September 28, 2016

Apples, apples everywhere, let's all take a BITE!

We are working on problem solving in math where we either have to add or subtract to find our solution, but we're also working on our inferring skills in reading, so today I combined the two concepts! More about inferring at the end of this post.  

This morning, the boys and girls had to solve the problem pictured below. They were given a variety of manipulatives and had to work with their elbow partner to find a solution.

After reviewing the five steps to problem solving, off they went! 



After l lunch, we moved on to our Literacy Block, where we talked about inferring. We've been talking about this for a few days now.  Inferring is like being a detective. You have to read between the lines to understand the message. This can be a hard concept to teach, so photos help a lot. We looked at the photo below this week and I asked the class, "What do you infer about how this child feels about dinner?"  

Students use the clues in the photo, along with their own prior knowledge to infer that he likely doesn't like vegetables. 



Then we moved on to my favorite part!  I showed the class this little gift. I asked them to infer what might be inside. They figured it was a gift of sorts and that it was in pieces based on the noise it made. But that was about it.  Without more information (see where I'm going here?) it's hard to infer.  




Slowly, but surely, the more information  I gave the kids, the more they could infer.  The key take-away from this was just that: the more prior knowledge we bring to a text, the better we can infer. This is why it's essential to activate that prior knowledge before we read a text.  

The best and funniest part of all this was when the kids did finally figure out that it was an apple peeler in the box, I told them we were going to make applesauce on Friday as part of Fun Friday.  Well, they thought that was just grand.  But punch-line came when I announced that thanks to them solving that Math problem in the morning, I now knew how many apples I needed to buy! Whomp-whomp!  







September 27, 2016

What? Trouble in Pumpkintown? Say it isn't so!

I'm super-excited about this week's text of the week.  It's called "Trouble in Pumpkintown" and I wrote it to address a whole bunch of strategies and skills.  

Some of these include: 
  • author's purpose
  • asking good questions to aid with and demonstrate understanding 
  • making predictions 
  • using schema 
  • predicting outcomes 
  • and determining importance (e.g. does it matter that the characters in the story are twins?) 
  • visualizing (we say, "Make a movie in your mind as you read")  
  • Who is telling this story (it's a narrator, not a character in the story itself) 


On Tuesday, we looked at the ending of the story and talked about what it means to jump to conclusions about situations. I also enjoyed hearing the questions the boys and girls had about the story! 
  • Where are the pumpkins??? (this was the big question) 
  • Why was the dad visiting his own mother, is she ill?
  • Why weren't the kids allowed to participate in the competition in the past?
  • What's a pumpkin contest?  

And we're not finished! We still have lots more to discuss! We're going to explore: 

  • How do the brother and sister work together?  
  • How do each of the family members work to take care of each other?  How are they a little community of their own? 
  • What's an animal shelter and what role do they play in our community? 
  • Why is our appetite effected by emotions? 
  • We'll also look at synonyms (words that mean the same or similar, e.g. tasty and delicious) 

I've encouraged the boys and girls to read the story aloud each night to their toys, stuffies, pets or siblings to help develop their overall fluency.  

September 26, 2016

Let's talk about self-regulation.

Over the course of the last few weeks, we've had brief discussions about self-regulation. On Monday, we had a longer talk where we were able to delve more fully into what this looks like in our classroom.  We did some role-playing, I answered questions and we set some goals.  

I explained to the boys and girls that as their teacher, I want to create the best possible learning environment and grade-three experience for all of the children in our class. I explained that exercising self-regulation will help to achieve this goal. 

I wanted to keep things at a level my students could relate to, so we talked about how self-regulation boils down to being in control and thinking about decisions.  As adults we know self-regulation consists of more than these two factors, but I didn't want to overwhelm the boys and girls.  

We talked about thinking critically about our strengths and needs and setting some personal goals.  I used these questions to help my students self-assess and set their own goals.  

