Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Addition

Click to feed our new fish, or watch them follow the cursor!

...but the fire is so delightful.

Just a quick post today, I had some snow-related running around to get done. We had another whirlwind day, moving forward in some key areas. To sum up:

  1. I gave out math review sheets for this chapter (patterns) that can be completed in the same fashion as previous chapters. I have finished evaluating the math DuoTangs, and will bring them in tomorrow to put these sheets into.
  2. We finished Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing today, and I sent home their worksheets to get signed. Each has a detailed evaluation rubric attached, and should be returned (signed) tomorrow.
  3. Book reports are coming along well, and we have started writing a new process piece in French. This means brainstorming, pre-writing, drafting, editing, etc. 
  4. We are moving along quickly through the digestive system (no pun intended) with the intention of working on a big project that will encompass all we are learning.
  5. Music classes will not be going ahead as scheduled as we are leading up to Christmas Concerts, so I will be conducting some music activities in class. I welcome any suggestions from students or parents about activities that would be fun. I also would encourage any student to organize to bring in an instrument they play or a piece of music they enjoy.
I have finished compiling the corrected rubrics from November's book reports, and will give them out tomorrow to any students who had requested them. Also, I have put together a list of all the useful websites I have posted in the last couple months. If you would like a copy of this list, please email me. 

Sorry for the brevity of this post, I promise I will pick it up tomorrow! A final note; please send in completed School Council surveys tomorrow as well. If this is the first you've heard of the survey, please check your child's agenda.

A fun site for parents and kids alike.

I just came across this site, and wanted to share it right away. It has plenty of its own activities, games and diversions in French and English, targeted at kids as well as parents who want to improve their French. I will make it a permanent link in the right sidebar as well.



Monday, November 29, 2010

Poor old Dribble, and other news.

Day 1 is generally a very productive day in our class, since we do not have Gym or Music. Provided we stay active enough to avoid the inevitable Cabin Fever that ensues, we usually get a lot done and have a chance to focus on our work for a longer period of time. Today we focused heavily on math, language arts and french in an effort to kick-start some new projects and bring others to a close.

We saw the last of the November book reports today, both very well done. I also met with most students to get the name of their next book and make a plan for their project. I have asked any students that did not finalize a plan today to come back tomorrow with their book and an idea of what they would like to do. Some students also said they want to finish reading their book before they make a final decision, which I highly encourage.

The 200-word synopsis that each student must write before starting their project is due next Thursday, but many have already begun. I have asked students to meet with me before moving past this stage, to make sure that we address any challenges they are facing. This meeting will also help make sure the type of project they have chosen is appropriate for the book, and allow us to set some goals.

We finished reading Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing today, and will continue doing some closing activities throughout the week. Students really liked the book, and it offered an opportunity to analyze many of the story-writing and reviewing techniques that we are trying to build this year. I hope to see many of these skills in their book reports and process writing that we are working on before Christmas.

We continue to work on patterns in class, which students really seem to be enjoying. I think this might mean it's time to launch some problem-solving work that can be done in spare time and at home, perhaps on a weekly basis. I will investigate this idea further tonight, and update further in the upcoming days.

A few notes:
  • Students brought home a survey from our School Council today. They are gathering information to support an anticipated proposal to establish an intermediate school in the area, so I appreciate you completing and returning it.
  • I am finalizing a new daily class schedule that will go home soon.
  • Scholastic should be here before long (I think both orders are being sent together).
  • Please continue the Count your Blessings activity as outlined on our school's homepage
  • If you haven't already, please take the time to go watch the preliminary videos of our diorama that Mr. Dawe posted under Videos and Podcasts on the Beachy Cove homepage. The full, edited version narrated by students is coming along well.
Have a great week, and speak with you soon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More updates on the Beachy Cove Elementary Homepage

Mr. Dawe has added a couple more videos, with a few edits still to come. His clips give a good overview of what we did in class, and features many of our classmates.

The link is


The fully edited, student-narrated video will be available by the end of the week if all goes well with the rest of the activity.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Saturday afternoon update

Our principal Mr. Dawe has posted a couple videos he shot of our diorama with explanations by some students. They were pretty excited, and I'm glad Mr. Dawe posted them. You can access these videos later today by following the "Videos and Podcasts" link on the school (www.beachycove.ca) homepage.

A blustery Saturday morning in St. Philip's

As promised, here is a bit more info on what we have to look forward to in the upcoming weeks. There will no doubt be time lost to Christmas Shenanigans (concerts, activities, etc.) over the next while, but I have some high hopes about what we might be able to get done in the meantime. Book Reports, Reading Journals, Words of The Week and Math Review will continue as usual, and we will be moving into a few new projects as well.

I hope to do a fun project in the next couple of weeks, that will have students going on a Scavenger Hunt in the Library, Computer Lab, classroom, and a few websites. I think that a next step for many students is to hone their research and communication skills, and I think this would be a good way to do it. I will also be sending home more questions in their Journal de Questions over the next couple of weeks for the same reason.

We spoke as a class on Friday about ways we can continue to improve the experience in our classroom. I let them know that I was very happy with how things are coming along, but also that I think individual students have to be more accountable for their own behaviour. As in any classroom, we tend to lose time when transitioning between activities, getting ready for class, or due to interruptions. I can see students getting frustrated when this happens, and many students voiced this opinion on Friday.

I think it was a very constructive conversation, and I will keep you up to date on how it is going. The class is very hard-working and considerate, and I think they will embrace the challenge to show this even more. Students seem to really be enjoying our current program of studies, which helps keep them engaged (and thereby on-task!) As always, I welcome suggestions of activities or projects that you think may engage your child within our curriculum. For reference, feel free to peruse the Curriculum Guides on the right sidebar of my blog.

