Making Memories

26 December 2013
I hope you all enjoyed a blessed holiday with your family and friends.  We've been making the best of our holidays together here, with more to come.

On Saturday we had the opportunity to take part in a Polar Express event.  It was so much fun!  We took a train ride to the North Pole (our local ski hill).  On the train there were actors and actresses playing the role of the characters in The Polar Express.  We were also treated to a reading of the story and carolling.

When we got to the North Pole we were led to Santa's workshop where the kids started making crafts (bell bracelets and reindeer food).  It was a great way to keep the kids busy while my husband got our ski equipment prepped and ready for us.

After lunch we hit the ski hill.  My husband snowboards and I ski, but our kids had never been skiing before so they took a quick lesson on the bunny hill.  My oldest caught on quickly, so I was able to take her on one of the bigger hills before the end of the day.

After skiing, right before we headed back home, we went back to Santa's workshop to mingle with the big guy himself.  He had a bell from Santa's sleigh for all the kids.  Such a fabulous day ... and definitely a memory maker.

Over the holidays we also had a little photo session with the girls so I could give some pictures as gifts.  My sister is a talented hobby photographer, so we got all the kiddos together so we could give our parents a beautiful framed picture of all the grandkids.  I also got a large canvas of my three little beauties ... Merry Christmas to ME!

And then it was Christmas ... x3.  On Christmas Eve my whole family gets together at my parents' house.  Christmas morning is a love-filled, chaotic event with just the 5 of us.  And Christmas evening is spent at my mother-in-law's house.  That's a lot of Christmas ... and I wouldn't change a minute of it.  

Tomorrow morning we're leaving on a little mini vacation to take the girls to see their first NHL game (a true Canadian holiday).  Looking forward to a little relaxing, a little shopping, and NO CLEANING!

Happy Holidays!  Enjoy the rest of your time ... time to relax and recharge.  I'll "see" you all in the New Year!


Art Feature - Line and Design Christmas Trees

07 December 2013
This was a fun, quick, and easy art project we took on this week.  I'm definitely in the Christmas mood already, and wanted to bring a little bit of into the classroom.  I love line and design art projects - so simple, and yet so effective.

For this one, we started by drawing some simple holiday and Christmas themed shapes and words on our paper (we used plain white computer paper) and then outlined them in black sharpie.

We then divided our paper into many sections using a combination of straight and curvy lines (but we didn't let any of the lines run through the Christmas shapes we had already drawn.

We then drew in a simple Christmas tree shape, and outlined it in green sharpie.  They also used the same green sharpie to go over the previously drawn lines that ended up inside of the Christmas tree shape. (Students had the option of adding a star and a few Christmas balls to their tree).  

They then used different shades of green pencil crayons to colour in the sections within the tree (patchwork style).   

Once the tree was coloured, they went back to their black sharpies and filled in the sections around the tree with different variations of lines and designs.  I LOVE how they turned out.

This is our (very) large bulletin board that I display most of our art on (some of it makes it onto bulletin boards in the hall).  This year I've tried to keep a sample of all the art we've done in the year.  So, when we're ready to post a new art project, I take down all but one row of the previous art, and add all the new art underneath (we might have to start fresh at the beginning of second term).  I laminate all of our art projects, so that's why the pieces at the top look so shiny.  Once an art project comes off the board, we store them in our art portfolios until the end of the year when we turn them into our "Art and Writing Books" for students to take home at the end of the year.  You can read about that project HERE.

Well, that's about it.  Hope you're having a relaxing weekend!  Happy Saturday!!!


Cyber Monday Pin It to Win It WINNERS

01 December 2013
I have my two winners for my Cyber Monday Pin It to Win It contest!  I used the random number generator to choose 2 winners from the comments in my last post.

The winners are .... (drumroll)

We have been using your interactive math journals and have LOVED them. I'm excited to use the ideas and resources in your "Reading Comprehension Strategy Resource Binder!" Thanks!

#94 - MW (Meredith)December 1, 2013 at 9:47 PM
All of your products are inspired! Here is the one that I am wishing for now!