  • Am I able to focus on the teacher when she gives instructions that have two or three steps? 
  • Can I resist the urge to call out answers?  
  • Do I solve playground problems appropriately (e.g respectful language and hands to self)?
  • Do I respect the classroom rules that help everyone learn and stay safe (e.g. taking care of the books, remaining quiet during a test, lining up /exiting quietly during a fire drill)? 
  • Do I keep my emotions in check when I'm stressed?
  • Do I treat others as I want to be treated? 
  • It's Pizza Day, am I able to remain focused on my school work even though I'm really excited for lunch? 
  • With respect to my own learning and achievement, do I know what I do well and where I need to improve?
We also talked about how important it is to be an enthusiastic and active participant in class, but also to manage that energy so that it is not disruptive to others or inappropriate. I used an example that went like this:  Patti loves learning and really enjoys the stories her teacher reads the class. During the story, the teacher asks the class some questions or invites them to share their comments.  Patti is so excited about the story and how she can relate to it, that she calls out answers and interrupts others when they are sharing. This leaves the rest of the class wondering when they'll have their turn to share and if maybe they too should be calling out.  I referred to a book we had recently read called, "What if Everybody Did That?" 



By raising her hand, Patti can share her ideas and demonstrate her learning, and she also shows consideration for others.   

Our talk about self-regulation will continue all year, because true self-regulation means conducting oneself appropriately whether a teacher/parent/boss is watching or not,  and I think this is what defines a true leader.  

Helping children develop their leadership skills is an ongoing professional goal of mine and I want to provide consistent leadership myself that both inspires and supports my students.

Before we know it,  we'll all be self-regulation Super-Heroes!  
  

September 25, 2016

Math Time!

The boys and girls did a terrific job on their number-sense folders. We started these back in the first week of school. They helped everyone review skills and hopefully aid in curing any cases of the ol' "summer slump"  

We're now ready to get going with our first official Math unit. The number-sense folders lead nicely into this unit because it's all about addition and subtraction. It's actually "Unit 2" of the official program.  We'll come back to Unit 1 after this one. Starting on Unit 2 just makes more sense in terms of the skills the kids need in order to tackle Unit 1.  Sounds weird, I'm sure.  


As we move through the year, you'll notice that we're slowly moving away from using the traditional Math workbook and toward problem-solving based Math. It's important for the boys and girls to have the basics down and there will be plenty of instruction and practice with respect to this, but it is essential that students can apply those skills to problem solving situations.

"Apply" is the key word there. After all, its one thing to be able to read words, but if you can't connect them to make meaning, are you really reading?

The same is true for Math. If you can solve problems such as 50+25, but can't use that to help you figure out if you have enough money to buy two items at a garage sale, your Math skills really only developing.

In Grade Three, the boys and girls do a lot of problem solving. They work in partners and on their own to apply the skills they've learned. To learn the skills (e.g. how to multiply and divide), we'll use some pages from the workbook and our slates, but it's not page after page of questions. In fact, when students or parents wish, they are welcome to complete those parts of the workbook on their own. Wait. That doesn't sound right.  The kids will complete the pages. The parents will direct them to do so. Geez Patti.   
There are five steps to problem solving and we'll take a baby-step approach. You can see the steps in the photo below. Our naughty pal, Turkey Lurkey, will be the subject of many of the problems we'll solve over the coming weeks.

September 22, 2016

Untitled

What to call tonight's blog post? 
I met a bunch of really, really nice people, who have equally nice, really sweet children.  It was a special night wasn't it? You all visited one of my most favorite places in the world and I loved every minute of it. I've loved all 17 of these nights.  Please come again.  

My classroom.  It's mine and for many years now. But it's theirs too: my little friends that I get to spend every day with laughing, learning and more laughing. And weren't they just so proud tonight?  Weren't they just adorable showing you all around our home away from home?  Didn't you love the little popcorn guys they made? Did you notice how many of them wrote about how their favourite thing about me is that I give them candy?! Come on! I give them stickers too!  I promise, it's not that much candy, but I speak their language and it's important to appreciate their hard work and extra miles.

