Thursday, February 24, 2011

A busy couple of weeks here!

This post will be mainly informational, since I want to outline the schedule for our next couple of weeks. They promise to be quite busy, so here goes!

We will have a few pieces of evaluation coming up in class, since the limit for submitting Report Card marks is March 4th. The class will be having their health test on Tuesday, so everybody brought home their health textbook and exercise book to study. We have reviewed the material exhaustively in class, and created a study guide from which all content will be drawn. I would love the kids to keep the books at home until Tuesday, so they can review at their leisure.

On Wednesday the 2nd, the class will be creating poetry books. They have been asked to select 4 types of poetry that they really enjoy, and to write several points about each. These points are meant to describe the poem aesthetically and technically, so that someone else could create such a poem using their instructions. Then, they will have to write a short (5-6 line) example of each one. Since this is a closed-book activity, I am giving time in class to do all the prep work they need to be ready. This will go home over the weekend so your child can continue to prepare/write examples, etc. Definitions and examples of all poems are already in their notes.

Because of this flurry of evaluation, I am bumping the due date for Book Reports back to next Friday, the 4th of March. Some students have already completed their projects, and others will be given time in class to take some pressure off at home.

We are having a fun activity tomorrow afternoon that requires snow sculpting outside, so please note the following:
  • Students may bring along accessories such as plastic shovels, buckets, food colouring or any other things they would like to use in creating their design
  • PLEASE BRING SNOWPANTS, MITTS AND HATS!!!! Students who don't have these things will not be able to participate to the same degree.
I will be attending a Professional Development session on Monday and Tuesday, the 28th and 1st. I will still be available via email, but will discontinue the Multiplication Journal until I get back on Wednesday.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Wow, the snow just won't stop coming! After fielding a wide array of inquiries about the potential of an abbreviated day, we kicked things off with a few good discussions and sharing time. As I have been doing most days lately, I gave students a bit of time to finish up missed/incomplete work while others worked on supplemental projects or read in French.

The majority of the remainder of the morning was occupied with a Grade 4 Winter Games, which seems to have been a big hit. Everybody had fun, and some even won prizes for winning or placing well in the various competitions. I continue to be impressed (this being my first year at BCE) at the level of encouragement given to physical activity and friendly competition. It is a hard balance, keeping things fun and still challenging, but the Phys Ed staff does a great job. Our music teacher is also improving her French over the course of the year, so is able to converse with students in their/my language of choice.

I am happy with students' progress in their multiplication journals, and would encourage parents/guardians to push their children even further in thinking of the "WHY?" portions of each question. Problem Solving is an area the school is trying to improve, and applying these principles to something straightforward like single-figure multiplication is a good way to get more comfortable and stay in practice.

We started writing up our health study notes today, something that I will send home tomorrow. The unit on healthy living was fairly straightforward, and all content on the test will be taken from the notes I send home with them.

We had a library session today as well, and I have started to push students to choose more books that are outside their comfort zones or that slightly challenge their reading level. This inevitably meets with opposition, which is understandable. However, students seem to realize soon thereafter that there are many types of books they enjoy and that it is worth taking a risk every so often. Now that students have really embraced reading in class (and many at home and in free time), I am less concerned about alienating them from reading by challenging their interests and abilities. As always, reading in French is very constructive and will do wonders for their reading, writing and oral skills.

If you have any questions, my ESDNL email is back up and running well. Enjoy the snow, and stay warm!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Poetic; just us.

Today was a great day in our class, as we got further into our unit on multiplication and drew our poetry unit closer to being finished. All students completed and presented posters about their favourite type of poetry, and animated activities about them for the whole class to take part in. The students in my class are enjoying student-teaching more and more, and have become quite comfortable speaking in front of their peers in either French or English.

I was pleased to see how students were progressing with their Multiplication Journals, as well as their February book reports. Their 200-word outline of the book and what they plan to present it due tomorrow. Also, they have taken home a new question in their Multiplication Journals to complete by tomorrow. Thanks to all who are helping with this activity; the students benefit greatly from discussion and participation!

We have almost finished our unit on Nutrition and Exercise, and I will be conducting a test on the relevant material next week. As with their last Science test, students will build their study guide as a group in school so they have a complete list of terms and concepts to study.

I am having trouble responding to my ESDNL email, so please bear with me. I can also be contacted at if necessary.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Multiplication Station

Today I launched a new initiative, focusing on improving mental math skills when it comes to multiplication. We did a great activity with cards as a way of assessing where students are "at", and I was very pleased with the results. We talked about why it is important to be able to do mental math (particularly simple multiplication facts) and discussed ways to recall these facts without just relying on rote memorization. I sent home a handout with ideas and tips about this a few months ago, something that several students tell me they have been using on a regular basis. Glad to hear it!

