In light of Saturday night's hockey game, my intention was to read this to the kids as part of Fun Friday. We ran out of time, but we'll be reading and watching on Monday. Do your remember this story? Did you learn read it in school like me? I was a Grade Six student at St. Raphael School in Burlington when we learned all about Roch Carrier and the great Rocket Richard!
We're focusing on gratitude for the month of December. We had an important talk yesterday about how much of this month is about "getting". In fact, there was no prompting required when I asked my class to fill in the blanks: Kids _____ a lot in December. They knew the missing word. We talked about how fun it is for us grown-ups to give to children this time of year, how much we enjoy watching their faces light up when they receive a present, especially when it is something they truly long for. Then we discussed what it feels like to receive a special gift. We talked about that word: gratitude and how when we show gratitude, we show appreciation for all the wonderful gifts in our lives. A heart full of gratitude beats within a very happy person. And a happy person? Aren't they the best kind of people to be around? So we'll fill up our bulletin board with "gratitude tickets". Each day, students will be encouraged to take a ticket and think about something very, very specific they are grateful for that day. Perhaps they appreciate the extra love that went into the days lunch or that Mom returned to school to drop off a forgotten knapsack (You know who you are;). We're going to watch this bulletin board fill up with messages of thanks for all the blessings, big or small, in our lives.
The Data Management Unit in Math will be here before we know it, so let's get a head start now! This morning on Breakfast Televsion, host Kevin Frankish considered the question, "Shopping? Skiing? or at home with a bag of chips?" Which activity would you choose? Take our poll(over at the top right corner of the page) and we'll monitor the results. Talk about an awesome and interactive learning opportunity!
We had a Math quiz today where students had to demonstrate two skills:
they had to describe the difference between parallel and intersecting lines
they had to describe a shape based on the angles they see
The quiz will come home on Friday to be signed. Here's a copy of a quiz with two "level four" responses.
I was pleased with the results of the quiz. Students are very good at explaining the difference between parallel and intersecting lines. The boys and girls did quite well with the second part of the quiz too (identifying angles) but I think we still need a little bit more practice reviewing our work to make sure we've identified all the angles shown.
Quizzes are great because they help teachers to determine where we need to focus our instruction while the unit is unfolding. Small quizzes like these are a win-win for everyone: I learn where my students are in terms of what's being taught and they get to show off what they know. If they have a disaster of a quiz, it's really not that big of a deal, provided it's part of a series. With the results, I can then determine what our next steps are. Sometimes it means we fly through certain lessons and other times it means we focus on our areas of need.
For no other reason, other than the fact that it's hilarious, we read this story today. I picked it up on the recommendation of another teacher last year and I loved reading it again! It's just so funny!
I wouldn't recommend it for kids younger than Second Grade, (there's quite a bit of text) but it's a great way to kick off a conversation about text-to-self connections. I could see it being very useful at the start of the year when teachers are talking about what good readers do.
Everyone can find something to relate to in this book!
Oh sure, when you're, um...over 35, it's easy to write all kinds of ideas on a web. But when you're 8? Not so easy! Idea webs are what good writers complete before they begin their writing piece but what happens when you don't have any good ideas? Well, two things:
Perhaps you've chosen the wrong topic (if there were options)
You might have to get really, really creative (if it's a mandatory subject or question -especially in later grades)
Right now, most of our topics are "choice" topics and I think that's a better route to go. The reason for this is simple: since we're trying to help students develop their voice as authors, they need to be excited about what they're writing about.
But even still, you choose that exciting topic and you're all geared up to write about it and then you hit a wall. Sure you're favourite colour is purple, but how many interesting things can you really say about it? After you name the colour, what else is there? Not exactly paragraph material.
So back you go to the list of topics. Sure, you might not be in *love* with some of them but you might find you have more to say about hockey than the colour purple. The boys and girls are learning that this is all a lot harder than it looks and that sometimes the ideas don't come right away. Sometimes you have to strike out a few times before you it the ol' home run and that's a-okay.
We're currently working on our very first, all on our own paragraphs. There's a link to the paragraph checklist students have to use for this task. There were about eight or so topics to choose from and most kids started with one and then moved on to another as they realized the ideas weren't coming to them as they had hoped. The same way good readers know when to abandon a book, good writers know when to abandon a topic.
