Sunday, 27 April 2014

Talking to Kids about Money, Creating Structures & Optical Illusions

Well, it's the end of April, with 2 more months left. Wowsers! But honestly.... I can't say I am overly saddened for the year to come to an end (as it's been a doozy). Although I will admit, it has pushed me to become a better teacher and severely forced me out of my comfort zone.

With that being said... I saw this quote the other day and it rang very clear.

I'm hanging on.... It's quite the ride, but that's what life's all about, right?

I digress..... Here is a little snapshot of what went on this past week....

Last week was National Money Day for grade 7 students in Canada. I was sent info via email and my teaching partner and I decided to participate! What I learned..... 12 and 13 year olds need to talk about money. They have many misconceptions about how much things cost... and they want to know. They are not too young to discuss savings, how to save, how to earn etc.

 Here's a quick survey about some of our discussion topics:

For free resources and information on teaching intermediate students about money, click here:
It's very easy to register! All the resources below come from this site.

 We broke the kids up into groups of 2 or 3 and provided them with vaious money problems.
This first problem had them working with Area and Money. The kids were given 3 advertisements and their "deals." They were asked to determine what store provided the most cost effective choice.

In Science, we recently began working on our Structures Unit. Keeping with the money theme, I assigned a structures building task to students in pairs.

What do you need?
*Construction paper. These will be used to create rods
(I found nasty faded papers in the art room that had been abandoned)
*masking tape
*heavy textbook
*cue cards

Here was their assignment:
Create a structure using paper rods and masking tape. Give each student a "bank card" (I didn't make this fancy, just a cue card will do). I acted as the sales person. Each piece of paper cost $0.50 and each piece of metre long tape cost $1.00. Their goal was to create a structure that could hold a text books (or many), all while keeping the cost effective/manageable.
Here's a few that they came up with:

The students totalled up their costs and presented/tested their structures. Following each experiment, we had a discussion about the strongest structure vs. cost. Each group was also distributed reflection questions, which allowed them to rethink their structure and try to think about how they could enhance it. 

The past few days we have used these structure to now discuss form and function.

In Visual Arts this week, we looked at 3Dimesional Artwork and Optical Illusions.
Here is a great online lesson that you could use. I watched it on my own first, and then taught the key ideas to focus on. I then played the video and paused frequently to give the students time to create and ask questions.

We have not completed our pieces of art, yet.... But here's what they have created so far.

Lots on the go this week! Stay tuned for lots of free resources in the coming weeks!

Have a happy week.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


Best Earth Day I have ever had! 
On Tuesday, our first day back from the Easter Holiday, we celebrated Earth Day. This day has actually turned into Earth Week. The resources I am using this year are so rich to not try and get as much in with the students as I can. Everything ties into the strands we are working on in the classroom, and I wanted to share these resources with everyone who reads our blog. The students had a great day and are having a wonderful week. 

I used two TPT packages this year. One was for the smartboard that included an attendance sign in page. The package was made by Michelle Hanson and can be found if you click here.  Michelle updated all the web pages so everything in the package was working and accessible. The other resource I am using is a hands on mini unit about things you can do for Earth Day and included some Lorax activities. We read the story and watched the original short cartoon. This was a freebie and worth checking out!

Here are some pictures from the last two days.

This website was incredible and very interactive. 
Click on the picture to visit the site.
Here is our craftivity for Earth Day! 
Reused a spray bottle for watering our coffee filters.  
The students appreciated working with the lights off for the whole day. 
Thank you

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter and Welcome Spring!


Hope everyone has a great Easter and is enjoying the warmer weather and sunshine.
With the end of April hopping by so fast, not only will you be hearing about our poetry contest and the finalists and the winner, but PREP for our government TESTING is about to begin!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Easy Student Assessment Idea and a Week of Poetry!

