Thursday, January 26, 2012

A very busy day today!

Today we focused almost entirely on poetry, writing and math. Day 1 is a fairly uninterrupted day, which gives us a chance to get much deeper into a topic. The students wrapped up their unit on mathematics (geometry) with a project this afternoon, and most were able to finish the 1st draft of their persuasive essay. Those who were unable to finish have been asked to do so for homework.

We read a great book as part of our unit about poetry. It is called "Love That Dog", by Sharon Creech. It is entirely written in free verse, and tells the story of a boy in grade five who learns to love poetry and comes to grips with the loss of his pet many years before. It also references several famous poems, which I have placed on KidBlog for students who want to share them or re-read them. Nothing makes me happier than a student who wants to take something home to share!

We also launched into multiplication today. We looked at the theory behind multiplication, as well as the patterns that start to emerge when we look at a detailed multiplication table. The students were amazed to see some of the shortcuts coming out of the woodwork, and seemed fairly energized about a normally dry topic. I have informed the class that reviewing their "times tables" will be done at home over the next few weeks, so we can focus on strategies and problem-solving in class. I am normally against rote learning, but the benefits of having the basic multiplication facts at your fingertips are undeniable.

I will be providing resources for studying and practicing multiplication (games, tutorials, manipulatives) on KidBlog on a daily basis, so please encourage your child to check them out.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just a few notes for today!

I'm off to an appointment shortly, so here are a few quick notes.
  • If you haven't sent in your child's MCP expiry date, please do so ASAP. Please let me know if you need a new copy of the form
  • Students are expected to complete the remaining lessons in their Geometry math review by tomorrow.
  • I was very happy with the work students did over the weekend on I have encouraged them to keep finetuing their projects when they get the time.
  • Students have gym outside tomorrow, so they must wear/bring appropriate clothing for sliding.
Please contact me if you have any questions.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wearing my PJs inside-out!

With rumours of a snow day (now looking much less likely) in the air, today was a "flurry of activity". Sorry for the pun. This morning we spent an hour and a half in the computer lab, typing up our business letters to Kirk Leach. Mr. Leach came in to our class before Christmas, and did a great presentation about business on behalf of Junior Achievers. I was happy to see many students using the skills from our typing classes!

We kept on reading Shiloh as well. This is a great book by Pyllis Reynolds Naylor, about a boy in West Virginia who takes care of an abused dog. It is very relatable to the age group (the protagonist is 11), and has elicited some great discussion and responses so far.

Apparently the new cafeteria schedules did not go home last week, so I will be sending home new copies tomorrow morning. Sorry for this mix-up.

Tonight's homework is to record what they eat and what physical activity they participate in. We will use this tomorrow to delve a bit more deeply into some concepts around health and nutrition. I would also suggest that students keep checking KidBlog frequently, and try out the links I post. It is also worth looking at other students' posts, particularly when they relate to ongoing projects.

Have a great evening, and please contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Seeing our food in a whole new way

Today we worked on some very fun projects, and drew others closer to their completion. We put particular focus on the great homework the students did over the weekend, wherein they analyzed nutritional information labels and answered some questions. Students were very surprised by what they found in many cases, and it sparked some great discussion and further learning.

This link goes to a great nutrition calculator that we will be using in the next few weeks:

This link was one we were using today. It shows the nutritional information for many things available at popular fast food chains.

I also gave them a chance to look through the nutritional information sheets from the school's cafeteria, which I requested last year. I think that this is a good age for kids to become increasingly aware of the quality and quantity of their nutrient/calorie intake, so they can start to make their own good choices. We will be doing more work throughout our current chapters in science and health, and I hope to put particular focus on local and sustainable foods.

I will be sending home a worksheet later on this week (perhaps Wednesday) to gauge students' current understanding of our geometry unit in math. I am happy with their progress, so I think that a bit more time spent and formal evaluation given will allow me to wrap it up soon. Once we finish this unit we will be moving on to multiplication of 2-3 digit numbers. I will be assigning weekly homework assignments to help students brush up on their "times tables", since knowing them in greater detail is a huge benefit to their in-class work.

We started leaning about onomatopoeia today, which is a form of poetry that uses free verse (no rhyming) and focuses on "sound" words. The kids did an incredible job with these poems, and were very excited to do more (hence the focus of tonight's homework)! Here is a link to help remind students of the structure and contents of onomatopoeia if they need a refresher:

A notice went home today, announcing that this Thursday's PD has been postponed. Sorry if this causes any inconviences, but there was apparently a major scheduling conflict at the board level.