Congratulations, Meredith and Loren!  You both won a copy of my Reading Comprehension Strategy binder and a $25.00 gift certificate!  Please leave me a comment below with your email address so I can send you your prize!

If I don't hear from a winner within 24 hours, I will choose a new winner.  Be sure to follow my facebook page for the announcement.

Happy Sunday evening!  It was a great day - theatre date with my three little girls, hubby made supper, Walking Dead on TV (still in shock), and a roaring fire in the fireplace.  Life is good.  :) 


Cyber Monday Pin It to Win It!

30 November 2013
Have you heard the news?  TeachersPayTeachers HUGE Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) sale is just around the corner - December 2nd and December 3rd.  I'll be participating in the sale with 20% off all my resources, plus an additional 10% off when you use the code CYBER at the checkout.  I LOVE these sales, and have been adding to my wishlist ALL DAY!  (Don't forget to leave feedback for all your prior purchases to earn credits towards all your new purchases).

So, if your wishlist is looking anything like mine (or your holiday bills look anything like mine), I've got a little Pin It to Win It contest for you.  Rules are simple:  pin something you would like from my TPT Store, and then leave me a comment below on my blog with the link to your pin.  I will draw TWO names from the comments below on Sunday, December 1st at 10:00 pm ET.  The two winners will each receive the resource they pinned as well as a $25.00 gift certificate to TeachersPayTeachers.  YAY!  

Good Luck!!!



Passion Projects - Week 2

We had our second Genius Hour on Friday, and it was another great hour in the classroom.  For Friday's class, students were asked to come with 2 inquiry questions and ideas for possible passion projects.  These two questions could be based on the same passion, or two different passions.  Friday would be the day they propose their ideas to me so I could approve one of them.

I had told my students earlier in the week to be prepared to wait and keep themselves busy during that hour.  I have 28 students in my class, so approving all the ideas meant I could only spend a short time with each student, and some students would be waiting until the end of class (for this reason, we started an art project in the morning that I knew would keep them busy if they were waiting for me).  I also handed out our second "Genius Hour" organizer at the beginning of the class so they could fill in their questions before they met with me, and continue on the sheet after they had a project approved.  To avoid the "Can I go next" questions, they knew I was going to draw names from our name jar.

Almost every student came prepared with their questions (a sure sign they were motivated by this project, as that's not always the case with homework in our room).  A few students wrote topics down, but not questions, so I had them go back to their seats and try to think of possible inquiry questions for their topic (I did have to help a couple of students).  A few students needed a little help deepening their questions (as they would have been simple "google search" answers) ... but we got there in the end.  Some students are still thinking about how to put together a project that will showcase their passion and inquiry question.  However, every single student came with ideas.  (Happy teacher moment).  I've uploaded our Class 2 handout to google docs - click HERE if you would like to grab a copy for yourself.

In the interests of sharing, these are the approved inquiry questions my students came up with.  (Note - some questions are definitely "deeper" than others, but allowing for differentiation and the different abilities of my students, the questions matched (or exceeded) my expectations perfectly.)
  • What kinds of foods are best to eat before dancing or exercise?
  • How do I make a go-cart?
  • What is everything I know about the NHL?
  • Why is family so important?  How can I document the importance of my family members?
  • What is an exoskeleton?  How do exoskeletons differ between different animals?
  • How could I create a cookbook on desserts?
  • What are the different events that make up gymnastics and when did it become a national sport?
  • What is the best dirt bike model?
  • How can I design my ideal bedroom?
  • How were medieval castle walls made?
  • How do you survive a wild animal attack?
  • What was the inspiration behind the Star Wars movies?
  • How does a hockey goal tender prepare for his hockey season?
  • Can you train a dog with a dog whistle?
  • Who are the Greek gods and how did they become gods?
  • How do you survive if lost in the wilderness?
  • What kinds of fish are caught in different seasons and different areas of Canada?
  • What is safe to eat in the woods?
  • How do I make doll clothes?
  • What major events happened in the 1920s?
  • What are the different kinds of race car courses?
  • What is the history of a bow and arrow?  How do I make one?
At the end of class, students had to complete another reflection sheet (they will do this at the end of every genius hour).  It is the same one I shared in my Genius Hour post from last week.  Their homework for the week is to discuss their ideas and project starts with their families, and come prepared with the materials they need to fully begin working on their projects next week (materials, research questions, plans, etc.)  

