Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I've been off the radar a bit, partly because things have been so busy and partly because we have been carrying out covert ops (gift-creation) in class lately! We have a big day planned tomorrow, as we continue with some Christmas crafts and watch that great example of 90's cinematic nostalgia, Home Alone 2.

I will post a further update tomorrow, once the dust has settled some. Hope preparations are going well for Christmas, and try to stay dry this week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A quick note, more later!

Hello all,

I have a meeting right after class, and must leave immediately after to attend an award ceremony with my fiancee. I am happy to say that the business we own is the recipient of two awards in the annual Scope Magazine "Best of St. John's" Awards tonight, but I will try to post something as soon as I get home tonight.

We had a busy day, taking time to work on our writing and math in particular. We also fit in a great discussion about our progress through the curriculum so far, as well as talking about my plans for the rest of the year. I received lots of wonderful ideas and feedback, all things that I will gladly factor into my in-class and extra-curricular activities in the upcoming months!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A couple Christmassy links

Here are a couple of games and activities that tie into the season. This first one involves gingerbread, candy and math. Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad!

This game has no educational value. One click to make the penguin jump, a second click to activate Yeti.

This game involves 3 of my favourite things: monsters, catapults, and healthy eating.

Here comes Santa Claus...

We had plenty of work to do today, but I'm happy to day the class has generally been able to retain focus as we get closer to the holidays. A few students have some work to finish up tonight, but we made great strides in most areas. The first December book reports are finished, with some great work being showcased. We had a great "How to get rid of the monsters under your bed" poster, a great character sketch, an informational poster, and a beautiful painted wooden Santa.

I announced that I will be enforcing a few school policies a bit more seriously leading up to the holidays, particularly being polite to other students and always changing your shoes when you come into school. Aside from both being good ideas (and school-wide rules), I don't want there to be any double-standards. We also introduced "Homework Buddies" in an effort to make sure everybody is prepared before they go home. Also, given that time is limited and stretched thin, I am asking students to get to class as early as possible to make things a bit more relaxed over these last few days.

The class also chatted about what types of activities we would like to do in the lead up to Christmas. I think there is fun aplenty to be had, and I can't wait to get it rolling! We had our first candy canes today, no doubt the first of plenty to come. In lieu of having a class Christmas tree, we will be making a small Christmas Tree forest that will have one tree made by each student. This will be a mixed-media art project, and students can take these trees home as decorations or ornaments for Christmas.

Not much else to mention, other than to say that I will post a couple more links tonight. I removed a few elements from the blog (countdown tree and falling snow) because I was having some issues with the source code. Source code is the basic text that I input to create different visual elements on this page, and is so dorky I can't even believe I'm explaining it.

Please accept this festive video as my apology! I miss having only CBC, when this Christmas Special was my only option for holiday viewing.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It doesn't get much cuter than kids dressed as snowflakes...

We had the immense pleasure of seeing the Grade 2/Grade 6 Christmas Concert this morning, which was a nice way to launch into Christmas full speed. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, as we entered the final countdown 'til holidays in a week or so. Process Writing is coming along well, and we've made our way through the entire digestive system as well. I distributed the surveys the class developed today as well, and we carried out an exhaustive review of the necessary vocab and concepts for Friday's science test.

Tomorrow I plan on having the class finish up their letters to Santa, and we will also create a Christmas tree for our class. In our library period, Ms. Godden will be reading a Hanukkah story. Between these things, as well as moving along in Math and starting book reports, we should have a pretty full day! Video editing will keep moving along; Ta-Da!!

Have a good night, and drop me an email if you have any questions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another busy day!

Today was another in a series of whirlwind days we have had lately in our class. I introduced the binder we will be using to catalog Country Profiles, something some students have already begun to do in their spare time. We also inaugurated a classroom Art Gallery that I am encouraging students to fill up. Each student will have 1 piece at a time in the Gallery, and can replace it whenever they have something new. We began a new chapter in Math (graphing, data processing) and carried out some fun activities to model why this skill is both important and relevant on a daily basis.

I didn't get a chance to begin the video-editing, because Gym was extended this morning. Mme Tapper has been taking the Grade 4's out as a group over the last couple of weeks, since the gym has been in use for a multitude of Christmas Concerts. I hope to start video editing tomorrow, with a lofty goal of having it finished before Christmas. On the topic of Christmas, we made stockings today in an effort to further decorate the classroom. Nice work!

Book Reports are due on Friday, but I already have a couple turned in. I encourage students to bring Book Reports in as soon as they are complete, so that they can "get them out of the way" by presenting early if they wish. This also provides a good model for students who have yet to finish theirs up. I continue to be amazed by the calibre of work that I am seeing, especially the level at which students are incorporating the pointers I have given and the new skills they have learned.