It's been a really rich learning experience for everyone.
I wrote these "counting by" songs while walking our dogs years ago. We're working toward making videos for all the songs so that students everywhere can learn their times-tables lickety-split! Here's the link to the counting by threes song. And now, here's the link to the counting by fours song!
It was a pleasure to meet with you all on Thursday evening. On the drive home that night, I was thinking about how important these meetings are. We certainly get a lot covered in just ten minutes, don't we? We share a special person in common and to sit down and discuss ways we can help them to be more successful says so much about what we value.
Our meeting was the coming together of people who work hard. You work very hard to raise your children to be the best they can be, and it shows. They represent you so well. I see your hard work every day from the lunches you prepare to the kindness and compassion your children show to one another. I work hard to give them the very best learning environment I can and I hope you saw that Thursday night. I hope you see that in everything I do. And finally, the children work hard. They work so very hard don't they? We see evidence of this everyday. We see how from one day to another they grow in all kinds of ways. Up and up they go, on their way to making a difference in the world and they do it through hard work, one day at a time. I hope that when you drove home Thursday night, like me, you had a warm heart and a big smile. Thank you again for meeting with me. We're a quarter of the way through our time together and we're off to a great start! Let's keep working hard!
I feel like I should be standing on a balcony with sweeping hand gestures when I say this, but good writers know how to evoke a response from their reader. We're talking a lot about this lately. The boys and girls know that great writers find ways to make readers laugh, cry, get angry, feel calm, convinced and so on. They know that it's through word choice and ideas that we achieve this. We're taking baby steps, but one this phrase evoke a response is going to be one that we'll focus on in our writing for some time. We're also talking about other things that great writers do. Have a look at the photo and you'll see what else we're focused on right now.
For the next week or so, we're going to spend some time together as a class reading this great little story that Scholastic sent teachers a few years ago.
I think teachers received a class set of this book for placing their first book order over $100.00, or something like that. I also think we were supposed to give the books to our students to keep (I had every intention of doing this...honest!).
The book is only about 10 or so pages long but it is chock-full of all the different text features we teach our students. On the first page alone you'll see there are at least three mini-lessons right there!
We're really focusing on making our reading sound like natural speech. We're also paying attention to punctuation. For fun, we read an entire page and made each sentence into a question. It sounded hilarious, but it helped everyone to see the importance of punctuation. The author puts it there for a reason; to tell us how to read his/her work, so in order to fully enjoy the text, we need to attend to punctuation.
I was so pleased to send home the Progress Reports with the boys and girls this afternoon. Everyone has worked so hard, these first 55 days of Grade Three and I'm very proud of my students. Please review the Report with your child. All students should be able to identify areas where they do well and their specific learning goals moving forward. We're going to complete reflection page on Wednesday and students will be asked to identify these points. They'll also have to write about ways they can achieve their personal goals. I'd like them to consider specific strategies that will help them to be more successful. For some children, it might be making sure they practice reading aloud each night, or proofreading their work into a whisper-phone. Either way, I would like to see students write, in their own words, how they can achieve their goals. Once it's complete, I'll send the Reflection home for your signature. Then we'll keep it in the Writer's Notebook to reflect on over the course of the term. Congratulations to all my students for working so hard in Grade Three!
Mr. M and I visited his Uncle Dennis last night. Uncle D is one of those awesome, awesome people that make this world a better place. He taught 7th Grade to Wayne Gretzky and even went to his wedding! He retired a few years ago as a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. He's just a really, really cool person. His house feels like a big hug, the moment you walk in the front door. His house is also full of all kinds of great family photos. While looking through them on Saturday night, I came upon this one. This is one awesome photo, lemme tell ya because if you know anything about my classroom, you know what we do Fridays at lunch. Check. This. Out.
That's Uncle Jessie and Joey with three of Uncle D's four sons back in the late 90s/early 2000s!
I can't wait to show the boys and girls on Monday. We do a "Photo of the Day" each morning as part of our Morning Message and I think this one will be our best one yet!