Happy Saturday!


Passion Projects in the Classroom

24 November 2013
Last week I was scouring the internet for some more inquiry ideas for my classroom when I came across Genius Hour.  One word ... hooked.  And inspired.  And motivated.  (I was never good at limiting my words).  ;)  Sufficed to say, I KNEW it was going to happen in my classroom.

In a nutshell, Genius Hour is something that happens in your classroom for one hour a week.  During this time, students research and complete an inquiry project based on their passions - really digging deep into what motivates them.  The actual inquiry question does not have to be tied to the curriculum expectations because so much of what they will do does fit the curriculum ... and more ... so much more.  They will be learning research skills, refining their organizational skills, reading nonfiction articles, developing questions, writing, preparing a project, and presenting.  And best of all ... they will be engaged.

So, I got started immediately.  I started researching it more in depth (check out the genius hour link in the first paragraph to get you started with so many FANTASTIC ideas and resources).  I started making up resources to use in my classroom, and I started planting little seeds of excitement within the classroom.  I told my students I had a big secret for them ... one that would be revealed on Friday ... and one that would change our classroom ... one that would change every student.  Boy, were they hooked.  The second they came into the school on Friday they asked when they were going to find out the secret.

Our Genius Hour will take place every Friday in our classroom, during our Language Arts block.  I set up this space on our blackboard (who uses blackboards anymore?) to act as our bulletin board launching pad during our passion projects.  I set it up during their break, so it was up when they came back into the classroom.  When it was time, I told them all was about to be revealed.  I gave each student a sticky note and asked them to close their eyes and think about something they were really passionate about.  Something that they would do forever if they could.  I then had them write that thing on the sticky note and put it up on our bulletin board.

I then showed them the "Pep Talk" video by Kid President.  LOVE it.  It fits so perfectly with our classroom motto this year - "Be More Awesome".

I asked them how they thought this video ties into their passions and we had a short discussion about it.  I then showed them this video (found on Genius Hour).  It's actually geared to teachers, so I wouldn't use it in a classroom with younger students, but it worked well with my students, and it told them exactly what to expect during Genius Hour.

I then handed out a second sticky note and asked them to "refine" their passion a bit.  Alter it so that it was something they could create an inquiry project on - something they could create a question about and complete research on (we have already completed inquiry projects in science this year, so this concept wasn't new to them).  I also reminded them that this was just a brainstorm phase, and they weren't tied to what they wrote down on the sticky note.  When they were finished, I had them put these sticky notes up on our bulletin board, too.

I handed out a duotang and notebook to each student to keep track of their sheets and notes during the project (bright yellow, of course).  I then gave them their brainstorm sheet and asked them to answer the questions.  On the back of the sheet they were to brainstorm ideas they were passionate about, and projects they could complete based on these passions.  This one below is one of my favourites because this is a young man who is quite difficult to engage ... and he was so excited about this he drew out a full diagram in only a few moments.

After a few moments of brainstorming, I allowed them some group time to discuss the ideas they were thinking about.  My class LOVES to talk, so I've found if I build that time in for them, we are all a lot happier.  We then filled out a reflection sheet I made for the end of each Genius Hour.  Because I wanted to keep the sheet the same for each Genius Hour through the session, some of the questions didn't apply this time, but will in our upcoming genius hour blocks.  I've uploaded a copy of the handouts I used, and the bulletin board letters I made to google docs.  You can grab them by clicking HERE.  I left the day of the week and project timeline blank so you could add in your days / timeline.  Note:  this is a PDF file, so it isn't editable.  If it doesn't quite work for you, you are more than welcome to use some of these ideas and create something that does work for you.  Although I like to share ideas and activities I've done in the classroom, I'm a HUGE advocate of doing what works for your classroom - you know your students the best, and know what drives them, so please change things around if you feel your students need it, or add in your own genius ideas to inspire your students.  :)

For homework, I asked my students to talk to their families about our Passion Projects and come back with two ideas they could work with.  Over the week, I will talk to the students and approve ideas so that we can get started on our projects during our next Genius Hour next Friday.

