Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bitstrips- Comic Creator

To end off the year having some fun and to work on our media skills my class and I have been busy making comics using Bitstrips for Schools. This is a fabulous online comic creator program that allows you create a virtual classroom for your students! It is FREE for Ontario teachers but available for a small fee for others as well. There are packages for individual teachers, schools and HOMESCHOOLERS as well!!

Once you have signed up for your account then you distribute a code to your students to log in and start creating comics. As the teacher you are able to see all the work completed by your students, send comics back for revision and allow students to comment on each other's comics. There is also a fabulous activity bank from which you can picked previously created lessons and assignments for your class. So far my students have created an avatar, a comic to introduce themselves and like my example above a comic to show where they want to go in the future. It has been great to see my student's writing and literacy skills in action.

Try it out, I'm sure you will love it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hot Writing- Get those pencils moving!!

Hot Writing - Writing Lesson Motivator

- lined paper or writing notebooks (whichever you use for your class)
- pencils
- imagination

Tell your students that today they are going to be such "hot writers" that their paper may actually catch on fire! (It really grabs their

The basic gist of the activity is that students will write for a length of time and they are not allowed to stop writing at all. If they run out of ideas they just keep re-writing the last word they wrote. The idea is NOT to create a cohesive piece of writing but to see how much writing you can get done in the time limit.

Start with 30 seconds- any longer is too long, even for the older intermediate students until you have done this a number of times. Have the students place their pencil on the page and start the stopwatch. The students will write for 30 seconds until you yell "stop!" They should count up their words, write the total beside their writing and draw a line underneath.

Repeat! You can slowly up the amount of time students are writing by 30 second increments. Every once in awhile you can also have a student share their writing with the class for a fun giggle. "Apple, apple, apple, balloon, monkey jumps, piano, dog, dog, dog, dog..."! The idea is that the students are trying to increase their word count each time. Students will love the challenge of this, just check every so often that they are writing REAL words!

Once your students are pretty comfortable with hot writing start to encourage them to write a mini-story each time you time them, probably once you are up to 1-2 minutes of solid writing. It's interesting to see the types of stories that come out of the hot writing.

Other ideas you can try are to have a writing prompt and everyone writes on the same topic- just wait and see the variety that happens! Also, once students can write for 4-5 minutes you can introduce a new word at every 30 second interval that they must incorporate into their stories!

Mostly, have fun with it! Hot writing is great to break through writer's block, as a quick review of a previous science or social studies lesson, and just for fun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Summer read along?

I am starting to think about hosting another read along this summer (like last year's Book Whisperer) and am looking for suggestions!

Perhaps something about math or writing? Leave a comment and let me know, especially if you are interested in co-hosting or being involved in any way at all!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fractions Part 2- Problem Solving and Math Talk

Once we had learned about the basics of fractions-  denominators and numerators - I wanted to give my students a chance to put their learning to the test and use it in a problem solving situation. My school has been focusing on problem based learning in Math for quite some time now and even though I still considered myself a math newbie I try to integrate this as much as possible. 

This problem was modified from a problem given to me by a colleague and I am very proud of how of turned out! Click on the picture below to see the original problem given to the students. I choose to have my students complete this problem independently, even though I usually have them work in pairs, so I could see their understanding and use this as a formative assessment piece.

Here are some examples of how my students chose to solve the problem. I left it very open-ended (no real correct answer) and you can see my feedback written in green ink. The students who also have a sticky on their sheet were told to be prepared to present their solution to the class.

I think it's important to give students an opportunity to practice before they speak in front of their peers whenever possible. 

Once the students finished the first part of the problem I gave my students this second problem to extend their thinking about fractions.

Here are some student examples.

Once again, you can see my feedback in red ink. I gave my students their work back and asked that they answer any questions I asked in green or red ink and be prepared to talk about the problem the next day in class. One by one I called the students up and displayed their work on the document camera. What I liked most about this problem is that all my students were able to solve the problem and no answer was wrong! How empowering is that?

After we had discussed the different answers and fractions used by my students to solve this problem we switched gears to comparing fractions according to the benchmarks of 0, 1/2, and 1. Since the students used such a wide variety of fractions (from 3/3 to 3/16) to "cut" their pieces this was a fantastic end to the lesson.

This was our previous lesson/anchor chart on fraction benchmarks...

And this is what we created using the pizza fractions from my student's solutions. We ranked them in order from closer to0, closer to 1/2 and closer to 1 and then discussed which pizza party we would rather be at!

All in all, I am pretty proud of how it all turned out....especially for a math newbie!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Summer Bucket List

What an amazing idea....ohhh summer, where are you? Here in Ontario we will be in school right up until June 29th so thinking about summer vacation this early is a little bit of a dangerous past time but I like to live on the edge sometimes.