Students' individual Art DuoTangs are coming along nicely, and quickly accumulating work. I hope to have time this week to sit down and make individualized plans with some students, in an effort to have them create works of art that harness their efforts and talent while creating a detailed, coherent final product.

Having given Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's Christmas album it's first listen of the year, I'm off to tidy and start decorating. Have a great weekend and don't hesitate to be in touch.

Enjoy some classic Christmas TV! As a side note, the picture I posted earlier in the week of a young man in a clear-cut was a photo of me when I was a treeplanting foreman years back. The picture of the snow-squashed tent in this post is from that same year.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What a day!

With our diorama days now behind us, we move on to bigger and better things! We shot a narrated video of our project today, and did a presentation to Ms. Godden and Mr. Dawe. I think the whole class is pretty proud of our accomplishment. The video will be edited over the next few days, and hopefully ready for mass consumption before long.

Over the weekend, I have asked students to do a few things to prepare for next week:
  • A math activity involving patterns and a 100-square
  • Pick a book for the December book report to show me on Monday
  • Prepare for Count your Blessings (See school website)
  • Play the digestion games I posted this week on the blog
Have a great time this weekend, and I will probably see a few people at the Santa Claus Parade. I will create a longer post tomorrow, so please check back in for more updates and info. Here is a great new clip to ease you into the weekend

And another, just because 'Tis the Season....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A late-night update from Room 110

Just got back from Beachy Cove Night at Chapters in St. John's. Great to see so many familiar faces around, and I got a great new comprehensive Atlas for class. Many students have shown an interest in geography and other elements of Social Studies not contained in the curriculum, so I hope this valuable (French-Candian, no less!) resource will allow them to explore their interests. We will be moving on to World Studies after Christmas as well, so it will come in handy then.

Tomorrow we will create narrated videos to explain our large-scale diorama, from the beginning stages of our exploration to the actual mechanisms we used to create the elements and overall project. I am very happy with how this whole Drama in Education program worked out, and can't wait to share the results with the rest of our school and family community.

Tomorrow we will see the last of the November Book Report presentations, and I will give more detail on our presentations for December. I think students will be very well equipped to create even more fantastic reports this month, and can't wait to see what they will come up with.

Further updates tomorrow, thanks for hanging in there!

A busy day

Today's post will be coming later, since I have an appointment at 3:30. We had a very successful day finishing up our diorama, discussing politics and enjoying Music, Gym, Library Time and a lovely concert courtesy of one of the students in our class.

More details later, hope to see you at Chapters tonight.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Now entering a construction zone: Hardhats Mandatory

After having put in a few great days of what I call "Pen and Paper Work", I sprung a fun project on the class today. All afternoon (and continuing into tomorrow) we worked on constructing the 16th Century fishing village we have been exploring in Social Studies. Using more materials than I can even think of here, we have constructed a 3' X 4' diorama with all the important things we have been studying. This includes infrastructure like fishing stages, houses, cannons and schools as well as strategically placed mountains, rivers, harbours and otehr landforms.

The class has done a great job so far, from delegating jobs to staying on task and making the items we need. I have been documenting the progress so far, and we will create a photo/video tour after we have finished the project completely. If any parents are interested, feel free to drop by immediately after school on Thursday or Friday to view the finished project.

We also started talking about the digestive system today. We looked ahead in our books a bit, and had some great discussions to assess what we already know and review some useful vocabulary words. I think it stirred an interest in nutrition that I have already noticed in class, so don't be surprised if your child is currently in the pantry analyzing the sodium content of the Alpha-Ghetti. We will be planning for a class project on the digestive system and metabolism/nutrition before Christmas, so I encourage any and all discussion of the topic at home.

A few notes for the week, then a couple of new links:
  • I have had a few requests for corrected Book Report rubrics. These will be prepared for tomorrow.
  • Your child has a letter explaining the Count Your Blessings project, which should be in their Agenda.
  • Correspondence is now being sent home with only the youngest member of each family at Beachy Cove Elementary.
  • Scholastic orders should be in soon, I have been reassured. Also, backorders from the Book Fair should be accounted for by now.
  • The class pet is fitting in nicely, but seems to be a slow learner. It turns out Goldfish are not the best at multiplication.
Here is a link to a fun game that outlines a lot of the important elements we will be studying in health this chapter. In this game, you are a sandwich travelling through the digestive system.


This second game has the player put parts of different systems in place. You need to have the volume up to hear instructions. Some of the vocabulary might be new, but it is pretty fun anyways.


Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A busy week at Beachy Cove Elementary

We had another very busy day today, focusing on several larger-scale projects in both English and French. 3 more students presented very high-quality Book Reports, and we began a fact-finding project about the animals from Salmonier Nature Park. The class is moving along quickly through our Novel Study, and will be starting a unit on Digestion in health tomorrow.  I have a few fun projects up my sleeve for this one, and will keep you updated as much as possible.

A few notes for this week:
  • From 7pm - 10pm on November 25th, Beachy Cove Elementary will receive 15% of sales at Chapters in St. John's. I would suggest that any parents/students/family members/friends looking for books as gifts or for themselves take the opportunity to support literacy and fundraising at BCE. I will be there for part of the evening, probably hiding in the self-help section.
  • BCE's Count your Blessings project continues, with full details on the BCE homepage (http://www.beachycove.ca/)
  • Please continue to review Multiplication Facts at home, using the strategies outlined on the sheet I sent home and/or the games on my blog. Don't forget that all posts I have ever put up on the bog are available in the archives on the right-hand side of the page.
I wanted to mention a few things about my attempts to corral the creative outputs of my class over this week. Many students enjoy creating drawings, cards, comics, stories and other artwork during their free time or after they have finished their work. I wholly encourage this, but it has a tendency to get spread around. So, I have given each student a DuoTang to store their artwork in and asked that it be at school each day to collect their work. I also plan on using these DuoTangs to help plan class art projects and focus students' efforts on finished products and improving their skills.
As with the last book reports, anybody who would like a copy of my evaluation for their report can get one if they ask. It takes a few minutes to type up a "good copy", but just let me know and I can have one ready the next day. 