Have a lovely evening, and speak to you all again soon.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bon fin de semaine!

Hope everybody has a great weekend, and a very happy Old Christmas Day. Best of luck as well to students that are pariticpating in the big hockey tournament.

The only homework for this weekend (besides reading) is a fun little science activity. It requires students to collect two contrasting nutritional food labels, and answer a few questions. The kids seem fairly excited about it, so I hope to see some good results on Monday.

I had a bit of a blast from the past today, as the class watched two Bill Nye the Science Guy videos. One was about blood and circulation, and the other about bones and muscles. We had popcorn and discussed the videos afterwards. I had forgotten how incredibly engaging and entertaining the videos could be, particularly for kids who enjoy episodic, quick-hit learning and entertainment.

Anyhow, have a great weekend and please get in touch with me if you have any questions. I put a link on KidBlog yesterday that goes to some fun physics-related games, so if kids get bored you can certainly send them there!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Les mathematiques

Today we put most of our energy into math, since only a couple of weeks per year are allocated for the basic geometric concepts we are studying. We are focusing on ways to manipulate a 2-D object, specifically rotation, translation and reflection. The students are having fun with this process, and are already starting to complete some extra work (art projects, harder shapes) as they finish the required steps. I linked to some good sites for practicing geometry before Christmas, so if your child would like to they can check these out in their free time.

I have been giving out minimal homework thus far, but this will change as we move into the latter part of the week. I will be re-introducing the Question du Jour books in earnest, and focusing on trickier problem-solving style questions. In the next few weeks students will have quizzes coming up about weather (Science), geometry (Math), grammar (French) and geography (Social Studies). Each of these is structured to be a brief quiz that focuses on key concepts and will not require extensive studying.

We will be carrying out another Drama in Education project along the lines of our Beothuk project, this time with a focus on the human body, health and nutrition. We are still finalizing the details on this project, but it will be more independent than their previous work and will allow for individualization and elaboration by each student.

Have a great evening, and please contact me with any questions or comments at any time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bienvenue à janvier!

It was nice to get back into a routine today. I have to say that the kids looked quite rested overall and seemed excited to share their Christmas experiences and news. It seems like everybody came through relatively unscathed, with plenty of presents and stories of time spent with their families and friends.

We spent much of the day planning for the next month or so, which included establishing some new rules and routines while I reviewed some others. Nothing significant, but here are a few things:
  • Students grouped themselves into pairs, and will be assigned a task every two weeks. Their class role will be written on the top of their agenda page. These roles include things like cleaning, book distribution, news-gathering and a few others.
  • We will be naming a student of the week starting next week. This will be done a bit differently than in previous years, something I will talk to students about tomorrow.
  • Revised class, monthly and band schedules went home today in students' binders.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Monday, December 19, 2011

'Tis the season!

As 2011 (and the first part of our school year) draws to a close, we are having lots of fun in room 137. The last week has been a flurry of activity as we try to get some things finished up, as well as working on some art projects. We have almost finished Number The Stars, which was a huge hit with the kids. Our ambitious Papier Maché project will be finished tomorrow (knock on wood), as will our work with basic Canadian geography.

Tomorrow is the day of our Christmas party, and will also be a "pyjama day". It amazes me that wearing pyjamas to school can be so much fun, but what do I know? We're going to have some hot cocoa and snacks, and probably do a few fun Christmassy activities.

Several of my students were selected to pariticpate in the school-wide Talent Show, which we are all very thrilled about. It will be fun to watch them up on stage. All students who auditioned will be officially recognized by the Spirit Committee before Christmas.

There is no homework tonight, as I am sure there is already plenty on the go in your busy lives. Have a good evening, and please email if you have any questions or concerns.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Useful math sites

We are moving into geometry and measurement before Christmas, and I showed the students some fun sites today. Here are links to a few of them, and more are available through the links on the right sidebar.

Pentominoes! This games looks at many geometric and problem-solving situations.

Ladybug Mazes: Students use basic computer programming skills to direct a ladybug through a maze

Turtle Geometry: A slightly more complicated version of the Ladybug game


On a different note, this link is good for practicing multiples of a given number. It uses Pascal's triangle, a common way of representing patterns in multiples of real numbers.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Farewell Movember

Today was a very busy day! The class is really hitting their stride academically, working harder every day to get their work done and really push themselves to achieve at a high level. It also marks the last day of my now-infamous moustache, which will be returned to the stubble from whence it came later on this evening. Thanks to Jack and family for their kind Christmas/Movember gift that will help with my efforts.

