A blog dedicated to pursue my passion for writing. Stories of teaching and anything else that fills my head.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Currently...November

It's November and thank you Farley for getting us linked up. I truly enjoy the blogging world of educators. There is so much to learn and so many ideas to use and reuse.


I wrapped up October with Student-led conferences, writing progress reports and Halloween. No wonder I am sick. Then again, I always get sick at this time of the year. It's always a cold and then leads to laryngitis. With no voice I am forced to stay home and I am forced to slow down, but I find having no voice makes me wanting to blog more and my mind doesn't stop thinking about all the things I want to do as a teacher.

I am listening to Breakfast Television and blogging. It's 7 am and my 2 year old slept over at grandma's last night. I woke up at 4:30 with my mind racing and I've been online since. I am running into school to print my report cards and supply plans then coming home. Being childless, I should be soaking in this ME  time.

I am loving this minestrone soup I made this past weekend. I made it for my son, who dislikes vegetables unless it's mushed up in a sauce or soup, but he didn't like it so my husband and I have been packing it for lunch this week. I love the cabbage in it, and I used a gluten free macaroni which did soak up the broth but kept it's shape.

I woke up this morning thinking about how I will organize the talent show at my school this year. We are a K-8 school with about 900 students. We haven't done a talent show for a few years and this is my first year leading it at this school. Any ideas and suggestions are welcomed.

I am wanting to just sleep, rest and to get rid of this cold. Maybe some more hand-washing and sanitizer could have fought the germs, or maybe I needed to power up on echinacea and and healthy pro-biotics to boost the immune system. I just long for the opportunity to curl up with a book and fall asleep with no hint of worrying in my mind. My want becomes my need because I can't function like this.

I am reading Outlander again. After watching the TV series I just had to pick it up again. Any Outlander fans out there? The first time I read it, I was on a bus tour up in the highlands in Scotland as a single gal.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The First Month Back

School started in September and since then I feel like I have been sprinting a marathon. I guess that is why teachers have 2 months off. I did feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

This year I teach grade 4 again in a small growing-town north of Toronto, Ontario. My school just started the full-day kindergarten program which means we have 200 little people registered out of 870 students in a K-8 school. I have 24 delightful students who seem eager to come to school each day. This is my 3rd year teaching grade 4, so start up was more smooth and I love that I can reuse lessons.

Did you know that in a group of 24, there is often always 2 people who share the same birthday. This year 2 students share January 22 birthdays.

Every year I start with reading, "The Dot" by Peter Reynolds. I love what the message in this book and often students can connect with the story or character. I took part in Dot Day around September 15ish and we sang this song.


 Then we made Dot art. We used the ColAR app on the iPads which kids love. And painted outside
on the tarmac.
This was a Pinterest find, and I haven't quite learned how to put the Pin button on my pictures. Basically you use 1 part cornstarch with 1 part water, then add food colouring. So simple.
When it dries it looks like sidewalk chalk.


Each week my class completes team challenges. I love the marshmallow challenge. Here is our tallest structure this year. I realized afterwards I forgot to give them string, but the students still managed. Each group of 4 received 20 spaghetti sticks, 1 marshmallow and an arm's length of masking tape and string (if you remember). Then they have to build a freestanding tower, I used the CN Tower as an example, and place their marshmallow on top.
Team challenges help my class problem solve, make decisions and promotes team work. Afterwards, we reflect on the challenge. I create an anchor chart to remind students how to be effective group members with Do's and Do Not's.

Lastly, I work closely with my grade team and this year we are having more emphasis on outdoor education which links into our first science unit, habitats. We got to go a conservation center close by to study wetland, pond and forest habitats. Kids love field trips!

Each month we are walking to a park close by that has 3 different habitats for us to study- a creek, forest and field. We hope to be able to encourage students to care for their environment and realize the impact they have on the animals. 

Behind our school there is construction. Houses are popping up like crazy here. This wee snake happen to cross our paths outside of our portables. Luckily no students were around on this PD day. My grade partners swooped him up and tried to find another home for him. We thought this would be a great teachable moment for our classes. I  got the heebie jeebies and couldn't  get myself to touch the snake, from afar it was cute with its little tongue and 2 beady eyes. I envisioned it to grow like Voldemort's snake in Harry Potter, or not.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Currently...October

It's October!! My favourite month of the year and my favourite season, Fall.
I can't believe how the first month of school just flew by. I meant to blog before school started and then once again in September.

Currently, I am listening to my husband making dinner. It's always nice to have dinner made. 

I love Fall! I love watching the leaves turn colours and the cooler temperatures. Today in central Ontario, it felt like 6 degrees Celsius. I love layering up and going for walks. I also celebrate a birthday and anniversary in October.