We had a great discussion today as a pre-evaluation for an activity about the usefulness of waterways such as lakes and rivers. It centered around the Lower Churchill project, and we discussed lots of elements from our social studies and science curricula. The class showed great interest in talking about sustainability, monetary and environmental costs, as well as how our use of water has changed over time.

This rolled over into a written activity, which I evaluated on the spot and gave feedback on. In general it was very well done, and served as a good reminder that there are still things we all have to focus on. I would suggest that if you are working on projects at home, students should pay close attention to reading for detail, copying words accurately, and showing good use of punctuation and capital letters.

A great day all together, here's to another tomorrow! Buddy Reading, here we come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

C'est l'hiver!

Well, that was a more wintery morning than I had been expecting! The chill in the air did nothing to dampen spirits though, as we had a whirlwind of a day in class. We have finished up most of the first unit in science, and our third chapter of math is well underway. We are also 1/3 of the way through our English novel study, and should finish up our Drama in Education program tomorrow.

There will be time for several more students to present their Book Reports tomorrow, and the rest of the presentations will be on Friday. I have asked those who finished their Reports early to hold off on starting December's Book Report until Friday, because there are some points I would like to review. Go ahead and start reading the book you would like to talk about, but wait until Friday to start the report.

We took a few minutes today to discuss the setting of our current Novel Study book, Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing. It is set in New York, so we talked about where that was, and eventually went on Google Maps to get a street view level of some of the places the narrator/protagonist discusses in the text. This was a point of great interest, and something I would encourage students to explore more at home.

If they are interested, have your child show you where 25 W 68th Street is, in New York. This is the supposed address of the book's narrator. They might also remember some other landmarks we looked at, as well as some rules about how New York is laid out.

We will also be making the juice that is described in the book, and making a diorama of the neighbourhood. I really like tangible activities like this, and I'm always open to suggestions.

In an upcoming social studies lesson, I will be sending students home with a sort of treasure hunt that they will have to complete using a map, their own knowledge and the Internet. They will find and describe locations, buildings etc. in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's and beyond, so I would suggest that you encourage any interest your child has in using maps or programs like those found at local.google.ca.

I have to run, but will post in more detail tomorrow. Have a great day!

Friday, November 19, 2010


We have really come a long way this week, and I really want to take the chance to get everybody up to date. I have struggled to post very much at all over the last couple of days, since all final marks for the first reporting session were due this week. It is a difficult task, but was made much easier by the process of having students give feedback on their portfolios and become more engaged in the evaluation process. Anyway, all that is behind us for now and I can't wait to move along with our curriculum.

Our Drama in Education program will be concluding next week, as landfall is made in Newfoundland and the settlement is established. After extensive planning, calculation, mapping and site selection, our intrepid explorers have settled on a community and will create a final project on Monday to show what they have created. I think the class will be excited to show off their final results. Once this project is complete, we will be moving on to another Drama in Education project centered around the idea of planning a modern community and addressing concerns related to business, leisure, sports and other concerns that our class finds interesting.

We have moved into patterns and repetition in math class now, and have already done a few interesting activities. The first stages focus on using charts and tables to identify patterns and continue them. These exercises are very closely related to the work we are doing with multiplication tables, so I would suggest that students start reviewing techniques for solving multiplication facts in earnest at home. If you need any extra tools or techniques, please let me know so we can keep up the pace. We are also reviewing multiplication tables in class on a weekly basis, and there are plenty of links in other posts from this blog. Also, the right sidebar has a number of math sites linked.

There has also been a slight change in the way we will be carrying out our incentive system for French-speaking in class. The system of self-policing worked alright in some cases, but was causing more conflict and headaches than I was comfortable with. For that reason, I have asked students to privately let me know of any classmates who consistently speak English during Recess and Lunch, so I can police them myself. I have also let the class know that I will be taking away their privileges to contribute in class if they make the choice to speak English when it is not appropriate. This has been well-received, and I think it has reduced tension as well as increasing the amount of French being spoken.

The paragraphs I have instituted as a replacement for weekly dictées also seem to be going well. It gives students who have been studying hard a chance to really show what they can do, including grammar and verb conjugation as well as just knowing the words. For those who aren't as comfortable writing in French, they have the option of just writing the words. I am happy with the results and progress so far, and thank parents/guardians for supporting this learning at home.

We have also addressed the idea of personalized projects in class over the last couple of days, and the response has been very positive. I have given the option of doing individual projects, or working on one large group project with individual roles assigned. I am okay with either option, so at this point we are discussing the pros and cons of each. Some students already have specific ideas of what they would like to do, but I have asked them not to get started until we have time to set up a structure and procedure for the project. This will take place in the coming weeks.

A few notes, then a couple of fun links for the weekend:
  • Picture re-takes are on Monday.
  • I don't have a computer at home over the weekend, so I will not be able to respond to correspondence as quickly as usual.
  • One student has started a journal to monitor the progress and growth of his new puppy. This will replace his Journal de Lecture for as long as he wants, although he will still be reading nightly. If anybody else is interested in a similar option, please let me know.
  • The class has taken a sudden and all-consuming interest in speaking, writing and reading backwards. I think this is an interesting novelty, and would love to do some fun language activities on the topic.
  • Have a great weekend! Good luck at the hockey tournament, boys.
Here is a video that shows a good example of stop-motion animation. This is something many students have voiced an interest in doing as their independent project.