We finished up the math chapter today, focusing on some techniques that they can use for doing subtraction using mental math strategies. This was a very brief lesson since it is a concept they have seen many times before. Your child should be able to complete their entire math review booklet now. I have assigned up to (at least) Lesson 6 tonight. If they finish, please encourage them to review more and create new problems to solve.

The class is participating in a school program affiliated with the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton/Calgary. Today our package arrived in the mail, so we started doing some of the activities online. The website they can follow along with is:

Click on any of the activities on the left sidebar (in French, s'il vous plait!), and you will be prompted to give a username and password. These are:

username: schoolprogram
password: wjc2012

Have fun! This could be used as a great substitute for reading a French book if your child is interested.

We are moving along with our study of geography and all health mobiles are now complete and presented. Report cards are coming out on Friday, so be sure to keep an eye out! The information for booking parent-teacher meetings is available on a newsletter that went home yesterday.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's Friday!

I hope everybody has a great weekend; not much to say here. I will be going to see the new Muppet movie, and I hope you all find ways to amuse yourselves as well! The only homework for this weekend is to check up on KidBlog on Saturday afternoon. I will be posting a little homework assignment then.

Email if you have any questions or concerns, and have fun.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where in the world are we?

Today we kicked off a new project in social studies. We are moving from studying the history of Newfoundland to studying Geography. The class spent time reviewing terms and concepts from last year's geography curriculum, and I gave out a DuoTang with some review sheets for them to work on. I will be assigning work in this folder as homework over the next couple of weeks.

As part of this unit, we are creating a map of the world using symbols, images, words and drawings. Students have been placed in groups of two, each assigned to a continent. The idea is that they will get things started now, and continue working on the project throughout the next few weeks.

The kids will be presenting their health mobiles tomorrow. Each student should be ready to present tomorrow, with a short piece written up to read from when they show it to the class. They will present as part of a tour that the kids will take around the class, watching each presentation and asking questions as appropriate.

We discussed last night's Question du Jour at length this morning, to clear up some of the confusion that existed about the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation. Many students had amazing answers to the question I posed, which was a hypothetical question about how they would react if they saw a friend stealing. We had a great discussion about this, and will expand on it later as we get more into philosophical issues about morality and ethics.

A few other housekeeping notes:
-Scholastic orders will be here soon; there were numerous backorders and incomplete sets, so they held them and shipped this week.
-If we (knock on wood) don't have school tomorrow, Spice Barn orders can be picked up between 3-6 on Monday.
-BCE Chapters Night has been postponed until Monday, just in case.
-The students are really enjoying the hockey pool, and it has turned into a great math tool. Students will have an opportunity to add/drop two players on the day report cards go home.

Have a great evening, and I will post more tomorrow (now that I'm through report cards).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tech Day

We had a very busy day today in Room 137! We had a full class for the first time in a while, as all my students seem to have successfully fought off a wicked flu that was going around. We focused very heavily on math today, with a particular eye on modelling subtraction of decimals. This was a good activity using tile blocks, the SmartBoard and written answers.

We also had a researcher from MUN come in to observe our use of technology in class, which was interesting. She had lots of good questions, and will be offering some feedback down the line to help improve my procedures and use of technology in class. We did an activity to follow up on last night's Question du Jour, which asked the students to make observations and pose questions about our hockey pool. On that note, Sid the Kid's triumphant return has shaken up our pool greatly. I feel as though my chances are now circling the drain....

We looked at the story of The Prodigal Son in religion class today, and talked about how this parable and many others in religious and secular traditions talk about forgiveness, reconciliation and justice. Tonight's Question du Jour asks a hypothetical moral question, and I have asked students to consider the story and reflect on how they would act.

We will be starting to read Number the Stars in the next week, as a guided reading/response activity. We introduced this book yesterday with an activity that had students respond to the cover and back jacket of the book. The class seems very into the process of response to reading, and I hope to use this interest to help increase the enjoyment and depth of their own independent reading. Today we had a "practice session", as I walked them through the process of guided reading with a chapter from one of my favourite books called Maniac Magee. I was very impressed with their work, and I think that reading Number the Stars will be a very fruitful exercise. As always, I encourage parents to discuss their child's reading with them and encourage them to ask questions and look into their reading with ever-increasing depth.

