Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ending the week with a bang

I had some great experiences today at our PD session, as well as at an Early French Immersion Resource Working Group at ESDNL district office. It was a great chance to pick up some new ideas and resources, as well as to share what we have been up to in class. That being said, it will be nice to be back in the classroom tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will be putting a big focus on students' Becoming an Expert projects, all of which are well underway. The class will have ample time to work on things, and I will be consulting with them and giving tutorials on PowerPoint and a few other tools they would like to use. I will also be giving back some first drafts that have been edited. As I mentioned during the Parent-Teacher meetings last week, I will be sending home support documents to help you with the writing process.

More notes tomorrow, and have a great lead-in to the weekend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Google AdSense

You may notice that I have added Google AdSense to my blog sidebar. While I am normally averse to adding advertisements to a blog or personal website, I am curious to see what type of revenue could be gained through my current 2000 hits per month.

All money gained through adding the Google AdSense function will be dedicated to my classroom budget, with the principal goal of finding out whether or not I can get enough advertisement income to finance a wireless Internet account/router for the classroom. If I can accomplish this, I would be an interesting experiment in DIY tech support! If not, my hope is that there will be at least some contribution to our classroom resources.

I did a quick survey yesterday, and found out that we had a potential total of over 250 gigabytes (250,000,000,000 bytes) of computing power between the 14 students in the classroom. This includes iPods, DS's and other personal devices as well as my own computing tools. This is a staggering capacity, most of which has Internet access. To put his in perspective:

  • The first personal computer had a 256-byte memory
  • In 1977, the first Commodore home computer boasted 8000 bytes
  • IBM made a commercially available computer that had 1GB. It cost $140,000
  • In 1982, Commodore 64 upped the ante with 64,000 bytes in a home computer
  • In 1994, the first Zip Drive showcased a staggering 100,000 bytes
  • Since 2000, computing capacity has increased exponentially, from 1-GB iPods in 2002 to our current 32GB iPod Touch models, but...
                   (And quite remarkably, when you consider our in-class capacity)
  • Our entire computer lab currently has less than 1000GB total capacity (which is really pretty good!)
It seems negligent to do anything but take advantage of this computing power! Can't wait to see the results, especially with the upcoming arrival of our SmartBoard.

Let me know what you think!

Another 2 days in the competent hands of Ms. Bishop

From what I can gather, the students had a great time over the last couple of days when I was gone. They seem to have gotten lots done under the tutelage of Ms. Bishop, a former MUN classmate of mine. Personal Projects are ticking along, students continue to improve the quality and quantity of their written and oral French output, and my desk has never been tidier!

As I mentioned in Monday's post, we are moving into a time of the year that will require several pieces of formal evaluation. The first of these is a math test, scheduled for next Wednesday (April 6th). This will incorporate elements from the whole unit on multiplication, and I think the class is well-prepared. As usual, I have sent home the requisite review sheets to be completed by next Tuesday. Many thanks for doing so much work with your children at home to get their multiplication "mental math" skills up to and beyond par. This has been a huge help in class, and allowed them to move into very interesting and stimulating activities over the last couple of days.

Today for example, we worked on a big multiplication table. This was completed individually and as a group, and showed all products from 1X1 to 9X9. I have included a blank version of this table in students' Math DuoTang, which they should be able to fill in themselves. Seeing the table in such a large, coherent format allowed us to pick out dozens of patterns that emerge when multiplying, which helps the information on multiplication "gel" much better.

After we had time to mull over these ideas together (for example that products of 9 always have digits adding up to 9, or that the pattern of "ones" digits in factors of 8 repeat every 5 factors), students carried out a "Mystery Number" activity. They had to give increasingly specific clues about a secret number, until we could guess it.

Let's say the number was 28. The first clue might be that the 2 digits in the number add up to 10. This eliminates many numbers, leaving possibilities such as 28, 55, 64, 46, 82 etc. By removing all that are not products on our multiplication table, it gets down to only 28 and 64. The next clue was that the number is even, which is no extra help. However, after getting the 3rd clue that 7 is a factor of the number, students were able to identify the number as 28. The class wanted to keep playing this game all day (Mission Accomplished), so it might be fun to try it out at home. It requires solid observation, recall of rules and lateral thinking, which are all important problem-solving skills we are currently working on.