Here is a link to a fun site that someone directed me to the other day. It suffers from the odd pop-up ad, but has lots of fun games, links and lists for those who enjoy playing with words.


Here's another good site (Funbrain) that has plenty of games related to things we are doing in class. I would suggest looking at games to do with spelling and vocabulary, as well as patterns and multiplication. You can specify different subject areas, age ranges and difficulties.


Away we go again.

After a brief period of blog silence yesterday (I got quite literally into the 11th hour), I'm back and happy to say we have had a great week in class. Book Reports are getting done, French speaking is at an all-time high, and we're well into our 3rd chapter in math.

I will post more at the end of the day, but I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew I was still alive and the class was still progressing. We have started an English novel study, and I will begin launching some individual projects for students looking for a challenge.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Merrily we roll along

Not much to mention today, as things were pretty much taken up with our Anti-Bullying activities and more self-reflection. We also started talking about Tales of A Fourth-Grade Nothing, a story we will be studying over the next number of weeks.

The only homework tonight is to keep reviewing Vocabulary and Verb Conjugation, and write in their Reading Journals. The 200-word summary and plan for book reports are due on Friday (or tomorrow, whenever they are ready), so we can move right along with them. The work I have seen so far looks excellent.

I also want to congratulate the class on their participation, behaviour and attitude at today's Anti-Bullying activities. They were very organized, sang beautifully, showed a lot of respect for other speakers and presenters, and truly represented themselves well. I appreciate the effort, and I could see their were very proud.

I will cut this post short, since I have several reports left to finish and a short time to do them! I am out of email communication this evening, but will respond to any messages sent tonight before class tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The big picture

Quite a busy day again today, with lots of reflection, singing and dodgeball. You know, just the essentials! The class spent a whole hour in choir, preparing songs for tomorrow's Anti-Bullying rally. The songs sound great, I can't wait to see them tomorrow. We also did lots of work to prepare portfolios and reflect on them, an activity that provided lots of good ideas and opportunity for improvement.

Students also completed some sheets that reflected on the relevance and importance of reading, writing and other skills. These will be benchmarks for the rest of the year, and we will refer back to them often. It was nice to have a chance to sit down and talk one-on-one with the students, and find out what they are interested in. I continue to be amazed by the variety of interests and skills in this class.

All parents will be shown these portfolios at parent-teacher meetings, and invited to read their child's reflections and leave their own feedback. I think that this is a very constructive way to keep everyone in the loop, and help students drive their own improvment and success. Another point I have been impressing upon students is to start taking more ownership of their own schoolwork. This could include having your child take more control of organizing their homework and agenda, and providing incentives for taking initiative at home.

I have had a lot of interest in the idea of individually-tailored projects that can be ongoing over the school year. These will range from art-based projects to math, social studies and science, and should get rolling at the beginning of Term 2. I have already spoken to some parents, but if you have an idea of a home/school project your child would enjoy, please feel free to let me know. This might be a good time to have such a discussion at home.

As an example: One student will be carrying out a Claymation animation project. He will write a script, lay out stage directions, select camera angles and create clay characters and background to create a stop-motion animation. This project will take a long time and require many steps, but is something he is interested in. It has many stages and elements, some that can be done in spare time and others that can be done at home or in class.

If you are looking for ideas, here are a few thoughts to start with.
  • Family tree
  • Plant-growth science project
  • Community history
  • Photojournal
  • Diary/journalling
  • Building an art portfolio
  • Working for a cause (environment, culture, etc.)
  • Creating a book or comic strip
  • Developing math problems for others to do
I would suggest that the project be driven by the student, focusing primarily on one of their key interests. Then, we can tailor the project to take in a variety of curriculum outcomes. This is not a mandatory activity, but I am willing to accommodate as much as possible.

For tomorrow, a few notes:
  • Students should wear their pink Anti-Bullying T-shirts and bring a pair of sunglasses for their choir performance.
  • If your child has not brought back their signed math test, please do so ASAP.
  • I have both the Blue and Yellow DuoTangs at the moment, as part of the portfolio evaluations.
  • There is no Journal de Questions assignment tonight
  • Scholastic book orders are due by Friday
Have a great Tuesday night, and talk to you tomorrow. Please cast a vote in my weekly Poll (top right corner), thanks very much!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where is the time going?

Wow, incredible to think that we've already gone through more than 2 months of the school year. We're really moving along now, especially after a huge day today. Very productive, lots of fun, and the week has just begun! We began a new chapter in math, covered some details on data management, started book reports, worked on "Rubber Sentences" (ask your child), and much more.

The Stand up to Bullying rally is coming up on Wednesday, so I am taking the opportunity to focus on the nature of bullying and what causes it throughout the week. I try not to oversimplify the issue, since I think that risks demonizing the students who are so-called "bullies". By putting more of a focus on trying to include people, understand them and help them get along, I think students will be better prepared to deal with these situations.

Before I go on, a few housekeeping notes and important dates coming up:
  • I accidently sent home the wrong set of vocab words for this week, and mislabelled the verb as "AVOIR". That being said, I will stick with the words that I sent home and adjust next week's accordingly. Also, please change AVOIR to VOULOIR, as it is printed on the practice sheet
  • The students' 200+ word summary for their book report is due by Friday; if there is any trouble, please let me know.
  • Math tests must be signed and sent back to school by tomorrow.
  • Please keep working on Multiplication Facts at home. I am noticing big improvements in the class, and would like to keep the momentum going. Our new math unit focuses on patterns, which lend themselves very well to learning multiplication facts and strategies.
Besides sending home an Elastic Sentence to work on tonight, I have also asked students to talk to a parent, sibling, guardian, grandparent, etc. about a significant event from the family history. This could be something recent, or long in the past. Suggestions students came up with included moving to a new town, a car accident, a birth or death in the family, an ancestor who went to war, or a meeting with a famous person. I want them to think of something that affected their family specifically, for better or for worse. This will be used in an upcoming process writing exercise.

