Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back from the Wilderness

Well, between my conference in Moncton and yesterday's PD closeout, it has been 5 days since I was in classroom. The time spent away was very productive, and it sounds as though there was a lot of good work and play done while I was gone. It was back to the grind today, with a lot of new ideas in my head and things on the roster.

We began our Drama in Education program today in earnest. It centers around casting the class as unemployed farmers from France in 1595. I play the role of a ship captain (M. Leonard Leblanc) who has asked them to accompany me to Newfoundland. They will have a vast array of jobs to do in order to prepare for, make decisions about, and execute the voyage successfully. The outcomes we are addressing range from a variety of Social Studies "Exploration" outcomes to many others from Science (habitats), Math (calculation, mapping, graphing), Art (graphic rendering, maps) and of course French.

The class had a great time with it today, despite some struggles and frustration when it came to making decisions and agreeing on final ideas. However, observing them as they deal with information and explore new ideas is an invaluable source of authentic evaluation and gives a great idea of how interested, involved and informed they are. Many of our more reclusive classmates blossomed greatly in these conditions, while others took initiative and used their skills to the group's great advantage. For tonight, I have given each student a question that I would like them to answer in brief (or long) form on a piece of paper and bring in tomorrow.

We did review in math, and played some hands-on multiplication games. I plan to use these throughout the year, as a way of getting "the facts" into their heads. If there were a surgical means to do so, I certainly would; however, I understand this is both illegal and impossible. I am quite pleased with their skills however, and also their willingness to help others. To that end, I am starting to have them rely more and more on their classmates to help them check work and find solutions; this allows me time to focus on problem areas, and allows those who have finished their work to "re-teach". This is widely regarded as a very constructive way of cementing ideas and concepts.

Also in math, we spend 1/2 an hour rearranging the desks in class. I incorporated a number of pattern, estimation, multiplication and problem solving techniques, as we tried to discover the best way to fit the desks into the classroom. As with the Social Studies program, they are embracing chances to discuss and problem-solve more and more.

We will be doing our last habitat observation tomorrow in Science, complete with things that crawl, squirm and swim. I expect this will be quite exciting, and will do my best to make sure that "Picture Day" clothing does not get soiled. I will also veto any requests to pose with insects, fish or any non-arthropod invertebrates they may come across.

I consulted with students briefly about book reports, and it seems like they are coming along well. Students will have plenty of time tomorrow to think of ideas, expand on their written summaries and make final decisions on how they will execute their presentations. I know the presentations are well underway in many cases, which is great to hear. Final presentations will be on the 1st and 2nd of November. Below, please find a link to a fun site where they can practice putting together the "ingredients" for a tasty book report.


Other general notes:
  • The artwork outside the classroom door has been refreshed; you can now view a variety of intriguing, artistic and often ferocious Food Chains outside our door.
  • Picture Day is tomorrow, unless there is a further backlog in the Grade 2 population. On that note, please ask your child to explain to you where the word "backlog" comes from.
  • Tonight is Parent Night at the Book Fair. Also, there was a delay on our first book order because my account was still being set up. It should be here before too long.
  • Our Monopoly Money Auction was a success again; thanks to parents who sent in Dollar Store items to auction.
  • Students will be presenting the Final Copies of their stories on Thursday, in our first readers' theatre.
Hope you all had a good long weekend, and talk to you tomorrow. If you have any questions about anything, please let me know (or come and say hi at the Book Fair tonight). Here is a link to some good activities to help students with multiplication facts. I would recommend reviewing them frequently, and push your child to use patterns, multiplication and memorization to help make multiplication more and more automatic. (I particularly enjoy the pumpkin game)


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