If you haven't heard about Genius Hour, please check out the link I gave at the beginning ... I promise you - you will be motivated.  My students are SO excited, to say the very least.  One of my students asked me at the end of class if he could decorate his folder.  Of course I told him he could.  When I came back from break, I found out that he had done this on his break.  A success, I'd say.  When I was dismissing the bus lines at the end of the day, one of my "less motivated" students looked and me and said with a smile, "I think I'm going to like Fridays now".  Well ... enough said.

Happy Sunday!


I'm Thankful For ... Fantastic Giveaways with my Fabulous Friends!

11 November 2013
Up here in Canada, we've already had our Thanksgiving celebrations, but that doesn't mean I'm not still thankful.  This week I'm thankful for Fantastic Giveaways with my Fabulous Friends!  We're joining together to show you our thanks - thanks for every single thing you do every single day.  (And trust me, I KNOW how much you do - before school, during school, after school, at home ... and the list goes on).

I'm thankful for things that make my life easier - aren't we all thankful for that?  I'm thankful for my question fans - having a selection of higher order thinking questions at my finger tips makes my reading conferences, pair shares, and whole group discussions ... easier.  I'm also thankful for Amazon - online shopping DEFINITELY makes my life easier ... especially right now before Christmas.  I dread shopping malls at Christmas time, and I don't always have a great selection where I live.  Shopping through Amazon makes me happy (just like the little smile on the side of the box).  I want to share a little "easy" with you through my giveaway.  Just enter through the rafflecopter giveaway right below (and because I know I have a lot of Canadian followers, if you are the winner, I will let you choose if you want an or gift card).  Easy.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Feeling the thanks?  It gets better.  Fifteen of us have paired up to give away 3 BIG $100 gift card to Amazon, Target, or TeachersPayTeachers.  Talk about making your life easier with those!  Enter in the rafflecopter giveaway below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And that's not all ... visit my friends through their buttons below to see what they are thankful for ... and how they want to share that thanks with YOU!  Here's hoping your life just got a little easier.  :)


A Peek at Last Week

09 November 2013
We started our new read aloud this week - Because of Mr. Terupt, written by Rob Buyea.  This book came highly recommended by a few of my followers at the beginning of the year, so I scooped it up.  SO glad I did - my students are LOVING it!  (There's a sequel, too).  We're still studying summarizing as our comprehension strategy, so I've had the students working on summaries in various ways - through turn and talks with a partner, sticky note summaries, written reader responses, and different kinds of organizers.  One of my favourites this week as a 30 word summary I asked my students to write - exactly 30 words, no more, no less.  There was a lot of great thinking going on as they worked to add or eliminate words to hit the number target.  We've also used the book to start a lot of great discussions on characterization, as the book is written from the point of view of 7 different characters.  I think we'll move on to Making Connections as our next comprehension strategy as I'm pretty sure my students will relate and connect to some of the characters and situations/problems in the novel.

Also inspired by the book, we've added "Dollar Words" into our daily number talks.  The characters in the book had a math project to find as many dollar words as they could (words that add up to $1.00 or 100 - a=1, b=2, c=3 and so on).  I made a quick template page for our smartboard, and give the students 3 or 4 minutes at the beginning of each number talk to try to find a dollar word.  Students that find one can share at the smartboard when they are done.

We've also been working on our Remembrance Day tribute this week.  Every year my students participate in our Legion's annual Literary and Poster Contest.  My students have been working on their posters (colour or black and white) and poems (at least 4 quatrains with a rhyme scheme) throughout the week.  We've also been working on our Poppy Craftivity, but we won't finish these up until Monday.  I'm going to use the poppies and copies of their poems for our November bulletin board display.  I can't wait until we are all finished - they are doing such a great job!