Letters to Santa will be ready for final drafts on Wednesday, as our Process Writing goes into 1st draft stage tomorrow. If students are falling behind in this process or I think they could use some extra support, I will send them home with their current draft to work on a bit. The intention is to give more time to generate content and review their work, so don't worry about it being perfect.

Today's lesson in Religion was about the origins, traditions and meaning of Hanukkah. Rather than just read from the text, I decided to set up stations in class with different books on the topic. Some were stories, others were basic informational texts, and others were more challenging reference books. I had students go from station to station, and jot down as much information as they could in the form of a web. Judging by the excitement and discussion during the process as well as the end results, I plan on doing this a bit more often! I was happy to hear students reading to each other, correcting pronunciation, elaborating on thoughts and giving direction when needed. We will do the same thing for Ramadan and Christmas later in the week.

We are 2/3 of the way through our unit on digestion, but I don't think we will finish it completely before Christmas. I want to finish studying the process and components of digestion before Christmas, then talk about Nutrition in depth in early January. The evaluation for this unit will take the form of a presentation that incorporates elements like a song, poem or piece of theatre. Students have been commenting on their enjoyment of the games I posted last week, and I have been seeing the results in their familiarity with the topic.

I have decided to conduct a test to assess knowledge of the terminology and basic processes in our habitats unit. As mentioned before, we have reviewed and discussed this at length and I don't anticipate any problems. That being said, I will send home a study guide tomorrow to help students prepare. On the test, I will provide word lists and other choices. Still with Science, students will also be bringing home a survey about habitat loss and pollution that they have compiled as a class. They will each have 5 copies of the survey, and I will also send each parent a digital copy if you wish to email it to family/friends. The data gathered will form the basis for a project in math, and conclude our final requirements in Science before Christmas.

I know this is a lot of information, but I feel like I have been neglecting the blog as of late. Enjoy the holiday season, and let me know if you have any questions. In the meantime, here is a multiplication game to capitalize on the great work students did on patterns/factors last unit. It covers up some content on the right sidebar, but if you need to access links, just view an archived blog post that doesn't take up so much space.

**Please note: Multiplication game has been removed, since a glitch was redirecting things off the blog. I will post another one ASAP! **

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thoughts on a sunny Sunday

Just a few thoughts today, to get everybody up to date and set things up for the last couple of weeks before Christmas. The big things we will be finishing up are a piece of writing in French, letters to Santa Claus, Book Report Presentations and our habitats unit in science.

I have decided to have students write a test to cover the main concepts and terminology from science. This will happen later on in the week or maybe even on the 20th. We have been reviewing these things in class, so I don't anticipate many problems. That being said, I will be giving out a study guide ASAP.

Book Reports seem to be coming along well, and I am looking forward to seeing the final products on Friday. I will also give students the option of presenting earlier if they want to, in an effort to get everything done on time. Students will also be finishing up our diorama video, as I will have the computer set up with video-editing software so students can edit their own clips with my support.

There are no vocab words to learn this week; rather, I will be continuing to focus on concepts and rules such as pluralization and pronouns. I still want students to write in their Reading Journals nightly, and I will also be assigning a few questions to be done at home.

Enjoy the escalation of the Christmas season, and let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A few games for the weekend

Before I sign off for the night, here are a few pertinent games for the weekend if anybody (heaven forbid) gets bored before class on Monday. They are all in English, but provide good review of some key concepts.

The first is another digestive system game and quiz.

This next link focuses more specifically on the nutrition component of our current chapter in Health.

As we start to move into the part of our Social Studies curriculum that will deal with Canada's geography, culture and history, I would suggest trying out the games on this page.

Moving Day

The title of this post refers to a great activity we did this afternoon. I had students use a model to design new ways to lay out our classroom. Shelving, desks, computers; all mobile and represented by small cards on the whiteboard. This brought in problem solving skills of a high degree, as well as plenty of French vocabulary related to relative position, action words and contingencies.

Today's math test and spelling activity went well, as I had expected. The usual wrinkle here or there, but overall the class more than lived up to the high standard that I have come to expect. It seemed as though the class really took some of the pointers on their report cards to heart, and have a renewed focus. Math tests should be discussed, signed and returned by Monday.

As has become my habit, I will post a short update tonight and take the chance tomorrow to expand on some thoughts and outline the upcoming weeks. I did not assign any homework over the weekend, since I am sure things are very busy at home. Also, please check out last Saturday's blog post if you are looking for some fun family Christmas activities this weekend.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Back in the Beachy Cove Groove!