On Friday I will be taking ample time to work on students' Personal Projects with them. Several students need help with specific tasks, and others need help proofreading or planning their next step. For that reason, please make sure your child brings all Personal Project materials on Friday. This may include a USB storage device, a video, pictures, etc. If something is stored digitally, you can also email it to me. The projects are going very well, and again, thanks for all the support at home.

One last note; on Friday I am meeting with a French Immersion Program Specialist from Eastern School District. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, whether a student, teacher, parent or friend, I would love to have some feedback to pass along during this meeting. You can either leave your thoughts as a comment on this post, or email me at . I would love to have your feedback on things you enjoy, improvement I could be made, what the blog is useful for, or anything else you can think of.

Have a good PD day off tomorrow, and speak with you all soon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back in the swing of things

After another very constructive Professional Development session today, I will be back in class tomorrow. The session gave us lots of time to reflect on our practices and ideas as first-year teachers, and it was also a great chance to share what we have been up to.

Tomorrow, I will be scheduling a math test for the beginning of next week. We will be checking in on the class's Becoming an Expert portfolios as well, and starting a new read-aloud book. As I alluded to in the Parent-Teacher meetings, we will also be starting to gain greater familiarity with the intricacies of process writing as the week continues.

Let me know if you have any questions, and sorry for the gap in blog posting over the "Parent-Teacher Long Weekend".

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We are getting a SmartBoard

The title pretty much says it all! Very excited that I will soon be able to expand my resources in the classroom! Tomorrow is Parent-Teacher, so see some of you then. Kids, have a good afternoon!


We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard! We're getting a SmartBoard!

Have a great evening.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday... Aaaaafternoon.... 2.0

Today was a very busy day in our class! I don't have much time to write at the moment (basketball at 7:30), but I wanted to pass on a few messages.

First off, we made some great progress on the kids' Becoming an Expert projects. The class seems to be generally on task and on track, so it was great to give them a chance to make some progress during class time. Thanks so much for all the home support; I think it is really paying off. The next big step will be setting our Week 3 goals tomorrow, and spending some time in the computer lab. Some students have started to bring a flash drive back and forth to school with them, which I would encourage because of the tidiness and simplicity factor.

I will be sending home the customary math review sheets soon, as a test will be coming up by the end of next week. A science test is also looming in the next couple of weeks as well, as is a health project about medication and drugs. I will post more info on this later in the week.

A note went home today about the school rezoning decisions that have been made recently at the School Board level. The letter contains all the information we have at the moment, and we also discussed it in class at some length.

If you have any questions at all, please let me know.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Out around the bay.

Just wanted to check in with a few messages for parents and students, since I didn't have a chance to post last night before leaving St. John's. I'm out in Amherst Cove for the weekend, spending some time in the workshop with my dad. A day in the workshop out around the bay never gets old, that's for sure.

I had students write in their agendas that they should review their report cards with their parents/guardians and discuss things they did well and things they would like to improve. We did the same thing last term, and it provided lots of good food for thought as we moved forward. All the kids in class will have a chance to review their running portfolios next week, and make some reflections in advance of Parent-Teacher meetings on Thursday. I would encourage you to sit down together and make a few notes if possible, in order for the students to be prepared for our discussions this week.

Have a great weekend, and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 1 = Day Fun

Wow, the puns are really going downhill these days. Seriously though, Day 1 (as today was) is a great opportunity to have fun and get some things taken care of. We have no out-of-class activities, so we can really get into a project or lesson and have some fun with it. Today that included math, social studies, french and English language arts, and a fun trip to the Learning Resource Centre.

In the LRC, we went on the computers to start building a database of useful websites and resources for our personal projects. This was a great way to teach about techniques when navigating the Internet, something that is becoming an increasingly important part of kids' skill set. Many students already have extensive experience with computers, but others are still getting the hang of it. I heartily share the school board's philosophy that teaching students to process, evaluate and use information is becoming every bit as important as having the knowledge in the first place.