I'm so glad you came.  And if you weren't able to make it tonight, you will not feel guilty when you read this post.  You will drop in some Friday and join us for Fun Friday (price of admission is a coffee please...one cream). 


You're welcome to come by anytime, not just on those #specialnights. Give me a heads up the night before and come by anytime you like; sometimes it's really messy. 

Now check this out.  This is our new reading space and I'm always really proud of our new additions.  They say teaching is the only profession where you steal stuff from home and bring it to work. And if you look around my room, you'll see a whole lotta stolen stuff. Well this little space is brand new. My husband put the chairs together and delivered them to our room (behind every great teacher is a handy and supportive spouse you know!). That's kind of how this room rolls. It's a whole buncha people working behind the scenes: Principals who say "Yes Patti" a lot (seriously a lot), parents who are on #fullycompletely board and one husband who gets it.  




But I especially love the little print: Love can change the world.  I think more than ever, that's what we all need to hear. Mr. Mercury got it right when he said (hashtag goosebumps), "Love dares you to change our ways of caring about ourselves." It's a crazy world and it just seems like we need love, a lot of it.  My hope is that my students feel loved in my room and use this love to...ya, change the world.  

So much of my home is in my classroom. Old furniture, our '86 kitchen cupboards and even my very first "big ticket purchase" is in Room 208. That denim chair is from 1996. That's like the centerpiece of our room and to think at one time, it was my only piece of furniture.  And it all kinda works together, the old and the new, to create this warm and loving space where my kids feel warm and loved.  



As I mentioned to one parent tonight, we only have about 190 days together and it's gonna fly.  Let's get it right.  Let's do our best to make sure these kids soar.  

I'll do my part, I promise.  
And there's our title.  

What is schema?


We had an important talk today. We talked about schema.  

What is schema? 

I use a book by literacy expert, Debbie Miller as my guide. Reading With Meaning is one of those books I come back to time after time in my literacy instruction. Debbie Miller is *that teacher*. When I was a kid, I wanted hair like Blair from Facts of Life. As a teacher, I want to be just like Debbie Miller. 

So what I'm about to share with you comes from her resources.  

Schema is all the stuff in your head. It's your experiences, your likes, your dislikes, your friends, your knowledge, all that good stuff. Basically, it's the prior knowledge that you bring to the table when you read a book, watch a movie, have a conversation, just about any experience you have. 

When we read, we use our schema to connect with the text. It's really the deciding factor in whether or not we like a book. If you can't connect to a text on some level, you likely won't enjoy it.  Without our schema, we're just reading words and not relating, we're not constructing meaning and having a conversation with our self.



You have more fun with a text when you can relate to it. We can likely all think of a story that we just never got "into" (hello Harry Potter...I'm looking in your direction).


When you use your schema, you say to yourself, "Hey, that happened to me once" and you can appreciate how the character must feel, you can put yourself in their shoes.  


So now that the boys and girls know what we mean when we talk about schema, we say it a lot. In fact, even when dealing with challenging situations that arise throughout the day, I might say to a child, "Now you can add this to your schema, so you'll know what to do next time." We don't only use our prior knowledge to assist with reading. I get a lot of mileage out of this word! 


As a youngster, I loved reading Judy Blume books because I could so easily relate to many of the themes in her stories.  I didn't realize it at the time, but that connection, that use of my schema, is why I devoured every one of her books. When we use our schema, we tend to see reading as a more pleasurable activity.  

The boys and girls learned and reviewed all kinds of new words: schema, connection, relate and prior knowledge. It was a great Literacy Block and as we move through the year, my hope is that the students will see how using their schema takes reading to a whole new level.

Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller  


September 20, 2016

What do you infer?

This week, we have begun our discussion about how good readers infer. 

We explain it to students by telling them that inferring means we read between the lines. We understand the implied message by using two things: 
  • our own prior or background knowledge of the subject (our schema) 
  • the clues the author has provided in the text or pictures 
I'm looking forward to reading the boys and girls this simple, but funny story called, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. It usually takes a moment at the end, but the kids soon infer just what happened to the rabbit in the story. 