I'm off to finish up getting Report Cards ready, but don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Enjoy the chilly but sunny day!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A little Saturday Morning update

What a beautiful morning in Sunny St. Phillip's! Birds chirping, the dog snuffling around the lawn; I feel that all is well. I thought I would put up a few links this morning, little tidbits that might help with studying, having fun and taking your French speaking and comprehension skills to the next level.

The first is a link to the events schedule at Ecole des Grand Vents, the French-language School and Community Centre on Ridge Road. They have a festival coming up next weekend, which has events like an open library night, music, French courses, kids movies and much more. If you are interested, it would be worth giving them a call (don't worry, you can speak English!) to see what you or your child might be interested in.

Here is another Grand Vents link. This one goes to the "Club de Samedi", a Saturday Morning activity group for students who want to improve their french and have fun. I think it might be too late to register for this fall, but it might be something to drop into, or think about for another term.

Here's a link to the pamphlet for Club de Samedi, in French.

I have also had a few questions about more home support resources, so here is a link to the Canadian Parents for French resource site. They have lots of great information, games, activities and other resources. I would suggest you explore it with your child sometime.

Have a great Saturday, and stay tuned for some more specific updates on our upcoming in-class activities tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Making Icing: A Photojournal

I have a meeting at 4:15, so I will put up a longer post tomorrow. Overall a good day today, as we prepared for our next book reports and reviewed this week's spelling words. We also spent about an hour or more reviewing the critical elements of a story.

This transitioned into an exercise that had the students apply all elements of story writing to a simple sentence. The sentence was "The boy couldn't find his shoe anywhere". Students had to extrapolate this sentence applying what they knew about character, imagery, description, setting, plot, action, etc. So, they added details about where he lost his shoe, what colour the shoe was, why he only lost one, etc.

It was a great activity, and worth spending the time to make my expectations very clear. We will start writing a new story next week, so the page of terms and categories we developed in their Journals will be a good reference.

The afternoon was taken up by a fun activity. I asked the class on Wednesday what things they would like to do more of, and the feedback mostly centered around doing big projects, art-related activities, and food. So, that's what we did! I brought in chocolate chip cookies to decorate, and we made our own berry-flavoured icings. The idea was to create and follow a process and record data as we went along (consistency, flavour, colour, etc.)

The class created their own recipes, mashed berries, blended icing, made decorating tubes, named their flavours, and decorated cookies all afternoon. They also created colour-coded designs in their scrapbooks, and made extra cookies for the administration. I got a lot of pictures, so here is a breakdown of what we did. We will be turning the pictures into a photo-book that shows our process (including recipes).

Step 1 for Team "Mure Magnifique": Crush the berries!

Team "Bluet Belle" took berry-mashing to a whole new level.

Hey Team "Bluet Fusée"! What makes berries even better? "Icing!!!"

Team "Framboise Flamingo" was very shy...

Team "Fraise Supreme" told me they were inspire by Cake Boss.

A touch of "Mure Magnifique" for starters...

Et voila! Beautiful, tasty cookies.

We're not sure what it is, but does it ever taste good!

I will post some good links and give a few more updates tomorrow, but have a great weekend! Students have a question related to "The Witches" to ponder over the weekend, so no Journal de Lecture.

Good job, everyone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembrance Day

Just a quick update today, as it seems I have been conned into painting some walls tonight. I'm on my way to buy paint I didn't pick out, to spend 3 hours I don't have to spare, painting walls I didn't even know existed... and we aren't even getting married until next summer! Kidding around, of course.

Today was a whirlwind of math, sandwiched between a number of activities that tied into Remembrance Day. The assembly was lovely, featuring some very heartfelt songs and a couple of very relevant, interesting speeches from members of the Legion and RCMP.

The math test results were very good; if you plan on debriefing tonight or tomorrow, here are some main talking points I would focus on:
  • Pay attention to the operation. The majority of mistakes were made when students misread or misinterpreted a question and added instead of subtracting (or vice versa).
  • Tidiness matters! Some errors were the result of not having straight columns, or misreading their own printing as they copied down a number to add or subtract
  • Read the instructions carefully. If you are unsure whether to estimate, add, subtract, round, etc. then look at the question again for clarification.
Tests were again marked out of 5, with a further breakdown corresponding to the categories they will see on their report cards. These are not the marks that will be appearing on their report cards, just a reflection of this test. As I always tell the students, tests are only part of the equation (terrible pun, I'm sorry). I get a lot more of my information from seeing how they solve problems, what questions they ask, and what approaches they use in class.

We discussed the idea of Entitlement today, in terms of being thankful for what we have. The class had a pretty good grasp on the idea, but I would encourage you to continue this discussion at home. We talked about how we aren't ever owed anything, and that all things we have (especially as children) are there because someone else thought about us and wanted us to have the best. This could be soldiers fighting for our freedom, a parent buying us food, or a friend helping us with our work.

 I gave them a question to work on in their new green notebook, asking them to reflect on 5 things they would not have (or be able to do) without someone's help. I am trying to carry this idea over into the classroom, as we discuss how to get along together and the importance of seeing the "big picture".

