful.

Everyday situations:

• Weighing, measuring capacity and timing when cooking. Converting a recipe for 4 people to one for 6 people.

• Being involved with measuring and calculating how much curtain fabric is needed, how much wood for shelves, how many wall or floor tiles are needed, how much carpet etc.

• Talking about time, e.g. How long is it until lunch time? The journey takes 2½ hours, when will we arrive? We need to be there at 2.00 pm, when do we need to leave home? Many children will still need practice with reading clock times, particularly minutes past and minutes to the hour.

• Handling amounts of money when shopping, working out total costs, working out change, checking receipts. Working out prices of sale items, e.g. 20% off. Managing pocket money and saving for things.

• Working out distances and directions from maps.

• Discussing and comparing house prices from newspaper house sales pages.

• Working out how much gas will be used on a journey, working out average speed for a trip, costing holidays, etc.

Play activities/games:

• Card games such as cribbage, etc.

• Any games involving calculating scores, e.g. scrabble, darts, bowling.

• Beat the calculator. In pairs, one with a calculator, one without, each works out the answer to a calculation aiming for the one without the calculator to say the answer first.

• Games involving strategic thinking/logic, e.g. checkers, chess, mastermind.

Mental activities:

• Practising and developing knowledge of addition and subtraction facts within 20 (7+8, 13-5 etc.) and multiplication and division facts to 10 x 10 (6x7, 35/5 etc.) Make it into a game if possible, e.g. have a set of cards numbered 1-10, pick a number such as 4, say 4 times the number on the card as each is turned over, keep all the cards you get right. Beat the calculator as above. On a journey, adult passenger times response, try to beat your own time.

• Ask ‘progressive’ calculations, e.g. 7 + 6, 17 + 6, 27 + 6, 47 + 6, 147 + 6; 5 x 2, 50 x 2, 500 x 2, 500 x 20.

• Working out 2-digit additions and subtractions, multiplying and dividing 2-digit numbers by 1 digit numbers mentally. Talk about how to make it easier, e.g. for 28 + 15, call it 30 add 13 and that’s easy; for 16 x 4, double 16, then double 32.

• Open- ended activities, e.g. The answer’s 25, what’s the question? How can you use combinations of 3 and 6 to make different numbers? (Use each number as many times as you like with addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.)

Bonjour vendredi!

And just like that, we're 1 week down. We had another great day today, and took more time to explore our classroom and this year's curriculum in further detail. We looked through the texts we will be using in Science, completed an Interview Your Friend activity (which is posted outside the classroom door) and the students brought me up to speed on what they had done in Grade 3 with a very exhaustive journal entry.
We did our first silent reading activity today, after which I had them come to me and do a brief retelling of story as I thumbed through the book to cue them. I was impressed by their reading levels, which really opens up a lot of opportunities in terms of resources they will be able to take advantage of.
I have asked the students to read over the weekend as usual, and also to bring in a family recipe on Monday (just the paper instructions, not the food!). In accordance with the increasing focus the Department of Education is putting on diverse forms of literacy, we will be using it to look at different parts of communication and speech. We will also look at them as being representative of oral and written cultural tradition, and I would like them to write it out themselves.

We will be starting truly Immersive French on Monday, of which all the students have been informed. I believe this is truly essential for complete language learning, and I have no doubt that they will get into the swing of things quite quickly. Also, for those who did not already have one, I gave each student a large Ziploc bag to transport their Agenda, books, duotangs, etc. back and forth to school in.

Have a great weekend, and see you all at Curriculum Night this coming Thursday (7pm, room 110)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Moving right along!

I'm happy to say we had another great day today; we delved into Science, Health, French and English Language Arts with some good general discussions. We conducted some simple Science experiments as a way of exploring "What Science Is", and they conducted interviews with a classmate.