If you need any other ideas, please search "multiplication" in the blog's Search Box, and it should link you to a number of other entries I have posted in the past months. There are also games and helpful sites linked on the right sidebar. In the interest of increasing the focus on multiplication, I have replaced the ever-popular "Journal de Lecture" with a "Journal de Multiplication". Students will have one question per day to solve at home, starting with very easy problems and getting more challenging as we go along. Today's question asks students to draw "2 X 3", 3 different ways. We solved this problem using different numbers today already, so I don't anticipate any issues.

Thanks to all parents who have sent in extra exercise books over the last couple of weeks, it's a great help. Students are accumulating written work at an increasing rate, so we are starting to run out.

All students have chosen a book for their book reports this month; final presentations will be on March 2nd. I have asked students to finish their 200+ words by Tuesday. I will be giving more time than usual to work on these in class, since February's book reports will be a key component of my grading for the upcoming report cards.


Sadly, yes. I am happy to say that I have seen students' interest levels, abilities and effort increase in leaps and bounds, so I am looking forward to documenting their progress again. If you have any concerns or questions leading up to this key time of year, please contact me so we can meet or talk if you would like.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns, and have a good evening.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Candy-fuelled Chaos

Yesterday was a frantic day to say the least, as we were caught up in a number of school and class activities surrounding Valentine's Day. A big thanks to all parents who sent in birthday cards for me as well, I appreciate the thought. Today was a busy day as well, a few points about which I would like to outline.

We wrote the math test, after lunch, and I am happy to say that the class did a fantastic job. Their hard work over this unit (2D Geometry/Symmetry) was evident in their results, and I think they're all pretty proud tonight. We did more work on poetry as well, and had our first game of Geography Wars in a while. I have pitched the notion that we are working with a limited amount of time, and that perks like playing games and doing "fun" activities are contingent on us not wasting too much of our precious time. This has been well-received, and students are responding my increasingly monitoring and moderating their own behaviour and helping set a great tone for the rest of the class.

A few more notes only, since I must head home in the aftermath of whatever that storm was today! I am currently "sans-laptop" for a couple of days, so I won't be able to check my email until the morning.
  • A note went home today about a mishap with one of our school buses. Everybody was fine, but the administration just wanted to make sure all details were clear.
  • Most students have chosen a book for February's Book Report, and some have even finished their 200-word synopsis. For this month, I am asking the class to realy focus on punctuation in their writing, and character analysis in their reading/reporting.
  • An ongoing reminder, Ms. Tapper is conducting outdoor gym classes throughout the week. Please make sure students have appropriate attire.
  • February's calendar was sent home last week.
Have a great day, and talk to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Half Snow Day!

We had a weather-abbreviated day today, which we filled with some activities based on debating. The students who made it in (7/14) had a debating tournament that they did a great job with. They debated topics ranging from Lego to Swimming, and learned a lot about the process and end results of debating. It was a fun thing to experiment with!

I assigned students a small task for their snow day, which they should be finishing up by now. I would like them to note down what physical activity they took part in throughout the day, as well as what they ate. This will be the initial step of a project we are working on tomorrow, so I would suggest students get something down on paper tonight or tomorrow morning.

See everyone tomorrow, and good job to the students who debated so well today.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Late Night Update

I am presenting a tutorial about the use of SmartBoard technology on Wednesday afternoon, and spent this afternoon re-familiarizing myself with the wonderful piece of technology that we find in so many classrooms at Beachy Cove Elementary. The capacity of the SmartBoard to help with teaching, learning and practicing in immense. I think that as we incorporate more and more technology into the day-to-day running of the class, it will open up opportunities to use the SmartBoards we have at our disposal more often.

We had the first "All-Canadian" edition of Geography Wars on Friday, which exposed a number of the challenges that are posed when using research materials and tools like maps, charts, tables of contents, and a variety of indexes and appendices. As long as the class is engaged, I will not shy away from exploring these ideas with the class, especially as a way of framing material we are covering anyways. Students have already made huge leaps in their ability to research, locate information and recognize familiar data.

I am using our unit on poetry as a means of learning many elements of English grammar and style, and it seems to be going quite well. It is hard to impress the importance of setting some limits in order to allow for increased stylistic freedom. Once students start to realize the value of the guidelines of a particular literary style or technique, they are quick to start adding detail and their individual identity. 

Hopefully we get a whole day in tomorrow before the snow blitz hits, but if we don't, I hope everybody has a great day playing in the snow.