I did not introduce this month's book report due to time constraints, but I will do so on Friday. Please feel free to get started if you would like. Remember, if the first one was completed in English, this one must be in French. Also, students must choose a different medium. A completed assessment rubric is available for the first book report if you want to see it. Also, please sign and return Math Tests by Friday.

Have a pleasant Remembrance Day.

Sam Paterson

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Mathday Eve!

Tomorrow we will be having our "Real" Math Test, following the same format as the review sheets that were sent home and the practice quiz that was completed yesterday. After further review and activities today, I think we're in great shape!

The quantity and quality of French being spoken in class (and during recess and lunch) has been increasing continually in the past couple of weeks. My technique of Continual Correction (correcting error immediately, then having the student restate and continue) seems to be working well. Students are often correcting the error without my help, or another student is reminding them.

As this begins to flow more naturally and more bad habits are corrected, I think I will start to see a big improvement in writing as well. I am already seeing some upswing, especially in terms of things like pluralization, masculine/feminine distinction and verb conjugation. I'm getting a bit more picky about written work, and will not hesitate to have students re-write work if they are not completing it to the best of their ability.

If any of your children are in despair because of their French-speaking obligations, just get them to read this article posted today on www.cbc.ca.


I was very impressed with the work students put in on their question about food origins last night. I realize this was a hard, large-scale problem, and was happy to see they had put a lot of thought into the activity. Today in class we added some volume to the results and created a multi-panel piece of artwork that demonstrates the trajectory from farm to table. Great work all around!

I elaborated on the idea of "Evaluation for Learning" today, and we completed our first Self-Reflection activity. The activity had the students rate themselves on a variety of attributes related to their interests, skills, self-discipline, motivations and self-esteem. This will be attached to their portfolio and updated each term. I am looking forward to sitting down with each student to go over their portfolios now that they have set a benchmark.

We finished reading "The Witches" today, which was exhilarating to say the least. The response to the story was great, and I think that the experience of hearing the story rather than having to read it alone allowed a greater depth of understanding. The class will be conducting an activity on Friday to demonstrate their understanding of the novel. On that same topic, I will be launching November's Book Reports tomorrow. Many students have already chosen a book and medium to use, and I will help out those who have not.
Captain Leonard LeBlanc visited today as well! In a continuation of our Drama in Education program, he had the class annotate two maps and decide which one would be a better place to establish their community in Newfoundland. I'm sure your child would be able to tell you the kind of things we are discussing in this project, such as resource use, protection from enemies, organization of a town centre, etc.

A few notes for tomorrow:
  • School Photo order forms are due back tomorrow. Please let me know if you need retakes; the date for these is on November 22nd.
  • If your child belongs to an organization that wears a uniform (such as Beavers, Guides, etc.) they can wear or bring all or part of the uniform tomorrow for our Remembrance Day Assembly.
  • Review of spelling words seems to be going well; we are using them daily and I am happy with the progress most students are making.
  • I will be revising the class schedule this week, to allow for more hour-long classes. Ideally, this will allow more indepth activities, as well as time for students to finish their work completely.
  • The class pet will be in place next week. I have been acclimatizing the goldfish at my house.
Have a great day, and Go Habs Go!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rolling right along

Today had a very heavy focus on getting everyone on the same page. It has been a busy, shortened couple of weeks and I was glad to have my full class for the first time in a while (3 weeks, excluding Halloween). There was a vast amount of math review including the practice quiz, a fun project about food management and supply, and we are nearing the exciting conclusion of "The Witches".

I don't have time for a long update now, but there are a few housekeeping things to mention:
  • Congratulations to those who completed the math activity I posted over the weekend; I saw the effect in the results of your practice quizzes!
  • Tonight's question in the green "Questions" notebook is "Where does my food come from"? The students have a brainstorming list we created in class about food supply, as well as a list that outlines what they ate over the course of a day. I have encouraged the class to find out as much as they can about the origins of their food, including packaging  and additives.
  • The math test has been postponed until Wednesday to allow for some more review.
  • Please continue to review verbs and spelling nightly; there will be an activity in class Friday to review these formally.
  • New idea for a multiplication game! Roll two dice and multiply the numbers. For added difficulty, add more dice or go for double-digits. I would suggest you discuss what patterns are apparent, and predict what numbers will be most common, etc.
  • It has been suggested that students, if they belong to some organization, wear a uniform for the Remembrance Day assembly.
  • Please continue to send in School Picture order forms as they are completed.
  • Scholastic should be here by next week, they have sorted out the mistake with our order.
Please don't hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fun Math News Flash!

I'm on break at my PD day here at Beachy Cove, but had to post a fantastic link. I came across it last night, and thought it would be great review (and lots of fun), especially for those who have finished all the math review questions. You will be taken to a page called Math Journey, and asked to customize the types of questions that students will have to answer. I would suggest you select Addition of 1-4 digit numbers, Subtraction of 1-4 digit numbers, Multiplication of 1-digit numbers, and Rounding to 10, 100, 1000 and 10,000. If your child feels comfortable with harder applications, feel free to go for it.

The site can be found at www.quia.com/mathjourney.html

What I would like students to do is keep track of what cities they travel to, and post them in order as a comment on this post. To do this, click on the title of this post (Fun Math News Flash) then go to the bottom of the post and look for "Post Comment". Make sure to include your name. This is not a mandatory activity, but I thought it would be a neat challenge and a fun game at the same time.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Heart, Art, and picking words apart!

I'm sure you can all imagine my glee as your lovely children recounted stories today about how their mom "Really liked that Heart song" and how their dad "Wouldn't stop singing in a girl voice". Nice to see that I am in good company! Blog traffic was definitely up yesterday.