The class also took some time to set their Week 2 goals for their Becoming an Expert personal project, so they can get back at it tonight. All written and organizational materials should be brought to school each day so we can work on them, and I will keep them one day a week (usually Wednesday) as part of my ongoing evaluation of the project. Great work so far!

We had a good discussion today about what students heard on Radio Bell Island, which branched off into a writing exercise and a discussion on the importance of local tradition, history and knowledge. I know there were some bandwidth problems and time constraints last night, but I have encouraged students to listen in again tonight. This will help us compare different episodes of the show, which is an important part of our critical literacy programming.

Report Cards go home tomorrow, so I will have a couple fun little things scheduled for the class during the day to take the pressure off. The class is generally pretty laid back about evaluation, which I hope is a result of the time we have spent talking about authentic assessment and goal-setting. Regardless, I remember the tension of Report Card time quite well and certainly empathize with students and their families. In advance of Parent-Teacher interviews next Thursday, we will be reflecting on each student's portfolio during the week. To that end, I would encourage you to discuss your child's report in as much detail as you feel comfortable, focusing on what they feel their strengths are and what goals they would like to set for the rest of the year. They are certainly in full swing now, and I can't wait to see what they will come up with next!

I am out of town this weekend, but can still be contacted by email if you have any questions. Take care, and here's hoping we've seen the last major storm for this year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Live on the air: Radio Bell Island

If you have a few minutes at home tonight (alone or with the kids), why not tune in to Radio Bell Island? It is broadcasting this week from 4PM to 9PM, featuring all-local content and addressing many local issues. You can find it at 100.1 FM on the dial, or go to

It is very rare to find truly local radio these days, so please give them your support! The radio station has a great Facebook page with lots of information as well.

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!

Tuesday Post #2: Relevant website

Today in class, we read in the Telegram about a Newfoundlander that runs an animal rescue centre in Japan. Her name is Susan Mercer, and she runs HEART Tokushima. In the article, she talked about their efforts and how the tragedies in Japan have made her work more challenging. I thought I would post a link to the HEART Tokushima website, since many students wanted to know more.

Sheila's Brush

Today was a bit of a frenzy as we got back in the swing of things after an unexpected long weekend. I say unexpected, but Sheila's Brush does seem to come back with a vengeance every year around this time. It seems as though many students used the weekend to good effect, either resting up, playing outside or working on their Becoming an Expert projects.

Day 6 being a day that has both Music and Gym periods, it can be hard to get much of a flow going. On top of that, we had a great concert by Irish-Newfoundland entertainer Fergus O'Byrne after recess. He showed slides and talked about Ireland, and managed to do the impossible by engaging (and enthralling) a group of  three hundred 9-11 year old kids. He showed his great sense of humour and entertaining flair as he answered questions and told the story of Finn McCool, then played some great traditional songs. I think the students go an awful lot out of the experience; Thanks to Beachy Cove Elementary for scheduling this great event!

We had a lengthy discussion about the current situation in Japan, as part of our French class. Discussions like this are a great way to talk about current issues and concepts, as well as a way for me to get a bearing on students' written and spoken French skills. Some students already knew a lot about the earthquake/tsunami tragedy, and others were very interested to find out more. It is a very difficult story to deal with, but I think they got a lot out of it and I was able to clarify some things they were unsure of.

We took some time to check in on each student's Becoming an Expert project at the end of the day, and I was very impressed with their project. A lot of the children in class are refining their ideas more as they go along, and some have taken the project in directions I wouldn't have even imagined. Great work! Some students have already reached their Week 1 goals, and have no assigned work tonight. Others have some things left to finish, and have written these instructions in their agenda and/or Becoming an Expert exercise book. Tomorrow they will have some time to do more research, and begin/continue working on their first project.

Enjoy what is left of this sunny day, especially now that our evenings have gotten a bit longer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In defiance of "No Technology Day"

As part of Education Week at Beachy Cove Elementary, today was "No Technology Day". This meant we refrained from using electronic devices and other new-fangled contraptions for the bulk of the school day. To elaborate on this activity we had a discussion and writing exercise to think of types of technology that are used every day. This list ranged from iPods to toilets, and was a very thought-provoking discussion. Students found it harder to imagine that society could function without the ability to be in constant contact, than they did to imagine not having a stove or toilet. I guess this is to be expected, but it was still quite a strong signal about just how differently we communicate these days.