In Science, we focused on methods of questioning. I am encouraging them to approach their projects with an eye to the "big picture", and keep their questioning open. By this, I mean that rather than asking a question with a specific, narrow answer they should try to ask and answer broad questions that cut to the heart of what they would like to know. I would encourage you to do the same, as many of their projects and units will be structured as such.
In English Language Arts, we focused specifically on what genres they prefer and I had them describe some characteristics of literature they enjoy. We started a Language Arts journal that I will send home for you to take a look at periodically. I have sent home the schedule for September, which contains as much information as I have at the moment. If I get a lot of new information, I will send home another.

My link for the day concerns writing, and provides some useful guidelines for helping your child with writing projects as they come up this year. It gives general ideas, not rules, but can act as a helpful guide for encouraging writing of different types and developing higher-level skills. It is a rubric that someone else has created, and doesn't correspond exactly to the templates I will be using, but you might find it useful nonetheless. Rest assured that I will always provide the class with an evaluation rubric for "serious" work that they will be formally evaluated on.

One last note is that I have introduced a token system for good class behaviour and speaking French. They pool the tokens they receive through this system, and will receive a group prize when they fill a container.

Talk to you soon!

Desks, Dictionaries and Dice

I am happy to say I have been able to free up more space in the class (didn't think it was possible!), which hasn't gone unnoticed. We also gave out class jobs today for the first time, which will be done weekly from now on.
I will also have a schedule drafted tomorrow that I will send home. I can tell you now that the class will have Music on Friday and Gym on Monday
I will be having each student maintain a personal dictionary that will be made up of words they ask me to translate in class. I will write it on a sticky note (or have them look it up if time permits), after which they will be asked to transcribe it into a designated pink half-notebook.
I have been/will be using dice a lot early in the year, as a numeracy tool and to give ideas of fractions, proportions, chance, etc. Here is a link that outlines some games you can play at home to help build numerical awareness.

If anyone still has forms left to come in to me, please try to get them in as soon as possible.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thoughts after the first day

I'm happy to say we had a lot of fun on our first day! A few tears, lots of questions, too much paperwork and the usual array of first-day jitters and mixups. You will find a letter in your child's bookbag clarifying the new traffic laws at Beachy Cove Elementary, which should help clarify any issues we had today. As I mentioned in my previous post, there are also number of other forms and one piece of writing that I would like you to sign/complete and send back tomorrow.

For the rest of the week we will focus on introducing the major elements of this year's curriculum and doing some fun activities to get everyone in the mood for learning. I hope to do a few simple science experiments, math games and read-alouds to this end.

I have embedded a link to the Canadian Parents for French website. It has a huge amount of great resources and is something I use constantly as a reference.

Hope everyone sleeps well tonight, and talk to you soon. Feel free to leave comments if you have any questions or ideas, and I can always be reached at


Sam "Monsieur" Paterson

We made it to lunchtime!

It was great to meet some parents and all the kids this morning, and we're having a great time so far. We've done a few familiarity exercises, gone over things like rules and protocol in class, and learned a new math game.

I have also sent home a number of sheets to sign/complete and return, ranging from volunteer applications to emergency contacts. Each student borrowed a book or two from our class library, which they can keep for up to a week. If you are ever wondering which book they have out, we have a log in class of who has taken what.

A lot of the students have told me that they read at home, which is great. It is a great idea (as I'm sure you all know) to read with them as much as possible and encourage them to read their French books as well.
Throughout the course of the week, we will be developing a manual that will outline the rules, expectations, routines and other protocol we are working through right now. My hope is that they will use it as a reference and take ownership of our class.

I went a bit easy on speaking exclusively French today, since there is always a lag after summer. However, we will be bringing in a positive-reinforcement token system of some sort in the next couple of days. 


Sam Paterson

Friday, September 3, 2010

The usefulness of Curriculum Guides

On the right hand side of this page, I have listed the links for the relevant Grade 4 Curriculum Guides. These guides are used as a rough idea of what should be covered in the school year.

For your purposes, many useful ideas can be found in the guides. On occasion, I will draw your attention to specific elements of these guides as a way to support what is being learned in this class. It also bears mentioning that some of these online versions of the guides are obsolete and should be taken with a grain of salt.