November 30, 2016

Let's talk about procedural writing

We started procedural writing today. The boys and girls are writing all about what Mrs. Claus does on Christmas Eve while Santa is out delivering all the presents. The purpose of this activity is multi-layered. I'm teaching my students to: 
  • think like a character
  • write an interesting paragraph with sparkly, memorable details that evoke a response from the reader 
  • write steps in sequence 
  • implement feedback from their writing pieces thus far  
We've talked a lot about procedural writing in my class. Actually, you might say we've done so since the first day of school.  Our Morning Message letter is an example of procedural writing. I always first tell my purpose for writing and then explain what we'll be doing throughout the day. Here's one of those letters from around Thanksgiving. Each day in my class begins with one of these.  

Over the next few days, students will learn the key features of procedural writing pictured below.  

I'll be thrilled if everyone finished their paragraph, but it's this ideas page that I'm most interested in. Since such a heavy focus has been placed on creating an interesting and memorable paragraph, I want to see that my students are capable of generating these ideas on their own. We're using the two commercials and my paragraph pictured below as our mentor "texts", so to speak. 

I've conferenced (←spell check says that's not actually a word?!) with just about everyone and given a bit of feedback to help guide them along. I'm really looking to see that they can come up with their own ideas (sometimes kids tend to follow the teacher's example) and ask themselves the following questions:  
  • Have I included the essential details so that the reader can make a picture in their mind?
  • Have I included details that will be memorable to the reader like the ones in the commercials we watched?
  • Have I included details that will evoke a response from the reader (likely it will be laughter, but you never know!) 

After looking at and discussing key features from a few samples I wrote, along with television commercials that include many interesting details, I set my little authors loose to create their own literary works of art.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how these all turn out; it's a lot harder than it looks and requires students to think very critically about their own work.

November 29, 2016

The "Talk"

It was a very important day today! 
We had a BIG talk.  I explained to the boys and girls that in late May, early June, along with all of the other Grade Three children in Ontario, we’ll complete a set of booklets that ask us to demonstrate what they've learned so far.  
The students understand that this is not a test, but a set of tasks that all children in Grade Three complete. It covers reading, writing and math. We don't really study for EQAO in the traditional sense because by learning the curriculum and learning to apply the skills, we will indeed be very well prepared when the writing days roll around. 
As a matter of fact, we've already been preparing for EQAO since the first days of school. Our Morning Message is a major player in this. Now that the kids know what's coming, we'll start to integrate the EQAO language and activities even more fully in our day-to-day routines so that come May/June, everyone will feel confident and well-prepared. 

In addition to our Morning Message, we have started preparing for EQAO since the first days of school by: 
  • learning how to write an effective letter
  • learning about the parts of speech, grammar, text features and other aspects of writing and language through our Poem of the Week and recently, Non-Fiction Article of the Week
  • learning how to answer Reading Response questions  
  • explaining our thinking in Math using the appropriate and related vocabulary
  • speaking and writing in complete sentences
  • solving higher level thinking problems in Math
Pretty soon we'll start focusing more on adding more evidence from the text to our answers, which is not only expected on EQAO, but an important skill to develop for future grades. 

I refer to EQAO not as a test, but as a set of booklets to be completed. I'd really appreciate your support with this messaging too.  This has proven to be very effective in minimizing anxiety for those students who are test-sensitive. An example of a phrase I'll use in class would be, "When completing your booklets, you'll want to make sure your printing looks smart and your work sounds smart."  

Today's talk was the first of many. The boys and girls had a lot of questions and we'll continue our discussion on Wednesday and beyond. I always feel relieved after this talk. I like to have it early on so that it takes away some of the stress and confusion my students might be experiencing, which is a win for everyone! 

November 24, 2016

A most lively discussion!

Oh you missed a good one! 
On Wednesday morning, we started our Social Studies lesson with a look at jobs in Ontario. We talked about our region of the province and how we have many manufacturing and farming jobs. After looking at why this is so, we somehow really focused in on manufacturing. 

Students were wondering why clothes and toys aren't produced here in to the same capacity as items related to the auto industry. 

When one child pointed out that they always notice how their toys and other items say "Made in China", we talked about wages and working conditions.  

And then off we went.  It was a really, really meaningful class discussion. Hearing the boys and girls' opinions and ideas for how to improve working conditions for others and the importance of paying people a fair wage was very touching and inspiring. 