We finished up our math unit today, and had some great review that was spurred on by questions from the review sheets. Again, the test is on Tuesday and I expect the review sheets to be completed on Monday. If there is a lot of trouble with any particular question or concept, please leave it blank or make a note by it so I can address it before Monday's practice test. We did some more group problem solving this morning, as well as student teaching. The class has really embraced these approaches, and it seems to be helping their confidence with new, unfamiliar or challenging material.

We wrote a paragraph today to evaluate their spelling words and use of their verbs. I'm happy to say it went very well, and most said they preferred this activity to a dictée. I introduced the words for this week, and sent home sheets (in their Blue DuoTang) that spell them out and provide a chance to use them in sentences. The verb for this week is avoir, which means "to have". This is a very common verb, and one they should already be very familiar with.

I also sent home an edited list of the words they will be learning for the rest of the month, as well as the formation of the verbs faire (to do) and vouluoir (to want). Feel free to go ahead if you would like, especially in terms of the verbs. I have also linked a number of good verb-conjugation websites in previous posts (use the Search function to find these).

This afternoon we conducted an activity with the self-portraits created by students last night at home. We discussed he challenges of self-portraiture, from "getting the nose right" to harder concepts like representing emotions. The class was quick to reflect on work we did earlier in the year about motivations, personal preferences, emotions and priorities and came up with great ways to show these in their art. After working in partners to give suggestions about how to represent these things, they created a new self-portrait. These were mounted side-by-side and now hang outside the classroom door. I'm very proud of the work, and I'm sure the students are as well.

A few times in recent weeks, students have come to me with ideas of things they would like to study, learn or do in class. Sometimes these are specific suggestions (a sport, hobby or person), and other times they are just general ideas about activities they enjoy or experiences they have had elsewhere. I love it when this happens, and would encourage all students to come to me with these ideas. If there is something that comes up at home or a pervasive interest your child has, please suggest that they bring it up in class. If they want to bring in a resource or put together something to present, all the better!

A few housekeeping notes:
  • All students have (or should have) brought their French and Math DuoTangs home. I suggest that these stay in their Sac Plastique at all times, so they are available at home and in school.
  • Captain LeBlanc was back today, and informed the explorers that they will be taking a direct route across the Atlantic rather than a more circuitous northern route. He also sent them home with a question
  • Questions sent home will now be answered in a small green notebook. Students need not limit their answer to one page, and there is room for drawing pictures, etc. Additonal materials can be stapled in.
I have a PD day tomorrow, so if you have any issues with homework/studying/assignments, just email me early and I will get back to you ASAP.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The return of Leonard LeBlanc

Today was a very "outside the box" sort of day. We spent the majority of our time on Math (Chapter Finished!), English Language Arts (Reaction to a novel we have been reading together) and our Drama in Education project.

Indeed, Captain Leonard LeBlanc returned with his most recent task; to determine the best route for travelling to Newfoundland. This, with a short interlude for Buddy Reading, took up the afternoon and provided lots of opportunities for students to show what they had learned in Math, Science, Social Studies and French in particular. My class of brave explorers were pretty convinced that following the route of the Vikings was best, until one of them pointed out that the villages on most of these islands were uninhabited and we would be better to go in a straight line. Captain LeBlanc will return tomorrow with his decision based on the arguments he heard, and will assign another task for the weekend.

This time of year is very heavy on evaluation, so I wanted to address a few things that have been brought to my attention. In terms of the weekly spelling words, students are being evaluated on their ability to spell and use the words. This is not happening in the form of a dictée, but in process and demand writing we are doing in class. If you are ever wondering how your child is doing on these pieces, please let me know. They will all be available for your (and your child's) perusal at Report Card time as well.

The math worksheets have been going well it seems, and providing me some good key points to focus on during our review sessions. These should be finished up by Monday the 8th, so we can review them before our practice quiz. The "real" test is on Tuesday.

Reading Journals should be completed each night, but I understand this is not always feasible. I hope that all students are encouraged to at least read at home, and that discussion takes place about what, how and when they like to read. I would suggest that you review the verb Etre with your child over the next couple of days, since some are still having trouble with it. The sheet I sent home last Friday in their Blue DuoTang should help review, or you can quiz them orally. This is a verb that the students use all the time, so it is certainly worth getting it right.
The Book Report presentations were quite well done, and I will send home a copy of the mark and completed evaluation rubric for each student by Monday. I spoke with each student individually about how they had done and what mark they received, so there shouldn't be any surprises. I evaluated the written components separately, since many had multiple drafts.

After all this heaviness, I have a few lighter thoughts and ideas! I have asked the students to create a self-portrait tonight, and bring it in to school tomorrow. I was intentionally vague with this instruction, and would encourage students to do whatever they would like with this. It does not need to take too much time, but they can use whatever media they would like, be it paint, drawing, collage or any other thing they would like to try.

Also on a lighter note, I recently found out that Heart is coming to Newfoundland this winter. I have a definite (usually secret) soft spot for Ann and Nancy Wilson, not to mention acoustic guitar solos in general. I managed to restrain myself from subjecting a mystified group of 9-year-olds to that much polyester during class time, but can't resist embedding one of my favorite videos here. Beware of guitar solos! There, you have been warned.

While I'm at it, here is an amazing video from a series of similar pieces produced by a teacher in New York. He does some incredible work with disadvantaged youth, exposing them to a great variety of music and helping them win places on numerous TV shows, in competitions and in schools they would otherwise have never been able to access. Enjoy, and go check out some of the others (search PS22 Chorus on Youtube). Talk about emotion!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reflection is the key

As more and more blog posts accumulate during my trek through the blogosphere with this class, I am taking time to reflect on how the process is going and what purposes it is serving. Feedback has been quite good overall, from students, parents and teachers alike. I even have some friends from my MUN Education class who read it on occasion and give me some great feedback about other sites, resources and ideas I should use and share. It has also been a great way to share information and ideas with other teachers in this school and beyond.