I am thinking about how lucky I am to have wonderful girlfriends. I just got back from a night away at the cottage with an extraordinary group of ladies.We spent the night drinking wine, talking and laughing.

I am wanting a long weekend only because since school started in September, I feel like I haven't stopped. This past week, I was overhearing a group of teachers saying how they're feeling overwhelmed and finding it hard to keep up. I feel the same way. September is busy and it's not going to slow down for a while. As teachers, we know what's coming. I'm trying to not complain because I really do have a great class of 24 grade 4 students that mostly like coming to school. They make me laugh and I have a great time with them, but it's all the responsibilities beyond the classroom that makes it tough. I think a long weekend would be good for all. Luckily in Canada, Thanksgiving happens in October.

I need to clean my house, enough said.

And finally, the treat. I don't have much to offer other than I hope everyone can enjoy some yummy treats on Halloween. I look forward to trick-or-treating with my 2 year old son.

Thank you Farley for the opportunity to link-up. Check out her site http://ohboy3rdgrade.blogspot.ca/

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Currently...June


Here is my first currently thanks to Runde's Room and Oh Boy, Fourth Grade

I was writing report cards. In fact I already plugged at them for 15 hours. This time I thought I count how long it takes me to complete my report cards, and these are the hours actually logged into eTeacher (report card writing program), I'm not even going to count the hours I spend marking. Technically I am logged on right now but I am not counting the time since I got sidetracked with completing my first "Currently" and with this I learned how to use Picasa. I see some fun things ahead of my blogging days.

So as I soak in the Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Spaces, I am loving the summer weather. I am thinking how I will survive the last 3 weeks of school. Report cards are due in 1 week.
I do want to go on vacation and luckily I have a flight booked to Calgary in July.
I so need a massage. My last massage was in October. I usually spoil myself a lot more than this.
This summer, I plan on just having a great break with my son. I'm sad that my husband will have to work the entire summer since he just started a new job. But we plan to do some cottaging and camping. Going to the beach, aquarium, zoo and just spending a lot of time outside.

The Ontario elections are coming up on Thursday, June 12th. At first, I was confident in the decision on which party I was going to vote for. If you follow me on Twitter, it's evident that I am on the #stophudak bus. I am trying to be informed during this election and I read the PC platform. I am trying to understand why anyone would vote PC. I asked my husband who worked for the private sector and now for the public sector. He feels a lot of money has been wasted, which is true since Ontario is in debt. Taxpayers are upset and they feel the PC party is going to fix it. As a teacher, I just can't imagine what those cuts will do to the education system. This year I have 29 students, if class sizes increase, does that mean more students next year? I had no educational assistants in my class and I know for sure 3 of my students needed EA support and at least 5 more can use some extra Special Education support. I didn't have it so I sucked it up and did my job. All I want to do is do my job and do it well without all this political bullshit. I may be dreaming, but a girl can dream.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Genius Hour from Start to Finish

5 weeks ago I asked the class, "What if you can learn anything you want in this classroom?" After giving a right amount of think time, my first response was "AWESOME!" And that's how I got the Genius Hour ball rolling in my grade 4 classroom. And they were hooked, they wanted to know more.

The next day, I showed them this classic Kid President video. I just love this kid. He is so inspirational and I wanted my students to know that they can be awesome if they wanted to and all they had to do was try.


 Then I showed them www.geniushour.com and explained where this idea came from and how I did this with my class last year and everyone loved it.

In my class, there are 3 rules to Genius Hour:
1) You must start with an inquiry question (a really good question)
2) You must do research (if you can find the answer within a minute of searching, you'll need to find a better question)
3) You must share what you learned to the rest of the class.

I told them they will have four 60 minute classes to complete their project and it will happen the same time each week. Each week they looked forward to Day 2 (we are on a 5 day cycle) period 5/6.

There was a wide range of questions. Some students knew immediately and some needed a couple days to think about it. Some even had to change their question a few times after realizing they found the answer in 1 Google search or they couldn't find an answer. Most of my students decided to pair up.

Here are our questions/topics:

- How is the orbit made?
- What is the first sport invented?
- How do you survive in the wild? 
- How do you build a self-reloading trap on Minecraft?
- What can I build with Lego?
- What is the first panda?
- How old do sharks live?
- What is the Blue Mosque?
- Learn more about Selena Gomez
- Learn about Medieval Times
- What's the fastest car?
- What is the first video game?
- How do you make Minecraft with rainbow loom?
- How do I teach my dog how to sit?
- How to make a website? 