As a teacher, you usually know where your lesson is going to start and end.  For the most part, things go as planned.  On Wednesday, we went in a TOTALLY different direction and I loved it!  

It was such an authentic conversation about how my students perceive the world and what they can do to make a difference. Our Focus on Faith theme is "Community and the common good" and it's a perfect theme for this age group. I've often said children in grade three are all about what is good and just and our talk on Wednesday truly confirmed this for me.  

I'm looking forward to more of my lessons going "off the rails" in the future! 

November 22, 2016

Mrs. M, what's an MRE?

It was a super-fast research session and the kids did a great job! On Monday, I read the kids the story called "Hero Dad" by Melinda Hardin.  I ordered it, hoping to read it before Remembrance Day, but it arrived a little late.  

In the story, the boy describes how his father is a real-life superhero as an American soldier.  He talks about how his dad eats MREs as a soldier. 

Well, that begged a great question! I booked the iPads for a period this morning and off they went to research! It was a super-brief research session, but it was lots of fun watching everyone work away to learn more about this most essential item for every soldier! After about ten or so minutes, we gathered back at the carpet to share our findings.  Drawings, bullet point notes and even prices: these kids really know how to find an answer!  

November 19, 2016

Bullies are a pain in the brain!

Talking about bullies doesn't exactly sound like Fun-Friday does it? When you're able to approach the topic in a more light-hearted, but meaningful way, you can indeed put the *fun* in Friday.  We also read two great books called What if Everybody Did That? to kick off our afternoon. 

We talked about why we have rules in place in our classroom, home and school. Then we talked about why we have laws in place in the community.We all agreed that rules help keep us safe and they make our communities better places to live. 

But we know that not everyone follows the rules. We know that non-rule followers can irritate and upset us. That led us into our discussion about bullies. 

We talked about the difference between someone that annoys you and someone that bullies you. We talked how hurtful and unkind comments can hurt more than a punch in the arm. 

Then we watched the wonderful video called Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain.  After the video, we talked about some of the strategies presented. Here is a link to a support document for this video.  

Five Myths About Bullies Printable (click here)  

It was a great discussion; one that we'll certainly revisit throughout the year. 

November 18, 2016

Meet Gary and Lucy!

This week in Math we had a most romantic lesson! Yes, you read that correctly!
We talked about greater than/less than.

These guys:  > < 

It's my opinion that if we only teach children to give the bigger number the big mouth, then we haven't really done our job of teaching them what the symbols mean. Not to go on and on here, but if we only know that c-a-t spells cat, but not knowing what a cat is.  Sure, kids will know how to position the symbols, but they can't read the number sentence back to you.  I don't want my students to get to Grade 11 Math and not know what the teacher means when she writes: The answer is >12. 

So I'd like to introduce you to Gary Greater Than and Lucy Less Than.  
When we teach students how to draw these characters and tell the the story of how the two friends met and how they always stare lovingly into each other's eyes, they'll never forget how to use the symbols. Yes, they'll pretend to barf and groan and all the lovely-dovey stuff, but they'll laugh and that's when the learning sticks.  

We even took it up a notch today! I asked the students to complete this number sentence: 10<___. We'll continue to practice this particular aspect of the lesson in class, but it would make for excellent home review over the next few nights, especially for those boys and girls in my class who like a challenge! 

There are all kinds of cutesy alligator and crocodile activities out there to "sort of" teach this concept, (like I said, "give the bigger number the bigger mouth") but they don't address the matter of whether or not the child can tell you what the symbol actually means.  I have found that by using my Gary and Lucy characters, (who are kind of cute, if I do say so myself) students fully understand this concept, and they understand it for life. 

November 16, 2016

Let's talk strategies!

We're moving on from rounding numbers and on to greater than/less than this week.  But before we move on, it's a good idea for students to revisit some basics.  We're continuing to practice addition and subtraction as part of our morning work because it really is the foundation for almost the entire grade three Math program. Sure, students will learn multiplication and division, but they won't do nearly as much work with those operations as they will with addition and subtraction. And really, how effectively can you multiply and divide if you are struggling with addition and subtraction? 

I have created these two videos to assist parents and students with grade-appropriate strategies for adding and subtracting. Parents can watch and learn exactly how multi-digit addition and subtraction is taught in my room and students can watch and get the extra review they might need. 

