March 31, 2017

A different kind of Math lesson

We've recently begun the last leg of our Measurement Unit. It's all about money. This week, we did something called a "Math Scoot" where students scooted from one task card to another practicing their money counting skills. I'm encouraging students to continue to practice this skill at home as part of their nightly homework routine. 

From there, we're moving on to solving problems involving money.  One great type of problem I like to teach kids to solve is called a "bake shop" problem (see photo below). Bake shop problems are great because they are multi-step and use a variety of the skills students have learned so far this year.   

And then on Thursday, our lesson went in a different direction. We talked about the role that money plays in our lives. We talked about how some people have more of it and others have less. We explored reasons why this is the case and my students' answers were honest and compassionate. Many students mentioned what we would categorize as the mental health implications of struggling to make ends meet. 

This conversation was the perfect lead in to our read-aloud. It's story called Tight Times, about a boy whose father loses his job.  

The grade three Focus on Faith theme is "community and the common good" and this was an excellent opportunity to talk about why we do the things we do as a school community to help one another. I reminded students of our Fall food drive, the Tree of Light at Christmas and the upcoming Soap For Hope campaign. These are all ways that we as a school community help support vulnerable community members.   

I tell my students that our most important job as citizens is to build each other up. We talk about how we should go out of our way to be mindful about how we speak and treat others, to the point where we ask ourselves, "Did they walk away from me feeling better than before our conversation started? Did I lift them up?"  

This "money" lesson was a great way to connect our Focus on Faith theme with real-life examples of ways we can use our earnings to make a difference in the lives of others, and to appreciate the impact of how losing a source of income can have on community members. 

So while it's not really part of the Math curriculum to talk about money in this manner and I've never tied these two themes together before, it certainly proved to be well worth it. I think all of my students walked away with a new appreciation for this vital concept.  

March 28, 2017

What's a Wednesday Workshop?

The countdown is on!  
We're going to take it up a notch with respect to our ongoing EQAO prep each Wednesday starting this week.  Moving forward, every Wednesday, students will receive actual EQAO stories/articles and a set of questions.

Not only do these workshops show the boys and girls what to expect from their EQAO booklets, they give us a wonderful opportunity to have really rich discussions about our writing in both Math and Language.
By using the Smartboard/Document Camera, we're able to work together through the article/story and questions. We can think out-loud and talk about different approaches to the questions and explore what works and doesn't work in terms of suitable responses. 

I like that our discussions aren't just about "EQAO", but rather about what good writers do.  When you only have five lines to respond to a question that asks for evidence from the text, you have to choose your words carefully. I'm so pleased that my students see how we have to think about our writing on a higher level. 

We have to consider not only the correct response to the question, but our word choice, actual letter size and other important factors. It's a lot of critical thinking that goes into responding to these very thick questions!    

This week,  the boys and girls will read a story about a class that goes on a field trip. The story is called "Where's Ms.Mitra".  They will have to use their knowledge of irony to answer one of the questions and then consider if someone did their job well or not.  

They will also complete a set of multiple-choice questions based on the story. The irony question has been a tough one in previous years, but now that students have an understanding of how irony works (this year is only the third time I've attempted to teach it), they can better articulate their thoughts.  

Here's the answer we came up with together as a class back in 2014. It's pretty impressive! I'm looking forward to seeing how we all do tomorrow! 

March 27, 2017

Water-color Masterpieces!

Fun Friday was extra fun last week! The boys and girls revisited the miracles of Jesus and then learned how to draw a fish! From there, they learned how to use water-color paints and enjoyed an afternoon of painting.  

As you can see, their work is beautiful. The boys and girls learned all kinds of important problem solving skills through this activity and in the end, they were so proud of their paintings.  

Through this activity, students not only learned new skills (how to draw a fish, manage paints and choose the right brush for a specific job) but they also learned about the importance of keeping their pictures fairly simple to accommodate the unique characteristics of water-color paints, thinking critically about what we want the end product to look like before we even start a task, following (and listening to) instructions closely, along with persevering with a challenge. 

One child even commented that they enjoyed our afternoon because everyone was so positive! Now that really warmed my teacher heart!  

March 23, 2017

Using photos to spark discussions

Each morning, we have what we call "Morning Message". It's like our morning news program where we review our learning goals for the days, along with all kinds of other skills that don't quite "fit", so to speak, anywhere else in our day. As a teacher that likes to keep things neat, tidy and organized, it can be hard to figure out how to fit in all the items that need to be covered. 
For this reason, I created Morning Message.  

I love using photos as part of our message to get my students talking and thinking critically.  Developing our "accountable conversation" skills is more important than ever. After all, in a world that increasingly relies on digital communication, we can forget that what came naturally to us as kids (chatting, debating and respectfully disagreeing) may need to be explicitly taught to today's students.  

Photos are a great way to get students thinking and talking. We've looked at the pioneer school house, and the day or two I planned on talking about that, turned into TWO WEEKS because the kids had so many questions and loved debating whether or not they'd like to be a pioneer student. Their questions and conversations with one another were so impressive! 