The first reporting period is over, and I am very happy with where my students are in their progress. I look forward to seeing all the parents/guardians of my class in the following couple of week, and will be more than happy to meet with you whenever/wherever if you have any questions or concerns.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back from the Mainland

After a lovely few days visiting my grandparents in Ontario, I'm back in class. It seems as though the class didn't miss a beat, left in the capable hands of Ms. Bishop. They continued to move along in the curriculum over the 3 days I was absent, and completed some important evaluation pieces in the meantime.
Our Social Studies projects are now completely finished, and students are most of the way through a cumulative health project. This project has them creating a mobile that reflects themselves in a variety of ways past, present and future. Students have shown some ingenious ways of demonstrating their interests, strengths, weaknesses and relationships through text, visuals and other media.
Today's Question du Jour is about what we are doing in Math. To help comprehension, it is in English with a supporting video on KidBlog. I would encourage all students to take a look at this video again, as we will be applying the principles therein to decimal subtraction tomorrow. I also told students that we will be using their french reading material in class tomorrow, so it was crucial to read in French tonight.
I don't have much more to add right now. I'm wading through the things the kids did while I was away, and finishing up my first term reports (if you can believe it). Parent-teacher meetings are coming up in a few weeks, so in preparation we will be doing some introspection activities in class to encourage the students to reflect on their learning and set goals for the rest of the year. Some of these activities will be take-home projects, so expect to see them popping up in the next couple of weeks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What a big day!

Today marked the conclusion of two big projects we have been working on over the last while. Students presented their projects about John Guy and the Beothuks, and they also wrote their science test. I feel that both went very well, and showed just how much they have learned, experienced and accomplished since the beginning of the year.

Much like the Becoming an Expert projects that some students completed last year, the social studies projects were a very wide-ranging, exhaustive study. They required students to work in gradual steps, with a focus on being thorough and maintaining a clarity in their work. They had to create their project within the parameters laid out by Mme Curtis and I, while making their own decisions along the way.

The bulk of the material the students drew from as they completed their projects was taken from folders of information that were created by the class last month. These folders covered a variety of topics, and were 100% student-generated. We feel as though this clearly showed students that research is a worthwhile process with very tangible results. It also meant that every student was included (in a way) in everybody's project.

The end result was a wide array of projects that covered many topics related to our study of colonial and pre-colonial Newfoundland and Labrador. It was interesting to see how the information was interpreted by students. The interpretations were a reflection of their own tastes and abilities, the medium we chose for them to present in, and the interactions between group members. Even though current wisdom suggests that this hands-on method is a very good way to teach, I am always amazed by how much students are able to retain after going through an experience like this.

The students in my class seemed very comfortable with their science tests, which I was happy to see. The format of the test was very open-ended, with no matching, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks or definitions. All 6 questions were somewhat open-ended, with a focus on letting students show what they have learned. It was great to see so many students taking this as an opportunity to give great explanations and details on a variety of topics (and including personal anecdotes and examples from class as well). Due to the amount of material we covered and the nature of the questions I asked, these tests will not be returned until Wednesday.

We have our Remembrance Day assembly on Thursday, as marked on the November calendar. There will be a more detailed note going home prior to the big day, which will have more detail about timing (1:30pm) and what else needs to be done. As always, I encourage parents to come along if possible. The kids love to see you there, and they have some very heart-felt things prepared.

Tonight's homework is related to Remembrance Day. We received a mail out from the Department of Veterans Affairs that contained some great bilingual resources, which we will be using throughout this week (and perhaps beyond). I have ask students to read at least 2 articles in a newspaper that I sent them home with, of which at least one must be French. It is important that they complete this work, since we will be using what they have read tomorrow in class.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Typing Tutor

For those that are taking my typing classes, here is a link to purchase the typing tutor we will be using. It is also possible to borrow it from me to install, but that will take a couple of weeks to get a copy to everybody.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tomorrow may be a letdown...

Today the class enjoyed the spoils of victory. The main feature was a pizza party, which was "payment" for a successful KidBlog assignment in October. The kids had a great time, I think. We also redeemed our reward for our successful 20 minute run, which was 1 free hour of gym. We were one of two classes in the school that accomplished this lofty goal as a whole class. I was very impressed by the achievement, as was Ms. Tapper.