I found this funny photo online a few years ago. I'll show it to the class later this week and ask, "What do you infer?" 


Now, if you have never had or heard of pumpkin-pie, an inference would be hard here but if you have enjoyed making or eating pumpkin-pie, you likely know exactly why Senor Pumpkin looks a little concerned.  

Please review this photo with your child and discuss the two factors that help us to infer messages in what we read and view.

  

September 19, 2016

Ooops, I did it again.

The boys and girls came home on Monday with their Text of the Week test from last Friday.  We wrote the bulk of the test together as a class and then the students independently completed questions 5 and 6. 

They're learning all about the 5cm rule (I'm hoping they can explain it to you), using the question to help them begin their response and what it means to state our purpose for writing (required for question 6).  

They're also learning that their teacher does her best proofreading after she photocopies and distributes the test.  

Question four was a whoops.  There's no possible answer for it in the story itself.  I stuck a label on the back of each child's test with a question on it that better reflects the types of questions students can anticipate on their weekly tests.  
Add caption
I'd like to promise you this is the last time there will be a typo on something I create for my class, but I don't think I can. And why bother right?  It makes for great talks about how we all make mistakes and the importance of being able to laugh at ourselves (and drink more coffee).  

I also think this supports my long-standing claim that Tim Hortons needs to deliver to schools. 


Number Sense Folders!

Oh my gosh, what a hit these are! The boys and girls are doing a wonderful job completing their back-to-school Math work!  

I created this resource for a number of reasons. Of course, reviewing basic math skills was my priority.  But it also functions as an exercise that helps support the routines and expectations we have in our classroom. 





Throughout this activity, students will review their key Math skills such as addition and subtraction, place value, and ordinal numbers. 

We'll also look at new concepts such as finding patterns on a hundreds chart.


While working on this activity, the class will learn about expectations around how we distribute materials, how we colour neatly, use the document camera/Smartboard to learn/demonstrate, how we clean up, appropriate noise level, how to follow both oral and written instructions, and so much more. 

It also helps me to establish the routine for our Math lessons, which go like this: 

  • warm up activity or story
  • discussion of learning goals
  • lesson and practice
  • follow-up discussion/clarification of concepts 

The folder activity also gives students an opportunity to work on their fine- motor skills (e.g. cutting, colouring and gluing).  

Upon completion, we'll use the folder to "warm up" our minds for about a week or so prior to our main lesson. There are plenty of good discussion goodies to be had around the work that is to be completed. The students can bring their folder to the carpet, and I can ask them a variety of questions around the skills we reviewed.  It becomes a kind of self-created textbook! 

September 18, 2016

A most "puzzling" day!



We had a great Fun Friday last week!  The boys and girls enjoyed "Puzzle Day" AND learned our doubles facts song found below.  

We started the afternoon with a puzzle itself! Students had to answer doubles facts to click on a "card" on the Smartboard to reveal just what we were up to in the afternoon. It was a great way to kick off the fun! 


And then after a quick chat about expectations and inclusion, off they went!  The kids worked hard to complete their puzzles and many came really close! We'll have Puzzle Day again in the future and I'm sure we'll hear the hoots and hollers that come with finishing a group task! 





Thank you to all the boys and girls for another great week! I'm looking forward to another round of fun next Friday! 

September 15, 2016

We got our slates today!


I love technology with a capital "L" but using personal dry-erase boards in the classroom has to be one of the best low-tech learning tools ever. 

We had a couple of mini-lesson on the life of a pioneer student this week, where we learned about how all grades were in one room and all work was done on a slate.  It seems fitting that given students will be learning about pioneers in our Social Studies lessons later in year, that we refer to our white boards as "slates". 


We had an important talk about taking care of the slates and markers, how they will be used in many ways to help students to be more successful and about how misuse will result in the slate living it up in my desk drawer for a week.  

Oh, we also talked about how the pioneer teacher would live with her students' families for a month at a time. So I thought come January/February, when we begin our unit, in order to fully immerse the students in the subject, I'll be knocking on doors. 