This week, we've started looking at photos like the ones pictured below. Students are asked to make observations based on what they see (e.g. "Two of the four items are toys" or "Three of the four items are animals") The kids love to come up with really thoughtful, really critical observations about the photos. It's almost as though their attitude is, "I'm gonna come up with the most obscure, most creative idea!".  
I'm loving the conversations we're having about our little fractions photos.  It's so funny because even though there's 21 of us in the room, it feels more like we're a small group, all sitting around a kitchen table chatting. It's such a sweet part of our day and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to spend that time together. 


On Thursday, I showed the kids the four Easter cakes below. I asked my students to consider which cake they are most curious about. Not so much which one they want to eat, but "Which cake do you have the most questions about?" . I gave the kids a few minutes to think about this question and from there, I invited them to share their "I wonder" questions about the cakes.  As you can see, the cakes are quite beautiful and complex in their design.  

The boys and girls had all kinds of questions about things like: 
  • What flavour is the layer cake with the bunny on top?
  • How did those eggies get into the cake? 
  • How is the bird's nest cake an Easter cake? This was a great question and students were invited to share why this cake was appropriate to include. 
  • How did the baker make those layers so colourful?  
These kinds of conversations are such a great way to start the day because everyone can participate.  There is literally zero excuse for why kids don't have something to share. So for those kids who still feel a bit groggy or aren't feeling particularly great about participating during the Math lesson, they at least know that during Morning Message, they can share all their ideas and develop their essential oral communication and critical thinking skills.

In just a few short minutes each morning, students are building skills that, little do they know, can be applied to all the various tasks they'll complete throughout the rest of the day. 

March 20, 2017

We have an announcement to make!

As part of our Morning Message, we've been reading a catchy announcement of the day where we read with lots of expression and modulation. We're learning about the importance of including the 5 Ws when announcing an event, especially over the PA system where, in most cases, we only have our voice and word-choice to convey our message effectively.  

A side note...I made the video above, years ago to support my lessons on announcement writing.  I still find Boy and Girl Classmate so funny! The website is now defunct, but I'll always treasure the videos I made! 

The boys and girls were asked to think about a fantasy club they would like to have here at school and generate an announcement that tells the who, what, where, when and why of the club. 

Students are asked to begin their announcement by using a catchy hook that grabs attention and write something that is lively and entertaining.  

We're going to work on our announcements all week long in class, take them home for practice on the weekend and then present them to the class on Tuesday. They don't have to be memorized, in fact, that's something we discourage, but we do want everyone to use their very best "radio" voice!


March 09, 2017

Our Calendar Folders

As part of our measurement unit, the boys and girls are solving problems related to the calendar.  They're currently creating their own learning resource called their "Calendar Folder" recently and it's been both fun and highly effective! 

I can't remember where I read it, and I really wish I could, but a fancy education-person said that when students create their own learning resources, the learning is more meaningful and the concepts are better retained.  

Something I have observed that really makes me proud, is how my students' organizational and fine motor skills have developed over the course of the last few months.  These file-folder projects provide students with an opportunity to practice more than just their math skills, and it's really exciting to see the growth that has taken place.   

March 07, 2017

How to Use Quotation Marks

As we move through the grade three writing program, it's important to not only teach students the importance of engaging their reader and organizing their ideas effectively, they also need to know the more technical aspects of what good writers do. Using quotation marks is a bit like making bread: one missed step and you end up with a bit of a gooey mess. 

For this reason, I like to teach children that there are five key steps (or ingredients!) to correct quotation mark usage. 

We read a variety of stories on the Smartboard as part of Morning Message that rely heavily on characters speaking in order for the plot to move along, so the boys and girls are familiar with how they work. Our focus for this month has been on reading orally so that we sound like the characters, so naturally, that meant we needed lots and lots of dialogue in the story.   

Over the course of the last week or so, the boys and girls have learned all about how to show when a character is speaking in their own writing. This was introduced when students started working on the page below from their Pancake Tuesday booklet. Here they're asked to finish the story and they were encouraged to use quotation marks where possible. 

On Tuesday night, the boys and girls will need to practice those skills again on their homework page (pictured below). 

The graphic below was used as part of a blog post a few years ago. Students can use this as a reference guide when checking their own work at home tonight to make sure they're work is completed correctly. 

March 04, 2017

Solving "scale" problems

As part of our Math warm-up last week, we looked a strategies that help us solve what I call "scale problems" (pictured below). These problems come up in a variety of situations in our math program and EQAO.

To solve simple problems such as the one pictured above, students can select from a variety of strategies. They can use mental math, count back from 20 to 12, or subtract 20-12. The last strategy we explored was this one. The idea of solving first 8+4=12 and then carrying that 12 over to the other side of the scale and using it to solve for the mystery number.  

The totally unscripted, no-prep-whatsoever video below shows the tale end of a lesson from 2016. My hope is that students will watch it at home and solve the problem at the end.  Parents, you too can create scale problems for your children at home. They're a great way to build number-sense! 



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