Lollipop, Lollipop, Oh Lolli Lolli Lolli

30 May 2011
My sweet little niece turned four this weekend. We went to her sweet little birthday party this weekend. A sweet little girl deserves a sweet little party - and what's sweeter than lollipops and candies??? The birthday girl's mom, my sister, is an amazing mom, creative food whiz, awesome preschool crafter, and party planner extraordinaire. To get a glimpse of her party decorations (and all her other fabulous creations), head on over to Meet the Dubiens.

The four sweetest little girls around. My Elizabeth, my Katie, my niece Kirsten, and my Allison.

As part of the party decorations, my sister made lollipop topiaries. I got to take one of these creations home with me. And within five minutes of getting home, my sweet little girls turned into lollipop-begging monsters. Now there must be 150 lollipops in this creation. I'm not dealing with the begging for weeks on end, and yet, the topiary is far too cute to get rid of. So I'm bringing it to school. We start testing on Wednesday - 6 hours of testing over 4 days. I'm thinking I will give the kiddies a lollipop each time they finish a test. I'm not usually about candy rewards (in fact, I'm almost NEVER about candy rewards), so this will definitely be an unusual treat for the students at school ... and for my sanity at home.

Landscape Art Inspired by Ted Harrison

25 May 2011

We've been studying the Canadian artist, Ted Harrison, in class. Over the past few days, my students have been creating their own landscape masterpieces, in the style of Ted Harrison. First, the students divided their page into large areas, using mostly horizontal lines. The lines should be soft and fluid. The students then filled in these areas with pastels - use a different colour for each area. Remind students that colours should be vivid and bold. Then, students outlined each area with black puffy paint. (I highly recommend this step - it really made the colours "pop"). Lastly, we mounted the pictures on larger black construction paper and folded the corners of the paper to really give it a framed appearance. The students are so proud of these art projects - they are truly museum quality (at least we think so).


Catching Cooties and Cookies

22 May 2011
So, I'm wondering what it says about myself if I keep getting my inspiration from my seven year-old daughter. I'm hoping it means I'm still "young at heart". Whatever it means, I stole another one of her ideas. My Elizabeth spent all day yesterday making "cootie catchers" for herself and her sisters - seems it's all the rage in her classroom right now - funny how these things always come full circle.  I totally remember playing with these when I was a kid.

Anyway, as I picked what seemed to be my hundredth colour and number, I had a great idea. Cootie catchers would be a great way for my students to ask each other questions during our pair/share for independent reading. As I started to plan it out, I thought ... why not make one for all seven of the reading strategies we study (asking questions, determining importance, inferring, making connections, summarizing, synthesizing, and visualizing). I also included a blank template because I think this would be a great way to have students come up with questions and review for a test. My girls were more than happy to oblige when I asked them to try it out - and I'm happy to say it got the Elizabeth stamp of approval. Click on the picture below to check my newest product out at my TeacherspayTeachers Store.

I posted another new product this week, as well. I've been doing book talks forever in my classroom, and am just about to assign another one to my students, so I thought I'd upload the file to my TeacherspayTeachers Store. If you haven't done them already, book talks are a great way to keep your students accountable for their independent reading, without assigning the traditional book report. They also help students practise their oral speaking skills, and build confidence speaking in front of an audience. Click on the picture to download a preview of the product.

Although I'm happy I got a lot of work done this weekend, the best part was definitely after supper tonight when we made my world-famous chocolate chip skor cookies (OK - maybe they're not world famous yet, but they should be). Another stamp of approval from my kidlets. And the fun continues tomorrow - here in Canada it's a long weekend. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE long weekends!

Sidenote: I'm only 10 followers away from my first giveaway!!! I can't wait - it's going to be a great one! Spread the word to help me get to 50 followers. Thank-you!!!

Riding the Tiger - A Great Book for Inferring

16 May 2011
Today marked the end of our junior / intermediate focus on inferring(I also included a mini-focus on point of view). For our summative task we chose the mentor text, Riding the Tiger, by Eve Bunting. I read the book twice to the students, but because it was our summative task, there was no oral discussion after reading. I think this is a fabulous book for inferring, but I wished we could have discussed the book after reading. So many of my students were too literal, and thought the book was really about riding a tiger (for those who haven't read the book, the tiger is a symbol for a gang).

So, if you've got a copy of this book kicking around in your bookroom or library, here are the questions we used:
1) Why do you think Danny wanted to ride the tiger at first? Use information from the text and your own ideas to support your answer.
2) What do you think the policeman meant by, "Once you get up on the tiger's back, it's hard to get off...". Use information from the text and your own ideas to support your answer.
3) What do you think the tiger is a symbol for? What were some of the clues that led you to this inference?
4) From whose point of view is the story written? Give an example from the story to support your answer?
5) What do you think the author is trying to say about our society? Use information from the text and your own ideas to support your answer.