Ha! Just kidding! 

Unless there's cake.   


September 14, 2016

What's a "Text of the Week" test?

Today's post is a bit of a yawn-er, but I think it'll be a helpful one. On Thursday, students are going to record: "Text of the Week test tomorrow" in their agenda.  Each week, the boys and girls will receive a text of some kind that becomes our focus for the week. Some weeks it'll be a poem, others, a story or non-fiction article.  On most Fridays (and the occasional Thursday), they'll have their Text of the Week (TOTW) test. The text goes in their "Text of the Week" duotang and it comes home every night. Please see that your child packs it each morning in their Zippy.  

To help establish expectations for test-writing, we're going to write this week's test together.  

I find the text of the week to be highly effective for two reasons.  First, I can cover a number of those skills that need to be taught but don't really fit in anywhere else, such as: what's a verb and why do we use italics? The second reason I like them so much is because I can tailor them to meet the unique needs of my class.  If we're having trouble understanding point of view or main idea, I can find a story or article that meets this need. Or, I can do what I did this week and write one myself.  The purpose of this week's text is to talk about how we relate to stories.  When we connect to a character or situation, we can interact with a story on a higher level. Making those text-to-self connections is usually one of the first reading comprehension strategies we teach students.  

In the past, I've used poems exclusively as our texts, this year, I'm expanding that to include a wider variety of texts.  

I'd like to share with you how we actually "do" the text of the week. We read the TOTW each day and discuss the different features of the text. Let's use a poem as an example.  

On Monday, after reading the poem aloud, I'll pose a variety of comprehension questions about it.  On Tuesday we might look at word study and talk about syllables, compound words and contractions. We might even review parts of speech such as nouns and verbs.  

On Wednesday, we'll look at figures of speech such as idioms and irony.  

On Thursday, we review everything we covered earlier in the week and prepare for the test on Friday.  

The tests follow a very predictable format (see picture below). After a few tests, you'll likely be able to anticipate the types of questions that will be on the TOTW test.  Students are always allowed to use the text itself to support them while they write and to help them to be accountable for their own success, they are expected to spell words from the text correctly. Tests are usually out of 10 or 12 and come home Mondays for signing.  I ask that they are corrected and returned the following day.  

Students will store their tests in their "work binders".   I haven't handed the binders out yet, we'll get to that later this month.  All tests will come home in June.  



And that's how the TOTWs work! Students are encouraged to read their texts aloud to you, a pet, their siblings or toys as often as they can to develop their overall fluency. Our on-going goal is to make our oral reading sound like natural speech! 

This is a study guide I created back when I was using poems exclusively as my texts of the week. This document should still be helpful for parents looking for extra support in helping their child prepare for the weekly tests. You can download your own copy here. 


September 13, 2016

When I met ya in the summer...

It's so hard to believe we all only just met five days ago!  We walked to Mass today like pros and it's just the sweetest thing ever to share in these special times together. Special thanks to Mrs. Angerilli, who walked with our class.  I lead the way and Mrs. A kept track of the kids at the end of the line.  We make a great team Mrs. A! 

We all returned to school pooped and hungry and ready to take on the afternoon...which ended up being equally sweet.  

I had such big plans for the afternoon, but by the time we had a leisurely lunch and then "Morning Message" it was time for our Student of the Day to do her 2:00 presentation and then it was recess all over again!  It's an older blog post, but you can learn more about Morning Message here.  

After recess, we have DEAR time (drop everything and read) and it's a non-negotiable. I don't mess around with DEAR. It's just the nicest and most special time of our day.  We're quiet, we lounge, listen to our quiet music and then devour books.  

After DEAR, we have Evening Meeting and that's also a special time. We gather together at the carpet, share songs, laugh a bit, hand out Brag Tags and then read from our novel.  

We're currently reading There's a Boy in the Girls Bathroom by Louis Sachar. I think I've read it as our first novel for the last 15 years.  It brings the class together.  It's a very age-appropriate emotional journey. At first we can't understand why Bradley treats others the way he does, then he gets really honest with himself and makes changes.  The process is both warm and funny.  In the end, well, I won't give it away, but Bradley becomes a bit of a classroom hero for us.  In the past, we would refer back to him constantly throughout the duration of the year.    