It was nice to get back in the swing of things today after a day of "Teacher School". I was able to download the software I needed to manipulate our class videos about our diorama, so (barring the potential snowstorm) we will be able to edit and publish the video tomorrow! Today we had lots more math and science review, as well as plenty of time for reading and writing in French and English.

I will post more later on, but have some Christmas "have-to's" to complete right now. I feel as though a line-up at Costco is in my future... In the event of a snow day tomorrow (notice the new background?), our Math Test and spelling words will be deferred to Monday. Students should start working on Book Reports if possible, but I will give more class time as well.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Flying under the radar...

As you may know, I spent today at a professional development function in support of the implementation of our new Social Studies curriculum. There were some great ideas floated at the meeting, things I hope to incorporate into the class over the next couple of months.

I also had an opportunity to share some of the things we have been working on (namely our Exploration activity and some mapping games), which got a great response. The other participants were impressed by the effort students put into the project, and were curious to see more.

Parent-teacher meetings went very well yesterday; I appreciate so many parents showing up for meetings. I will have a much longer update tomorrow once I am back in class, so talk to you then!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ode to Room 110

In hats and mitts and scarves and warm knits,
they come piling in through the door.
Shoes are changed and the desks re-arranged
as agendas and books hit the floor.
We jump right in but it's time for Gym,
so the pencils fall like rain
And it's hard to read a book together
with recess on the brain.
A crossword puzzle! That should work,
to soothe our addled minds.
Yes that's the trick; but they finish too quick,
onto work of another kind.

"We'll do some math!" I quickly say,
and try to make everyone care.
So we forge ahead with thoughts of dread
as Pattern Blocks fill the air.
"You can take it home if you didn't get it done,"
their faces all turn queasy.
Then as quick as that the task is complete;
Mention homework, and work becomes easy!

Then out through the door to the winter winds' roar,
I have fifteen minutes to recover.
Then a deluge of students and one scraped knee,
then another...then another... then another.
There are fish to feed and comics to read,
and puddings to drop on the floor.
Not to mention the chorus of "Can I go pee?"
every time I get near the door.

We dabble in Science and Religion and French,
progressively getting more wise.
In Health, we go through the digestive system
faster than a Big Mac and fries.
We talk about grammar and spelling and style,
I'm feeling that I'm quite profound.
I can picture my Teacher of the Year Award,
when someone says "Sir, what's a noun?"

They're a wonderful lot, this class that I've got,
and they smile as they're put through their paces.
No matter the task I know they will last,
with grins on their angelic faces.
Tomorrow I meet with their parents and families,
then Wednesday they're back at my door.
Congrats to all and good luck next term,
I couldn't want anything more.

A lunchtime update

Just so I don't forget, here is a link to some logic games. I have introduced the concept as a problem-solving strategy, and the students really enjoyed them. There are lots of other good games on this site as well.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday fun for the whole family

If you are looking for something to do with friends/family this weekend, here are a few ideas.

  • Check out a performance of Bella's Tree at The Rooms on Sunday. Written by local author Janet Russell, this book won a Governor General's Award. The performance features local performer Jody Richardson, and should be an amazing show. Later that evening, make your own Christmas decoration! Details at:
  • Check out the annual reading of A Christsmas Carol at Gower Street United Church in St. John's. The performance features many CBC celebrities (Alan Hawco, anyone?) and only costs $10 to get in. Show starts at 7pm tonight.
  • Go see More Munsch!, a play that tells 6 of Robert Munsch's favorite stories. It is running at the Arts and Culture Centre Basement Theatre until the 19th. I have seen it other years, and it is a ton of fun for the whole family (And cheap). Call the Box Office for details (729-3900). Also playing at the ACC is Scrooge, which should be a great spectacle. Again, box office for details
  • Giving Back is an afternoon event taking place at the Fluvarium every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 until December 18th. It is a family event that helps kids and their parents make gift-giving more "green". 
I'm sure there are lots of other activities on the go, but these are a few that caught my eye. Have a great weekend!


If you are interested in all things crafty, I would suggest you go see the "Comfort and Joy" show at Devon House, the Craft Council gallery across from the Sheraton. There is an open house today and should be lots of fun, with lots of great locally-made gift ideas.

**Update over**

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Report Card Day!

We had a good day today, lots of excitement and apprehension as would be expected under the circumstances. We took plenty of time to talk about evaluation and talk about the self-reflection we have carried out, as well as discussing how report cards "work" and how the information should be used. Above all, I congratulated students on their achievements. We have been setting high goals and expectations so far, and I marvel each day at how well all students are performing. All parents, families and students should be very proud, and looking forward to a great second term.