Now that we have finished our third Reading Response Letter, we're moving on to creative writing. We will continue to revisit writing activities based on our reading, but right now, our focus has shifted. This morning we talked about the importance of using a web to help you to keep your main idea in mind and track your details. It's very simple, but here's a copy of the web we'll use in class for this purpose. The main idea goes in the bubble and from there, students write their interesting facts. After recording their interesting ideas, students now have to decide which ones to keep and which to toss. We call them "treasures and trash". Students are asked to choose 3-4 of their treasures and write a paragraph that opens by stating their purpose (Today I'm going to tell you about) and ends with a concluding statement (Now you know more about___). When we teach students the formula for a successful and effective writing piece, it gives them the structure they need at this age but provides them with the creative freedom they crave. Here's a web I showed the kids today.
As a follower of the Gradual Release Method, we're first going to write our paragraph together as a class and then slowly, I'll pull back and students will be writing all on their own before they know it. We've identified our strengths and needs as a class: Strengths:
we're really good at writing detailed and informative opinions of things
we use quality checklists very effectively
we understand that our work needs to look smart (neat) in order for readers to enjoy it
we use our class time very, very well -no time wasters in this group!
we need to make sure our No-Excuse words are spelled correctly more consistently
we need to follow the procedure for when we need a word spelled (bring me your Personal Dictionary)
we need to make better use of our whisper-phones to make sure our work sounds smart (read it aloud to be sure it makes sense)
After reading over their third RRLs, we are well on our way to a year of exciting and entertaining Writer's Workshops!
I had the nicest call after school today. It was a former student. We think she might have been in my second or third class of kids. It was so thoughtful of her to call me. She had spent some time trying to track me down and it was such a pleasure to speak with her. She's now 23 and she remembers all kinds of funny things from her year in my Grade Five class. Imagine remembering the name of your Grade Five teacher's dog? It was so fun to hear things from her now grown-up perspective. I have to say, I sounded like quite a funny teacher back then. I hope this year's students will track me down in 13 years to report the same. Sometimes, as we go on in life, we wonder if we still have that sparkle we once had. I'm certainly not the same teacher or person I was back then but I hope that if she sat down with kids from this year, there would be lots of similar things to share that were loved and appreciated. "Miss A" asked me if I still shake the kids' hands and I do. That will never change. It's an important skill and a wonderful way to connect with each child, each day. I think there are others things I'll always do too: give out big stickers, tell funny stories from when I was a kid, insist on good manners and try to be the teacher kids call up when they're 23. Thanks to Miss A for making this teacher feel very special. That's some "big sticker" you gave me today!
We had a Math quiz last Thursday and I wanted to share with you a level four response so that parents and families would understand the rationale for their child's score. I was very pleased with the results from this quiz and most students did very well. We reviewed the quiz together as a class, so the boys and girls understand their scores and what was required to achieve a level four. Below you'll find an example of a level four response.
So we've started our third Reading Response letter. It's based on the book called Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. The boys and girls received their feedback letters from their second RRL (The Lotus Seed, also by E.B). We've talked a lot lately about the word implement. Students know that when I ask them to "implement the feedback you've been given", they have an important responsibility on their plates. I'm excited to read these next RRLs for two reasons: first, I love this book because it poses so many opportunities for thick, juicy questions and second, I love seeing how kids have used my feedback to improve their work. It's exciting to watch this all come together. I'll send home the entire Writer's Notebook (it's a binder actually) in the next week or so and you can have a look through all the interesting things we've worked on. There's not a ton of stuff, I'm a quality versus quantity kinda gal, but it's good stuff. Really good. After this RRL, we'll move on to more creative type stuff. We're right on track in terms of where I like to be this time of year, so that pleases me even more.
A post from 2012 that tells blog visitors all about Morning Jumpstarts (we started them this week!).
We've added a new routine to our morning.
Jumpstarts are an excellent way for children to practice their skills and manage their time. While the majority of the class works on their Jumpstart, I'm able to work with my small reading groups. The boys and girls all understand that Jumpstarts are completed independently and once we've reviewed the page together, only very minimal assistance is provided.
Please have a look at this video that explains a little more about how the Morning Jumpstart will work.