In the videos, I talk about the direction we want students going in terms of their number sense skills, but what I want viewers to keep in mind is that students move at their own pace, and as long as there's progress, we're happy.  So even though I mention in the videos that we want students moving away from certain strategies, if that's what's working for some students, then we need to respect that, all while giving them that positive pressure toward more grade appropriate strategies and that might not come until later in the year, and that's a-okay.  

In other words, when it comes to number sense and problem solving, it's like jumping off the high diving board, some folks (not this gal, btw)  just climb that ladder and leap, while others need a few practices on the shorter board and work up to the big board. Respecting the individual's own learning needs is key because this is all a process.     

So here we go...two videos, one way longer than the other, but I hope equally helpful.  They're no frills, but heavy on information, so pour yourself a cup of coffee, maybe grab a notepad and settle in. It won't win any awards, but I do hope it gives you a bit of a peek into how we roll in grade three math.  

Here's the link to the 120s chart I mention in the first video.  
Printable 120s chart (click here) 

November 12, 2016

A Special Friday

We usually have "Fun" Friday, but this week, we had a very special Friday. The grade three students at our school were tasked with preparing the Remembrance Day Liturgy and they did a wonderful job.  

It was a very warm and touching service and I'm so proud of all the grade three students at our school for their great reading skills, superb behavior and the respect they showed to this most important Liturgy.  

Students were so proud to receive this Brag Tag on Friday.

We used a variety of resources, including the commercial and books pictured below, to prepare our students and help them understand why we must take time each year to honour those who gave so much.  

November 09, 2016

Brag Tag Letters!

For the last week or so, the boys and girls have been writing a letter about the Brag Tags they'd like to earn.  Brag Tags are very popular in our class and as the kids will tell you, there's a LOT of them to earn.  
I thought it would fun to combine something we have to do (letter writing), with something we're passionate about (those Tags).  This  activity has been such a hit and what a great way for me to get to know my students!  
After learning about the eight steps to letter writing, the kids got to work by brainstorming their ideas. I met with each child and we reviewed their idea webs. 

Next, it was time to start writing those letters.  After students have finished writing their letters, they move on to the checklist we created together. It's their job to see their work meets expectations before handing it in.  

I'll be writing the kids back and giving them some feedback on their work. At that point, they'll bring them home to share with their families.  After this, students will be expected to implement their feedback on future writing tasks.  

November 07, 2016

We're "building" our research skills!

Last week's text of the week was all about a gerbil who wanted to escape his cage. He used a lot, I mean a lot of tools to find his way out. Sadly, he escaped, but not the way he intended. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't read it yet.  
This is a really funny poem and there's a lot we can do with it as readers. I mean, you have the rhythm of a poem, that alone makes it fun for kids to read and thereby develop their fluency. But there's also lots of compound words, a focus on visualization and even parentheses -these things →() I especially love the new way to ask questions presented by this poem. Students in my class learned last week that we don't always necessarily have to begin with a "question" word.  

Well...having said all that, we're really taking things up a notch! Today, we're going to "build" our research skills. The boys and girls worked with their elbow partner and chose one of the tools in the poem to research. Non-fiction writing is the most widely read format and being able to research for a specific purpose is a skill that needs to be explicitly taught, and this little activity is the next step in this process (our "How to make applesauce" guides were the first).  
After a quick lesson, students used the i-Pads and got to work completing this graphic organizer. They learned about and revisited concepts and skills such as: 

  • how to use bullet points or take point form notes 
  • how to find reliable information online 
  • the importance of citing sources 
  • how to present precise, factual information 
  • working with a partner on a shared task
  • accountable talk between partners 
  • making sure everyone does their share of the work 
We're not quite finished our reports, but we're off to a great start! I'm not sure when we'll get back to this, but the practice alone this afternoon proved to be a very rich learning opportunity for everyone! 

November 01, 2016

How do you do a making words activity?

Making words is a fun and really effective way to build vocabulary and spelling skills.

Now that our day-to-day schedule is becoming more routine for the boys and girls,  I'd like us to try to do a making words activity each week until February or so.  

Here's a video I made to demonstrate just how this exercise works and why I like it so much! There's a linked printable below the video if you'd like to have your child try it out themselves!  


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