I often find myself asking "do they understand" or "do I need to teach more"? Of course, tests, quizzes, assignments etc. can give a good indication, but not always. Our curriculum is uber heavy here in Ontario, Canada, leaving many teachers racing against the clock to complete as many expectations as possible. But is that really what we're suppose to do?
There are times when I would like to just toss the curriculum to the side and focus on the basic and fundamental ideas that I believe my students will need in the future. No---- not being able to translate a specific shape or figure every year, but rather add, subtract, multiply and divide without their cell phones or iPods.
This is my job. To teach.... and to teach with the curriculum cloud looming above me. NEVERTHELESS, I will tell you what I have learned in the last 8 years, is that it is SO important for students to also aid in what they learn.
This is where student monitoring comes into play. Here is an idea that I recently learned from my blogging friend Catherine (aka- The Brown Bag Teacher), from Kentucky.
So you ask.....when is it time to move on with a concept and when is it time to teach more and/or practice honing a specific skill?

This is where "Monitoring My Learning" comes into play.

Students create a small grid with the numbers 1-4 on the bottom of their page. At the end of the activity, homework, assignment, quiz, test etc. the students circle the number that represents their confidence with the task/lesson.

For instance, if a student completes math for homework, they circle a number on the bottom of their work (See poster above) -- If a 2 is circled, they are still needing more practice with the concept.

As teachers, we can use this info to monitor each students comfort level with the lessons we teach daily. We can embed extra practice or small group assistance when/if it is needed. We can also challenge the students who can move along and who can also assist others, if needed.

Just a quick and easy idea to check on our kiddos! Thanks, Catherine!

Research-Based Learning Continues...

As I mentioned last week, my students have been working on "how to research" and have been creating Geography Slideshow Presentations (to accompany their research papers), focusing on specifically on natural disasters and phenomenon's. This week, many of the students presented their projects *live*. I was very impressed with their final products!

This project was a step by step approach. First, I modelled "how to research" and what sites were safe to use and what sites were not viable. Using I'm Lovin' Lit's research pack, we learned how to brainstorm using a very simple outline. Students also annotated and identified paragraph structure before selecting their own topic and completing a mini-research paper.

I met with each student individually (across a few days) to discuss, look over, revise and edit their papers. From there, the students used "Google Presentation" to complete a slide show. They took key points from their research paper and were instructed to create a 10-15 slide presentation.

Here were the expectations-- I like to give them a checklist so they can check things off as the complete them and do not use the line "I didn't know we needed to have that". When it is time for them to present, they hand me their checklist (presentation rubric on the back) and I use that to assess and write feedback on.

A few more presentations scheduled for tomorrow :)

Coming up this Week......

On St. Patrick's Day, the students learned about and created limericks (see that post and some freebies for Limericks HERE). They did such a great job and were very focused on the task assigned, that I couldn't wait to begin a more focused look at poetry.
This week we will be learning about poetry devices, as an extension of our lessons on figurative language. I have scooped a free bonus poetry pack from Erin Cobb's interactive notebook series, to use. This week, we are going to delve into devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, consonance and assonance. You can grab a few free lessons HERE.

I am also going to being using various poems from Raising Rigor's free "Poetry in your Pocket" pack,
which contains numerous poems to read and refer to.  Pick it up HERE.

For younger students, check out our Primary Poetry Pack HERE.

This 81 page poetry bundle has everything you need to teach your students 8 different styles of poetry writing, as well as poetry response sheets and a poetry contest pack. This bundle can be made into centers or used as lessons as a whole class.
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In math, we continue to work on order of operations and algebraic expressions. We are going to continue expanding our knowledge with equations and proving our work.

My students have been taught various strategies on how to write algebraic expressions as words and also how to convert words to numbers/expressions. They have been taught how to use variables and how to guess and check to solve for variables. Here is a quick and easy way to check their thinking and how you can use an "open" math problem in your room.

Give the students a number (as the answer-- =6 / or the variables number y=6). Have each student write an equation on a sticky note. A great way to see how we all view numbers differently. Also a great "Exit Board" idea (I.e. each student must hand in a card with an equation written on it before they get ready for recess).

This idea could be used with any grade :)

I am really pushing myself this year.... Learning as much as I can and trying out new ideas! 
Try something new this week :)

And remember....

Have a fabulous week!