Today, I asked the boys and girls to do what good readers do and to think of a question they'd ask Bradley if he were to visit the classroom.  This was an excellent opportunity to gauge whether or not the boys and girls are keeping track of and understanding what we're reading.  The questions were outstanding!  They were thoughtful, critical and get this: they were the same questions I bet you'd ask! 


This week's TOTW (text of the week) is another great way for kids to think about questions they have for characters, authors or about the text in general.  We're going to have our weekly Text of the Week test this Friday. We'll write this one together as a class so the boys and girls know what to expect each week. We can also use this as an opportunity to revisit expectations for independent work such as tests and quizzes.  



Please check in tomorrow for more information about the TOTW tests.  

September 12, 2016

What's a whisper-phone?

Well they're just the greatest thing ever! Sure, I could have bought them from some fancy-dancy school supply website, but when your Valentine happens to be a handy feller, you get a class-set for less than latte (say that five times fast!)!  

A little ABS pipe and elbows (did I get that right, dear?) and we're talking greatest classroom tool ever. 

A whisper-phone is just that. It looks like a phone and when you whisper into it, you can hear yourself. Students can monitor their own reading fluency and proofread their work to see if it "sounds right". The boys and girls will be asked to read all their work into a whisper-phone prior to handing it in. It's such an effective tool because children can hear themselves read without disturbing others.  They also help students who are reluctant to read aloud to the class develop their confidence.  


Each student in my class has one in their desk and they are welcome to not only use them to proofread their own writing, but during any reading opportunities throughout the day. 

September 11, 2016

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Folks...how fun was our first Fun Friday? We had such a poppin' great time!!! 

The theme for the afternoon was "I'm poppin' with happiness after the first week of school". We learned a great new song that was all about how to make popcorn and it had everyone up on their feet! I wish I had asked someone to record this, because it was so fun seeing everyone popping all over the classroom in some mad attempt to sing, clap and dance all at once!  
Then, we started working on the "craftivity" pictured below. We're going to add arms to him on Monday. My initial plan was for legs only, but I feel like if you're a giant popcorn box, you need arms to fend off people who will try to eat you.  Just sayin'.  




We'll finish up the writing reflection on Monday or Tuesday. I wanted the kids to have time on Friday to learn about how we'll do art in Room 208.  With so many routines and procedures to learn, it's nice to do things in small doses. All this time invested in teaching my students about routines and procedures pays off when December/January rolls around and my students are highly independent, creative and critical thinkers and problem solvers.  





Thank you to all the boys and girls for a terrific first week of school! I can't wait for you all to receive your first Brag Tags on Monday! 



September 08, 2016

Second day...hooray!

Today we got a little closer to what I would describe as a more typical day. We copied our agendas (see video below) and we added table points for those children that had them signed! Woo-hoo!  



The boys and girls were able to learn about and read at the different reading areas we have in the room. We had our first official "Student of the Day" (thank you Miss Abby!) and she gave a very interesting 2:00 presentation (a more sophisticated version of show and tell).  We'll move through the class list alphabetically by first name for the Student of the Day schedule.  
We also carried on with our Sailing into Third Grade booklets and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you all on Curriculum Night on September 22nd.  




The boys and girls also learned all about Brag Tags today! Whoa-baby were these a hit last year!  And judging by the enthusiastic response to them today, I think it's going to be another home-run!  Read more about Brag Tags here. 






We'll have our first official Math lesson on Friday, and then in the afternoon, we'll have my favourite part of the week: Fun Friday, and I can't wait to tell you all about it! 

A reminder to sign the agenda each night, deliver the kids to school on time (pleeeeeze!), bring indoor shoes and make arrangements for after school (e.g. take the bus or pick up) before the school day begins as this keeps the kids safe and minimizes disruptions to the classroom to communicate the change in plans.  


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