A few notes, more to come later on.

We had a busy day today again, spending time with Mme Natalie's class in the computer lab and launching into Chapter 3 of our Social Studies textbook. This unit focuses on Why people explore, and should help crystallize a lot of the knowledge they have been accumulating over the first couple of chapters.

We also took our first stab at debating, and discussed the important elements of creating an argument, choosing language, doing research, etc. We had a couple "Flash Debates" to try this out, and it seemed as though the class really enjoyed the activity. It really encourages logical thought and process, as well as collaborative thinking and organization. I hope to use this as a review and pre-assessment technique as we go forward.
I have a few notes, with another post to come later on tonight.
  • Starting immediately, Ms. Tapper would like students to be prepared to go outside for gym. Tomorrow we have gym in the morning.
  • One of my esteemed colleagues in the class reminded me that I hadn't passed out February's schedule yet. I had to edit a few things over the weekend, and got caught up in some other duties that prevented me from getting it photocopied today. The February schedule will go home tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Un pizza pour Sami

As a follow-up to my previous post from today, here is one of the videos created by a student in my class for his book report. He took still pictures to document the action in the story, then took video of them and narrated over top of it. I think Eric did a great job, so please take a look! Even if you don't speak French, I think you will enjoy. When you are finished, you can click on the YouTube icon to watch it on YouTube and give it a thumbs-up.

Happy Snow Day Eve, everybody!

At the risk if causing catastrophic disappointment, I decided to go ahead and teach my sure-fire, never-fail Snow Dance today. It works 9 times out of 10, and when combined with the doom and gloom Ryan Snodden has been spreading around, it seems like a sure thing.

That being said, today was a "flurry" (sorry for the pun) of activity as we presented book reports, had buddy reading and BURP (Boys Undercover Reading Program) and worked on some independent projects after Recess. We are close to finishing our 2-D Geometry unit in math, and our health unit on activity and nutrition is getting nearer to a close as well.

Last night I had students read a newspaper or magazine, and we talked about it this morning. It was a great way to compare the ways informational texts can be presented and used, and sparked some interesting discussions. Tonight's reading assignment is to look at a nutritional label on something they are eating. I asked the students to note anything interesting or surprising they find out, and we will compare these tomorrow (or Friday!) morning.

Using the food data information I got from our cafeteria's food provider (Chartwells, a subsidiary of Compass Group), students have been going through the pages and highlighting things that they think stand out. They have been surprised by the elevated amounts of sodium, fat and sugar in some foods, as well as by the high nutrient levels in others. I also printed off the Eastern School District's healthy eating mandate, and the guidelines by which it is regulated. We will be using this to analyze the overall adherence to healthy-living rules we have at school, and build a list of recommendations.

Have a good snowy day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Today's action

We are moving along at a great clip in both our poetry and symmetry units, finding ways to incorporate them into a variety of curriculum areas. We have explored 8 different types of poetry, most recently Haiku. The kids have really embraced the styles we are looking at, and are even writing poetry on their own time on a variety of subjects. Nice to see!

I found a great (Free) iPod App for editing video/film clips. It is called Splice, and I hope to use it in class. It will be the program we will use for doing the final edit of our "Monsieur LeBlanc" videos. Also, I used it to put together a show that gives more detail on the "Floor Symmetry" shown in the previous blog post. If you or your child has an iPod Touch or iPhone, I would suggest downloading it and playing around with it.

I put off book report presentations until tomorrow, due to some activities running long today. This should take up most of the morning tomorrow, and the afternoon will be dominated by science experiments as we get more in depth into our unit on light. Here are a few more notes on what is coming up, with more to follow tonight.
  • Most students finished enough classwork to get their Math Review sheets today, and should be able to start working on them up to Lesson 4. I hope to test and finish this chapter by sometime next week.
  • We will be creating a poetry booklet over the next few weeks that will showcase the styles we are working on.
  • Building further on students' interest in musical styles and varieties, I have been playing more and more music during class time. This ranges from comedy to contemporary to classical, and seems to be a very constructive force in class.
  • The Sweat-a-Thon assembly is this Friday. Thanks to parents who have donated prizes; if your organization or place of work is interested in donating any sort of prize, please send it along before then.

And just like that, it's February

The end of January was a mad flurry of activity, snow and flu, but I'm glad to be back on the go now. I will post a series of short updates to bring things up to our current status, starting with a video showing an activity we did about symmetry.

Students used masking tape to create shapes on the floor, on one side of an axis of symmetry. Then they switched places and had to race to complete the other side of the symmetrical shape. What this video shows is the final flurry of activity. It was a great way to see where the class is at, and was very tangible.