The students in my class are bringing home the materials for their Personal Projects for the first time today as well. They have already put in some great work, and now they are going to start planning in earnest. Their job for tonight is to write up a list of possible information sources, and plan their activities and goals for the first week. These will be modest goals, mostly about gathering information and planning their project as a whole.

Tomorrow is Career Dress-Up day, so I have encouraged students to dress up as their ideal profession. The school would prefer that students don't bring in large items like hockey sticks, and if your child want to grow up to be a Jedi (a noble goal) they should probably leave their light sabre at home. Also, I would prefer if any aspiring Jedi Knights refrain from using Force Push or Mind Control during instructional time.

Enough foolishness, please let me know if you have any quesions. May the force be with you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Becoming an Expert

Our new class projects, which we will be starting this week and continuing until Easter, have officially been christened "Becoming an Expert". Each student now has an exercise book, DuoTang and folder to keep things organized, and will be filling their DuoTang with organizational sheets to keep things in order. Today we had another good organizing discussion, and zapped some possible trouble spots. We looked at the students' options for presenting their topic in greater depth, and talked about how the project will be evaluated.
I will be using a Choice Board for this exercise, which is basically a way to organize choices in a way that keeps things organized, but allows for a degree of freedom in choosing the media a student wants to use. For example, they could choose one presentation style that appeals more to a visual learner (video, slide show, PowerPoint), but then would have to pick one that is focused on written word (timeline, history, informational text). Once they have satisfied a few different categories, the student can go back and pick another presentation type that appeals to their skills and interests. I will elaborate more on this later, and each student will have a copy of the Choice Board in their DuoTang.
I will also supply each student with an exhaustive marking rubric, and provide examples of what calibre of work will result in each possible grade (1-5) on the different elements of their project. I have already emphasized (and will continue to emphasize) that the important thing is that they remain organized and stay on schedule, and that their effort in the project be obvious to me. Again, more details later this week.

A few housekeeping notes:
  • We didn't get a chance to finish the last book reports today, but they will be taken care of tomorrow. If you would like to see a completed evaluation for your child's report, please let me know.
  • Tomorrow there is a food drive at school, so I would suggest students bring in some small non-perishable item if they are able to.
  • Thursday will be a Turn Off Technology day. We will make an effort to use the least amount of modern technology possible from 9:00am to 1:00pm.
  • Friday is Dress-Up Day! Students should dress up as "What I Want to be When I Grow Up". I plan to dress up as a pirate.
  • If you haven't checked in recently, there are a few links that were posted in the last 7 days that will help students work on their individual projects.
Have a great day, let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday 2.0: some useful links

This first site is a great database to help kids guide their research. It has search engines, external databases and searchable archives that should be a great help.

KidsInfo can be a very useful site when navigated with the help of a parent/guardian or older sibling/friend. This particular part of the site has great information on world geography and "Country Facts".

What a neat site this one is! Mama Lisa's World has a great database of kids songs, lullabies and nursery rhymes from around the world. Even better? It is translated into French and Spanish. If you child is seeking information about music from a particular country, this site will prove very useful.

In that same vein, is another site with songs and reference to things around the world. This specific link talks about foods from many countries.

The first day of the rest of our lives...

After having missed so much time in class last week, it was nice to get a full day under my belt once again. Now that the stress and workload of getting reports done is a thing of the past (for now), I am happy to get back to putting all my effort into moving forward in class. We moved on to the next lesson in Math, started a unit on medicine and drugs in Health class, got a start on the students' individual projects and even had time for Art.
I sent a letter home today that outlines more details on personal projects. These projects are shaping up to be a lot of fun, so I encourage you and your child to go all out! As always, contact me if you have any questions. My goal is to culminate with a large-scale gallery display in the school that would allow students to share their creations and data with a wide group of students and friends.