We concluded our Science review and worked on some written and oral responses to math questions about our hockey pool. This afternoon, we finished up our Beothuk projects for presentation tomorrow. Should be a good time! Mme Curtis and I are both very happy with the results.

Tomorrow will be back to the grindstone a bit, since Day 7 has no gym or music class and we have lots to accomplish. On that note, have a great night and talk to you all tomorrow.

Post coming soon

Typing and a few other things ran late, so check back for a post after 8pm please.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A big day tomorrow!

As the title leads you to believe, tomorrow will be lots of fun in Room 137. I sent home a science study guide for students to complete to the best of their ability (using their text and notes), which we will complete and correct tomorrow. We are also going to be finishing up our Beothuk/John Guy projects to present on Friday! I think there's something else....


As a reward for completing a task on KidBlog earlier in October, students will be enjoying a Pizza/Pyjama Party tomorrow. They have been working very hard lately, and I think this is good timing. The class also has music and gym tomorrow, so it's shaping up to be a pretty exciting Thursday.

In terms of the science review, my expectation is that students will define, respond to and diagram the things I have asked them to. They had time today to create notes on some key points, and they have their texts at home as well. All of the answers are found in the text, in images, and in the glossary at the back of the book. We also went through a sample test in English today, to familiarize students with the material a bit more and practice our test-taking skills.

See? Everybody likes to read. Turns out
Darth was his father after all.
 It seems that most students are reading nightly, but I can't overstress how important it is to keep this up. I would suggest changing up the type of reading students are doing, and monitoring their understanding and enjoyment. If you feel I have misjudged their level of understanding or interest with a certain selection, please let me know so I can help them find something more appropriate. Some strategies you might try at home are:
  • Reading aloud, or taking turns
  • Reading your child a book before bed or when waiting for something else
  • Encouraging your child to look up things that interest them in a book or on the web
  • Taking trips to the library to change up books frequently and explore different types of text (comics, novels, picture books, etc.)
  • Discuss things you have read or heard, or things that your child brings up.
  • Refer to things I have mentioned on the blog, or encourage them to show you some of their favourite posts from KidBlog.
Believe it or not, there are only 3 lessons left in this chapter of math. my hope is to test this chapter before my reports are due on November 18th, and then focus more heavily on problem solving for a week or two. That being said, things change all the time and we never know for sure what will be coming up the next week. I will keep you up to date, and please encourage your child to tell me when they are having trouble with anything in math or other subjects.

I sent home a memo about my typing classes today, outlining what days they will be offered in November. Even if your child will not be able to participate (or is not interested, which is fine), there is an option to bring home a CD-ROM  and install the typing program I will be using in class. It went very well yesterday, and I will continue it as long as it seems beneficial.

Have a great evening, and talk to you all soon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A day of moving and shaking

I feel like today was a very constructive day in Room 137. We got some great work done in math, everybody is pretty much up to speed on assignments and projects, and the fact that they were still coming down off their sugar high meant that everybody was very docile.

There are a few things for homework tonight, as I am trying to make sure some key concepts and processes hit home. There is a math question to answer on KidBlog, I assigned words of the week to help with math and science learning/review, and there are a few messages as well. I was very happy with the results of last night's "Halloween Math" homework.

I will be sending home a science review package tomorrow, which will focus on putting things we have learned into practice. This unit has been very hands-on and focused on experiential learning, but Mme Curtis and I feel that it is necessary to test students' knowledge of the basic concepts, terms and processes as well. Students will be tested on their knowledge of the effects of the sun, the nature of climate and weather in general, clouds, and a few other terms related to the water cycle and atmosphere. It will not be an overwhelming amount of material to know, but students will be expected to prepare using their guide.

I promised students a pizza party earlier in October, when a critical mass of them answered a question on KidBlog correctly. The toppings will be picked by those that took the time to answer the question, and we will have the party on Thursday. Students will not need to pack a lunch on this day, and we will also be doing some other fun things.

Our classes will be presenting their Beothuk/John Guy-themed projects on Friday. We are very happy with the progress and results of this project. It will be an important building block to more independent, ambitious projects over the rest of the year. If you are interested, the projects will be on display on Friday after school (except those which are performances). Videos, pictures and websites will be linked on KidBlog.

Have a great evening, and let me know if you have any questions or concerns. If you wish to follow the progress of my Movember moustache, check out