So what do I want to get done...hmmm.

1. Knitting- I bought some gorgeous hand-painted wool to knit a light cowl for myself, and just today I bought a new pattern and fair isle patterning yarn to make a sweater for my daughter.

2. Professional Reading- so much!! I have a few books on guided reading and reading responses plus one of my new teaching partners just told me about "The Power of Retelling" so that's going on the list too.

3. Running- my husband and I started training to run a 5k and I am hoping to sign up for a charity run in August

4. Cottaging- we will be at the cottage for 2 glorious weeks in July....the beach, the sun, the food!!

5. Become an aunt!! My sister is due in August and I can't wait to meet the little man.

6. Plan for next year- things are changing and I am very excited to see what the new year will bring.

Head over to link up with this great party!

Miss Kindergarten
A Modern Teacher
A Cupcake for the Teacher

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fractions Part 1- Diagnostic Talking Picture and Anchor Charts

We have started learning about the dreaded fractions in my grade 4 math class....arrrgh! You can practically see the terror on the faces of my students. Nooooo!! Not fractions!

I don't remember being scared of fractions as a kid but I can't say that I am that excited to teach it as an adult either. I definitely didn't help that I was being evaluated during this unit....le sigh. But let's not talk about that shall we?

Except....for my evaluation I needed to show examples of how I give feedback to my students so I thought that I would try the Talking Picture strategy and the GLOW/GROW assessment again. I displayed a chart showing the objectives for our unit on fractions and decimals as well as a vocabulary list. I asked my students too use the objectives chart to draw a "talking picture" showing their knowledge of fractions (mainly) and decimals (if they could). I outlined that I wanted my students to show their knowledge using words, numbers and pictures....AND colour. Other than that anything they wanted to draw was fine with me.

For the GLOW/GROW assessment I used the amazing Jen Runde's chart and poster set. Awesome. It was a great complement to the diagnostic assessment.

The second day after completing the diagnostic task we created an anchor chart together in class.

I am pretty proud of how things are going since it is my first time teaching fractions. The majority of my class seems to be following along quite nicely and the formative assessments I have looked over show a good deal of understanding!! Yeah!!

The one thing that I did notice was that even though my students understood that the numerator indicated the parts of the fraction that were counted, eaten, shaded etc and that the denominator represented the total number of parts that the whole had been split into, they were missing the word "equal" in a lot of cases when describing the denominator. So we had a quick mini-lesson to recover this material before we moved on with our study of fractions.

I posted this picture on the document camera...without any of the green circles or X's. The students discussed with their table groups with pictures represent the fraction and why. I am was happy to hear that the students really did understand that the part of the whole had to be equal...and I made sure to specifically ask the students who had missed this vital point on their formative assessment!

I hope this is valuable and interesting for you all. I have a second post in the works involving the problem solving and math talk lesson from my class this past week. If you have any suggestions, ideas or questions please don't hesitate to comment.

Friday, May 4, 2012

An Artful Celebration

It's done! No more observations. No more evaluations. Well, at least for 5 years. It's been a long time coming, a long time preparing and a long week of what felt like jumping through hoops.

On Monday I had my pre-observation meeting where my vice-principal and I went through the 16 competencies that teachers must display. I was required to outline 2 examples from my teaching practice for each of the 16 competencies and give evidence that supports each example. This meeting took about 40 minutes. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday my vice-principal came to observe a language lesson and a math lesson. I wasn't worried about the language lesson because I feel that area is my best as I have almost exclusively taught language for my 8 years as a teacher. However, math is another story. Last year was the first year I had even taught math and then I was only working for 4 months before I went on my maternity leave. So, needless to say I was very nervous about being observed during a math lesson...and a lesson on fraction no less!!

But it's all behind me now and time to think of other things! Like art.. We have been doing all sorts of art in my Grade 4 these days and each project has been building on the previous lesson.

We started looking at value in art works and shading techniques. I took a picture of each of my students, cut it in half and then they drew the other half back in only using a pencil and shading techniques.

Around their drawing they also added in contour drawings of objects that important meaning to their lives. I am very proud and impressed at the quality of work my students created. 
They worked so hard on these drawings!

After our contour drawings of our faces and important objects we moved on and are now studying 3D drawings and perspective. We combined this with our study of shading techniques- lines, cross hatching, stippling- and created these fabulous 3D rectangle drawings with a vanishing point in the middle of the page.

My students and I are now working on 1 point perspective drawings of a city street and I can not wait to see the finished products!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Math Monday...on Tuesday!

I get some amazing ideas from the Math Monday Blog Hop over at love2learn2day! I just linked up my Elapsed Time Amazing Race.

Check it out and remember to link up your own math lessons.

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