The class completed some multiplication practice sheets on Friday when my substitute was in, and I had a chance to review them today. I was generally very satisfied with the results, but as always, there are places that could be improved. Rote learning still has a place, and is something that can be done at home. The students in my class also know a wide array of games using cards and dice that can help them learn facts.

Beyond that, I would ask you to quiz your child periodically and encourage them to use the strategies we are using in class. There are a number of pertinent games and activities linked in my archived blog posts as well.

I started a few new initiatives today, in an effort to keep the class focused during our classroom activities. These include awarding English-speaking as a group with incentives such as games and fun activities, as well as rationing students' input in class. I want to impress the idea that it is better to think carefully about what you are going to say than just to blurt things out. The intent is not to stifle their input, but to channel it into more effective, concentrated portions. It worked well today, so I will continue to ratchet things up throughout the week.

Have a great day, and don't eat too many pancakes tomorrow!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekend Update

The view from home, back when there was no snow.
As promised, a few updates on the weekend. I'm glad to have finally submitted marks for the report cards that will be coming out in a couple of weeks; back to real life I guess! It gave me a great opportunity to reflect on the things we have been doing since the fall reporting period, and make some plans and changes going forward. With a limited amount of time left in the year (believe it or not), it's time to really start bringing some of the things we have been learning to their apex.

To this end, I will be bringing back a few things from earlier in the year and also introducing a few new wrinkles. I am going to start assigning Words of the Week again, as well as a weekly grammar/syntax rule. There are a few things that crop up repeatedly, so I think it is worthwhile to focus on them one at a time. I appreciate all the help you have been giving your children at home. Trust me, it really helps keep things moving in class, and impresses the importance of dedication and hard work on the students.

Here is a good link I found the other day; it has many activities to help with grammar conventions and related topics. Now that students have really started to increase their written and creative output in class and at home, I think it's time to polish the little details.

Learning Planet, which can be accessed via some of the links on that site, is a great resource as well for improving skills and having fun.

I will put up a couple more links tomorrow. If you have any questions, let me know.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In like a lion....

Another busy day today, as I spent the morning in Professional Development and spent the afternoon in class. We moved ahead in math, working on new strategies for multiplication; this seems to have gone very well, at least according to my excellent substitute. 

This afternoon we had another film festival, showcasing more of the great short films created by students in the class. Popcorn, great animation, hedgehogs in space... what more could you want! We also introduced Roch Carrier's classic "The Hockey Sweater" courtesy of a great presentation from John. Well done.

A few parents have mentioned that their children have set fairly lofty goals for their individual project, but I think that this is alright for know. I would encourage students to aim high right now, because we can always reel things in next week when we start the project in earnest. I love the excitement the class is showing about this project, and can't wait to see what they have to offer.

I am in PD again tomorrow, but have a full day scheduled. There will be no multiplication journal tonight or over the weekend, unless it went unfinished on Wednesday night. I had hoped to get some book reports presented today, but we had buddy reading and it got pushed back a little bit. Monday it is! If you have any questions about things, drop me an email.

Have a great weekend, and I will post a few updates and links on Saturday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wow, what a day!

Today we managed to fit in a lot of activity, from our Poetry and Health evaluations to a great deal of organization for the upcoming weeks, silent reading, text responses and other activities. The class seems to be in great spirits lately, and more than eager to get right down to work. Unfortunately we weren't able to watch as many student-made videos as I would have liked to (because of the time missed in the last few days), but we are going to cluster them all tomorrow afternoon (with popcorn, of course!)

I imagine some students will come home fairly fired up about the individual projects we will be conducting, but I have encouraged them to hold off on starting anything until Monday. I would like to finalize their ideas and methods first, then start working on things. If your child really can't wait, I would suggest that they start finding research materials and thinking of ways they would like to present their ideas next week.

I had to make another edit on the March schedule (looking like a busy month) so it will go home tomorrow. Also, I will be bringing you up to date on Education Week events taking place from the 7th to 11th of March.

For now, here is another great video created by one of my students. Well done, and hope you all click on the YouTube icon in the bottom-left corner to give it a view and a thumbs-up!