Students have been given the task of picking out some strengths and weaknesses over the weekend, and writing the results in their Journal de Questions. I would encourage you to help them with this activity, extending on the conversations you will already be having about the marks and comments on their report cards. I hope to use this feedback in Tuesday's parent-teacher meetings, so the more detail the better!

A few pointers, then I'm off for a reporting-free weekend!

  • We covered more math today (Lesson 6), so students can finish up to Lesson 6 in their math review.
  • Students' 200+ word Book Report synopsis is due Thursday
  • Don't forget to sign up for parent-teacher meetings at Parents can check their email for notes on how to sign up for back-to-back slots. Please contact me if you need to be accommodated in any way.
Again, congratulations to students on a great job and have a fun weekend.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A new chapter

Anticipation of Christmas and report cards is quickly building, as we move toward Christmas vacation. There are only 14 school days left before our winter holiday if you can imagine! Today we began a new read-aloud, since we have finished up Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. We are reading I Want To Go Home, a great book by Canadian author Gordon Korman. It is a long-time favourite of mine; a very humorous, engaging book with great characters and stimulating dialogue and vocabulary. We covered the first few chapters today, and will be responding to it as we go along.

Gym was outside today, and will be for the next week or so as Christmas Concert season hits full pace. I have advised students to dress warm for this reason. We played soccer and 4-square, and I think the fresh air did us well for the rest of the day. The class spent more time working on a survey they will bring home for science as well. The survey focuses on habitat depletion, and will hone their research, information gathering and data management skills. These surveys will go home on Monday.

A memo went home today, giving details about signing up for parent-teacher interviews on Tuesday. You can sign up for back-to-back slots by altering your child's name slightly for the second slot. For example, enter Bob Jones for the first slot, then Bob V. Jones for the second one. If you are having any problems, please let me know.

Tomorrow we will be moving on to the second-last unit in math, and finishing up brainstorming for our French stories. I have also been taking the time this week to use our morning "Saviez-vous que?" sessions as a lesson in grammar or style when speaking french. This has ranged from simple things like pluralization and masculine/feminine nouns to more complex concepts involving verbs, adjective placement and advanced grammar.

I think everyone will be happy with Report Cards tomorrow. We have come a long way this year, and continue to move along every day. In your child's Report Card envelope, you will also find a letter from the principal and a copy of your child's Grade 3 CRT results. As always, if you have any questions please get in touch with me. Talk to you soon.

Today's update coming soon

I had a few errands to run this afternoon, but will have a post up in the next couple of hours.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let the pandemonium begin!

I don't think there is a saying that December "Comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion", but there should be. I guess there is now! We kicked off the day by talking about students' plans for December, focusing specifically on Christmas Eve traditions. The class did some journaling on the topic, and we incorporated that activity into some adjective and verb-based activities for our current process-writing project.

We are nearing the end of our science unit on habitats and ecosystems, and will finish with a project on habitat preservation. Students are preparing lists of perceived threats in our province (from oil and other large-scale projects to urban sprawl and water pollution), and will build a survey that parents and friends will answer. This will wrap up a few outcomes related to process and information-gathering, as well as pointing out the many viewpoints on resource management and preservation that exist in a community.

We took a huge leap forward in math today. Students took the idea of a repeating pattern and applied it to finding missing information in equations. For example, students solved a problem wherein a number of bags of strawberries per week were being taken from an initial supply of 77. They were told how many were left each week (77, 73, 69, 65, 61...) and asked to figure out how many were being taken away each week using an equation. They learned that this can be written 77 - __ = 73, and used their strategies to figure out what the missing number was. In this case, they would use a number line or subtract 73 from 77 to get the answer, 4.

The main thing I am looking for is that students are able to explain what they did, and why. I am trying to focus more and more on this element of our math curriculum, since a profound understanding of why will serve them much better than memorizing answers. For that reason, when working on review sheets I would ask parents/guardians to make sure answers are written completely and that the actual question being asked is answered.

We talked about 1st Person and 3rd Person writing today, and did a closing exercise with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Students chose a character and wrote from their point of view. It is an advanced skill to empathize with another character and try to see from their perspective, but the class really seemed to enjoy it. I would encourage you to discuss the idea of perspective in writing when your children are working on book reports, reading projects or story-writing at home.

A few last notes:
Have a great day, and please take a few minutes to check out the following sites. The first two are activities related to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

This next link deals with food webs, an extension of the activities we have already done on food chains. We created our own large food web together in class last week, so students should be familiar with the idea of Primary Producers, Primary Consumers and Secondary Consumers. Also, remember what direction the arrows point (the same way the energy is moving)!

The final link deals with climates and habitats, and is found on the Canadian Geographic Kids website. It is in French, hooray! There is a game in the bottom right corner, and audio tools as well.

Have a great Wednesday!