So we're sittin' in rows now and what a difference it makes. The conversations are richer, students can check in with their partners on a variety of things, they can all see the Smartboard easily...I could go on and on. It's just better this way. It's important to build community at the start of the year, so groups certainly have their place, but after week 8 or so, it's time to take it up a notch. We'll stay in rows for the rest of the year, providing it works for the kids and it seems like it does. We all rely on partners, be they spouses, team-mates or colleagues. We need these people in our lives to be successful. I want students in my class to not be dependent on me for all the answers. I want them to develop their communications skills and reciprocate support. It makes for a wonderful learning community and builds essential life-long skills for success. After all, who hasn't ran an email by a colleague before sending to the boss? I want students to start to develop these kinds of habits now. It's a bit old school but like my 1976 blender, it works really well. (Updated in 2014 to add that my '76 blender still works. Still work!)
Plus, kids speak a really neat language that only they understand and when you teach, you learn too. I think this is a win-win for everyone.
In Math this week, we're going to focus on adding and subtracting 2- and 3-digit numbers. We'll take a problem solving approach to this and this will mean the boys and girls will have to use their detective skills to determine whether or not they need add or subtract. We'll also talk a lot about explaining your thinking (or as the cool kids say, "E.Y.T-ing". ;) Here's the chart that was presented to the kids today to help them with their addition vocabulary. The expectation is that when kids are EYT-ing, they'll use words like "sum" and "addend" whenever appropriate.
I was looking for something a little different for this week's poem. I wanted to find one that combined many or most of the text features we've been talking about in class so that students could really put their skills to work.
When I couldn't find one, I decided to write it myself...here it is!
I Made A Mess
An original poem by Patti Mihalides
I made a mess,
It’s really bad,
My Mom and Dad are pretty mad.
I thought I knew,
how to make,
cheesey lasagna and chocolate cake.
Turns out I don’t.
I have no clue,
about cooking stuff and recipes too.
There’s cheese and chocolate on the floor,
the ceiling fan and sliding door.
I don’t know why-
Hey is that salsa there?
It’s on the fridge!
Ewww!!! And in my hair?
I can’t explain the pickles either.
And who let in that baby beaver?
He’s chewing on the table legs!
OH NO! I stepped on all the eggs!
I’m calling Grandma, she’ll save me.
I’ll come back when I’m 33.
In this poem (and kids should be mindful of this in preparation for Friday's weekly test) we have:
a focus on attending to punctuation when reading aloud with all those commas, periods and question marks (parents really encourage your child to focus on this aspect of the poem)
words that are sounds such as "sigh" and "EWWW"
adjective (cheesey and chocolate)
words in italics
how to "read" that long hyphen at the end of the "I don't know why" line (I know there must be a proper name for that thing)
the importance of writing with detail to create a picture in the reader's mind
I don't know, I figured that since yesterday was such a fun-filled day of candy and activity, we'd forego our usual "Fun Friday" and get back to business. But you what? Even an "un-fun" Friday in 208 is still a ball. We wrote our POTW test this morning and then I had the boys and girls work on a "Halloween Reflection" page that I created. If you're a teacher and you'd like to do this with your class next year, help yourself to a copy here. After that, the kids had Gym with Ms. Bellmore and then we watched our usual Full House episode during lunch(we do this every Friday, grab a coffee and join us sometime!). After lunch, we had Math Message (something new we're doing and I'm *totally* loving) and had a quiz on subtraction of two-digit numbers.
Then we moved our desks into rows. Hello grown up students! Our room suddenly looks so mature and sophisticated. It's going to be great! No more turning to go into "Smartboard Mode" and lots and lots of important conversations to be had between elbow partners. Seems like a pretty regular school day doesn't it? But somehow, SOMEHOW! we made it fun. We laughed a lot today and I couldn't tell you why. No wait, we did laugh about how some kids keep their Halloween candy 'til Easter (help me understand their self-discipline please?), how some kids eat the good candy first and then give the rest to Mom and Dad and how one little classmate got a full-sized chocolate bar from one house and Dad got a beer! Let's face it, even when we're not having "fun", 208 is really great.