During the rest of the Genius Hour sessions, I had students researching, creating, planning, and collaborating. Learning became natural to them. There was accountable talk and they problem solved together. I was facilitating instead of teaching. Some students were off task because they needed help to organize and plan out how they will share what they learned. A few students didn't have anything to share because they spent most of their time researching. All these hiccups were just teachable moments for me to discuss time management and discuss what they could do differently next time. Failure is part of the learning process and I embrace it.

Finally it was time to share what they learned. Most students made Power Points. I tried encouraging some groups to think outside of the box to share their work but the technology was not really reliable on some days.

The sharing is still going on, everyone is proud of their work. The project that had the best student reaction so far is the one with the self-reloading trap for Minecraft. This student, who is an aspie, usually keeps to himself and needs help with self-regulation. But when he presented, every student in my class was captivated by his work and I could tell he loved every moment of it. I don't think I could have planned for this, even if I tried.

I can't wait to do another Genius Hour session with my class.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

PBL Wrapped Up

It's been a while since I last posted. December was filled with holiday fun at school and at home. My teaching partner and I took part in the Humbug Challenge by handing out treats, nog and hot chocolate in the staff room on random days. My class took part in the holiday concert, singing in French. We went sledding, made snow forts and got creative making Christmas cards and gifts for loved ones. Then it was the holidays, 2 weeks off to spend with my family and friends.  Time to relax, rejuvenate and reflect.

We wrapped up our Canada PBL in November and here is what I learned:

First mistake, I needed to dedicate more time to integrate PBL into all subject areas and not worry about the "schedule" for the day. I was still trying to follow the expected 100 minutes of literacy and 60 minutes of numeracy and with all the other subjects, I haven't quite learned how to go with the flow.

Second, I don't think my guiding question was effective. I realized half way through students were focusing more on the project rather than inquiring and researching. I had one student finish making a Power Point but couldn't answer the initial question. My guiding question was, imagine you were to travel to a province or territory, what would you want to see and do? Many students only provided basic information and facts when I wanted them to think like a tourist. But then again, I also think many of my students have not stepped foot outside of their community and do not have the experience of traveling.

The ones who struggled the most were my reluctant readers, they couldn't read the information and had difficulty finding the information. Then there were the ones who didn't know where to start or kept losing their research. Also I feel there are more passive learners emerging. They rather find an answer and not question if it's a good one instead of digging deeper, and asking more questions. On the flip side, they are only 9 and they may lack the experiences to inquire so now I know what I need to provide next time.

On a more positive note, this was an eye-opening experience for me as a teacher. I stepped out of my comfort zone of controlling their thinking and actions for the project. There was authentic learning happening. Overall they were all engaged and those who created a project, were proud of their work. My most reluctant reader was able to create simple Power Point with pictures. Many of them learned basic computer skills about copying, pasting and saving - seeing their faces light up when they found out how to save on their very own USB stick was priceless.

Now January brings on a fresh start at the end of term resulting in report card writing. It's like I never left.

Monday, November 25, 2013

#NoHumbug Challenge - 31 Days to Spread some Christmas Cheer

This week I took on the #NoHumbug Challenge. You can read more about it on http://blog.lululemon.com/no-humbug-this-holiday-season/?cid=TWNoHumbugBlog

Day 1 started on Sunday, Nov. 24th and I made breakfast for my hubby.
Day 2 I am to share this #NoHumbug challenge

There are 31 days to this challenge and it will lead us right up to Christmas. As a teacher, I feel the energy of the students getting excited about Christmas. Today during community circle, everyone talked about the Santa Claus Parade that took place in their community this past weekend. At home, the Christmas spirit has not arrived yet. I have not exposed my 22 month old too much Christmasy stuff quite yet, but I think Grandma and Grandad have already. We haven't decorated or even started shopping, because we are trying to get our basement finished. And this year we decided that we will host my husband's family so the countdown is on to get it done, decorated, gifts wrapped and turkey roasting in the oven. We will take our lil' guy to see Santa and quite possibly this year we will get the baby crying on Santa's lap picture.

In the classroom, I will spread some cheer starting December. The students don't know it yet, but they will soon take part in the #NoHumbug challenge and help spread some cheer throughout the school. I hope to take more breaks during the school day to go play in the snow with them(yes, we have snow...in fact, I thought today was going to be a snow day).

Our school is taking part in collecting food items, toiletries and warm clothing to help those in need in our own community. This year our goal is to raise 3000+ items. Our school has been fabulous each year so far in donations, and this year I'm sure we'll reach our goal. The collection starts next Monday with us donating a dollar to wear our pj's to school.

So as I take on this challenge, I will be changing it a bit to make it work in my own classroom and school. Or do you think I can mix a few eggnog cocktails for the staff?
 
As for all the other things I am doing in the classroom, that's still happening. I'll make sure I post how my PBL ended next time. We are wrapping things up, no pun intended.
NoHumbug Challenge