Yesterday we finished our slideshow for our Remembrance Day assembly at the school - made with Windows Live Movie Maker.  I used the students' posters in the slideshow, and had them each write one word on their hands that made them think about veterans.  (Please ignore all the spelling mistakes on the posters - although I checked and proofed all the rough copies before they started their good copies, many of my students apparently can't transfer the correct spelling.  Ugh.)  I posted our video below - you may have to click through to youtube to watch it (it's doing something funny on my computer).

Happy Saturday!  It's a rainy day, and my oldest and my hubby are feeling under the weather.  Hoping for a quiet rest of the day, already back from dancing lessons with my youngest two, and new winter boots, hats, and mitts bought for all the kiddos.  Now if I could only convince the cleaning fairy to visit my house.  ;)


A Peek At Last Week

02 November 2013
I'm totally procrastinating working on my report cards, so I thought a new blog post would be in order.  Here is a peek into last week in my classroom.

We're working on summarizing as our comprehension strategy right now.  We've added it on our CRAFT board and written about it in our CRAFT books and reader response books.  Next week we are going to start our new literature circles, so we've been practising this strategy orally through the week.  When my students have finished their daily independent reading (about 20 minutes a day), they get together with a partner for a "pair share".  During this pair share, they each read a page from their books, and then ask their partners some questions related to our current reading strategy.  To aid with this, I use my Comprehension Question Fans.  One or two groups will get the printed out fans on the ring to use, and for the rest, I project the checklist sheet over the computer onto the smartboard so everybody has access.  They must pick at least 2 questions, and the partners can't choose the same question.  After about 5 - 10 minutes, students come back to their desks and I choose 4 volunteers to share with the class.  They must share a summary of what their partner read to them, and then share how their partners answered the questions they asked.  A quick and easy daily formative assessment for oral language. 

In writing we're working on our fictional narratives beginning from a Halloween prompt.  We've been using the story map planning sheet from my new Story Elements Concept Posters.  When students had finished their planning graphic organizers, they met with a partner to share.  After they read through what they had, partners had to give them "a wish and a star".  Following this, they had to make revisions to their planning sheet based on the feedback from their partner.  They LOVE sharing their work with their peers in the class, and it's so beneficial for both students.  Students are almost finished with their rough drafts right now, and after some guided editing and revising lessons planned for this week, we'll be publishing them for our writing wall.

Wednesday was our big science day.  Students had been working on their independent inquiry projects for Space for about a week and a half, and Wednesday was presentation day.  They had to present their findings through a physical project and an oral presentation.  They did such a great job!  We had poster boards, science fair boards, slideshows, movies, powerpoints, and plasticine dioramas.   Here are a few pics - I took a picture of each student presenting so I could send home a pic with the rubric.

On Thursday, I kept the students busy in the morning with our Halloween mad libs (at their request).  When they were finished I had them complete a comprehension exit slip (give an example of a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb) and post it on our traffic light exit slip board (red circle for some difficulties, yellow circle for a few questions, and green circle for good understanding).  Accountability - love it! 

Yesterday I combatted (well, tried at least) the sugar highs with a data management activity.  We finished up our patterning unit this week, so for our data management diagnostic I asked the students how many (and what kinds of) candies they had in their lunch bags that day.  We made a tally chart with the results.  Students then had to take the data we compiled and represent it in two different ways (their choice).  I was more than a little horrified to find out that my 24 students present that day had a total of 277 pieces of candy in their lunches ... thank goodness we had a presentation for the last block of the day that kept the students engaged ... and the teachers sane.  

Last weekend I added a new resource to my TPT store - a poppy craftivity we'll be working on for our Remembrance Day assembly.  There are two versions in the resource - one with general questions about veterans and the day, and another that has students studying and answering questions about the poem, "In Flanders Fields" (that's the version we'll be doing in the class).  You can click HERE or on the picture to the right to take a peek at it.  

So, there it is ... a peek at last week.  I have successfully procrastinated for a bit now, so I guess it's time to tackle those report cards.  Sigh.  Happy Weekend!!!