I plan on discussing this text further tomorrow. I feel I HAVE to. Although I got many really great, thought-provoking answers, I have to reach those students who still think Danny wanted to ride the tiger because "it would be really cool to ride a talking tiger." Ummmmmm ... OK.

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The "Un"Journal - Writing On Demand

13 May 2011
The other day I was doing some online book shopping (one of my weaknesses), and just as I finished adding items to my cart, something caught my eye. You know that little menu that comes up on Amazon - "You may like ...", well, I saw and I liked. I impulsively added Unjournaling, by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston, and I'm so very glad I did.

I know many of you are just about done the school year (and may I say now how very jealous I am!). Well, I'm not just about done. We go until the very end of June - June 30th to be exact. In these next few weeks I have province wide grade 6 testing, track meets (I'm the track coach), team meetings, class trips, Arts Fair ... you name it. With the weather only getting warmer each day, it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep my kids focussed and motivated. The kids (and I) needed something new.

Enter Unjournaling. This book takes the age-old writing on demand tasks, and actually makes them fun! We did our first prompt on Monday - Write a paragraph about a girl named Dot, without using any letters with dots. It took my students a few minutes to wrap their heads around this, but when the timer went off after 15 minutes, I had quite a few giggles and volunteers to share their work.
On Tuesday, the students didn't know what to expect when I had them take out their writing notebooks. Tuesday's prompt was - You have been hired by a car company to subliminally encourage people to buy a car. You will receive $10.00 for every word that has the smaller word of car in it (example: scar, carton, etc.). Write a short story for a magazine using as many "car" words you can. When the timer went off, I heard an excited voice from the back of the class shout, "I made three hundred sixty dollars!".
As I entered my classroom on Wednesday morning, the students were already asking me what their writing prompt would be that day - and their language block wasn't for two more hours! That's when I knew I had stumbled upon something great. Wednesday's writing prompt was - Write a paragraph about anything you wish, using 20 double-vowel words (example: peep, school, etc.). I also had them include 5 words from our new word wall. When the timer went off, over three quarters of my class had their hands waving in the air, eager to share their writing. SUCCESS!!!

On Thursday and Friday, their task was to choose one piece of writing, polish it, publish it, and submit it for marking. I displayed the published pieces on a bulletin board to keep the excitement going. I know we're going to have a lot of fun with this book for the rest of the year. See ... sometimes impulsive online shopping can totally pay off!


On Top of the World

09 May 2011
"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." Dr. Carl Sagan

This weekend, I know my little girls discovered some incredible things!

So, this weekend I packed up my family and took them on a weekend trip to a science center just a few hours away. What could be more relaxing for a Mother's Day weekend?? Alright, so maybe there wasn't a lot of relaxing, but there WAS a lot of FUN and LEARNING! The last time we went to the science center, my oldest was 4 and my middle girl was only 18 months. I thought we were due for another trip. I knew my oldest would love it (she is so totally into everything science), but I was surprised how much the younger two got out of it. They all had a blast (and so did their mommy and daddy)!

Allison, my three-year old, took a huge interest in the oil spill display. She carefully and lovingly cleaned all the oil off her "duckie". A future environmentalist in the making!

Katie, my five-year old, was entranced by the butterfly room. She was so quiet and still (so unlike her) as to not disturb the butterflies. She studied them carefully and was surprised by how many varieties there were. (We only see monarchs and moths around here). A future entomologist in the making!

Elizabeth, my seven-year old, is my little scientist already. While other little girls are getting Barbie dolls and Justin Bieber CDs for Christmas, my Elizabeth asks for microscopes, dinosaur dig kits, skeleton puzzles, and chemistry sets. And mommy Santa is only too happy to oblige. Elizabeth thought the x-ray display was "too cool". She was armed with her brand new camera, and after checking out the x-ray machine, she went to work snapping pictures of all the skeletons and their x-rays. A future veterinarian in the making!

They planted trees, touched a snake, built a water system, saw a planetarium, fed baby birds, explored with magnets, counted fish, searched for fossils, lay on a bed of nails, wore moose antlers, repaired a turtle shell, sat in a geode, constructed simple machines, replaced organs inside a body ... and did it all with such wide-eyed excitement and enthusiasm.

At that science center, something incredible WAS discovered. And my three little girls left ... on top of the world!