I'm happy to say that the blog has gotten more than 1,000 pageviews per month so far, and that this is increasing. We have regular and occasional readers from 10 different countries, and redirects from the BCE website, Ask.com, Google, Facebook and many others every week. I think that the next step is to have students contribute more to the blog, and perhaps to establish a parallel French-language blog that would have more of its content driven by student input and would cater to other students/teachers/administrators in Canada and elsewhere. This will not happen immediately, but I would be curious to know what you think.

Yesterday I sent home cards with a spelling word on them for each student to define and state in a sentence, which was quite successful. They presented their words, and we posted them in class. This was a well-received activity, after which they used these words in many activities throughout the day. We also discussed the class's collective family military history, which ranged from current Peacekeepers, Reservists and Combat Medics to decorated heroes from the 1st and 2nd World Wars.

Continuing on this theme, we combined our French and Social Studies classes to spend an hour or so working on an activity. I highlighted the idea of empathy, and trying to understand why people do things and how these things affect them and their communities. Students compared stories and experiences that they had collected, in an activity that kept them busy until lunchtime. It was very productive, and will be used for a big Art project next week.
In Religion class we read a story about "Welcoming Ceremonies", in the context of several major religions. We talked about ceremonies in the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, then extrapolated the idea to include other such ceremonies we have. This included weddings, Kindergarten graduations and even funerals. This activity spawned a discussion about how feeling included was important to avoid feeling alienated, as often happens to people who sometimes end up living a life of crime, poverty, etc.

It was a day of grand ideas, and some giant steps in our curriculum outcomes as well. Maybe it's just the sugar, but I feel as though this will be a great week. Before I finish up with a few notes on evaluation and the upcoming Reporting period, here are the other two videos the class made last week. The first explains that it is good to have friends when you need to tell a secret, and the second talks about the advantages of having friends when you plan to go travelling.

The reporting period starts soon, and scheduling for parent-teacher appointments will open up as well. This will be a great chance to review how things are going so far, but I also plan to do some "pre-emptive review" as well. I will meet with each student next week to discuss their portfolio of work so far, and set some goals for next semester. I don't want marks to be a surprise at all, and I plan to be very candid with them. We have already discussed all of our rubrics and expectations openly, even going as far as to dissect a report card to see what was being evaluated.

The idea of "Learning through Evaluation" is not new, but I think it can be a great way for students to take ownership of their education experiences and truly drive themselves to achieve their highest potential.

I don't have a link for today (besides the videos), but  I would suggest referring to "Grade 4 Math Practice" in the blog sidebar to help with the ongoing Math review. As the class already knows, the math sheets don't need to be completed until next Monday. One last note would be that November schedules went home today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The day of the Living Dead

Just when you thought it was safe to leave your house....

I entered the class this morning, and thought that perhaps the students had suffered mass head trauma the night before. Everyone was sitting quietly at their desks, and most even had their agendas open. I could almost hear crickets.... glucose withdrawal is a heck of a thing! This resulted on one of our most productive days in a very long time, seeing us wrap up book reports, complete an entire lesson in math, introduce Rememberance Day, and much more.

The day began with a great math/journal writing activity about Hallloween. We estimate the amounts of candy obtained and consumed the night before, and reflected on our favourite elements. Then, prior to our Book Report presentations, we did a verbal/visual review of the evaluation rubric I am using. This made it very clear what would be expected, and what the reward for various levels of work would be. I evaluated the presentations based on Content, Personal Expression/Conviction, Articulation and Use of Visual/Audio aids.

I also took into consideration things like eye contact, volume, and their responses to questions posed by their classmates. The result was a morning of consistently good (often excellent) presentations that kept the whole class engaged. If your child is expressing any concern about how to plan and execute a presentation (they should have a lot of new ideas and perspectives after today), you might want to use this site for some pointers.


We worked on a new subtraction technique in math, bringing us up to Lesson 9. This means that students can now work on the review sheets in their Yellow DuoTang (math) up to and including Lesson 9. We will go over these sheets next Monday, the same day we will do our practice math test. The "actual" test has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 9th. If your child is having issues with any of the questions or concepts on these sheets throughout the week, please let me know ASAP so I can go into more detail in class. Also, it is worth working on multiplication facts where time allows.

Our Scholastic orders (yes, the ones from September) have still not arrived! My last contact with the company gave me the impression that there has been a delay, and that they are not shipped (as I had previously been told). I will contact them again this afternoon and update the class tomorrow. On a brighter note, books on back order from the Book Fair have arrived and will be distributed soon. Also, proofs from Picture Day have arrived and were sent home today.

A few more notes:
  • Students have each been given 1 of our spelling words for the week, which they are to define and use in a sentence on the card provided. These are due tomorrow (Tuesday) for use during the week.
  • Students have been asked to find out any connection their family may have to war, peacekeeping, conflict or other aspects of Rememberance Day. The goal is that we begin to relate these concepts to our own lives and realities.
  • The last two Student of the Week Blog Posts are nearing completion, and should be posted soon. The 2 remaining "Friendship Play" videos will be posted tomorrow after I have changed their encoding.
  • Our ArtsSmarts project this year involves photography and a short excursion out of school. We will try to do this by the end of November.
  • A cake made by the mother of one of my students is featured on Mr. Dawe's "Principal's Blog"! Check it out at: http://beachycove.ca/Beachy_Cove_Elementary_School/Principals_Blog/Entries/2010/10/29_Halloween_Fair.html