23 February 2013

So what did we learn last week?

I promised back on Monday last week, that I'd share what the students learned about Chimpanzees during the course of our week-long mini unit. So here is the evidence that my students did learn something, as well as having a lot of fun during the week.

The finished poster
And here are some close-ups of some of the students' comments about their learning.

Definitely some great learning here.

More great learning
This student learned so much he/she needed a second shape!
Some great learning here.
Two students' thoughts
Another two students' thoughts
 If you want to know more about this great unit, check it out at the Disney Nature Chimpanzee website. You can download the great educators' guide for free. My students thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can definitely recommend it as a high quality professional resource.

Tenths and Hundredths and Pony Beads

So what do pony beads have to do with tenths and hundredths. Read on and you will find out.

In Grade 4K we've been learning about fractions. Over the years I've discovered that either they get it or they don't. Unfortunately, we use fractions every day, so kids do really need to get it. Over the last couple of weeks we've done a fair bit of work with ordinary fractions, and putting them on a number line, and comparing them. After Friday's test I know we need to do a bit more work on equivalent fractions, but this week, we are working on linking common fractions and decimals.

This week we've been working on tenths and on Thursday we started on hundredths. The first two days went OK, using number lines and linking common fractions with decimal fractions (i.e. 1/10 = 0.1 and 3/10 = 0.3 etc.). Then we started working on hundredths. They seemed to do OK with the lesson on Thursday, and everyone was able to complete the workbook activity, which had them colouring tenths and hundredths on a grid and then writing the fraction in hundredths.

So Friday morning before I went onto the new content, I asked them to tell what we'd be learning about. Responses were vague. Eventually I got that we'd been learning about tenths and hundredths, but to get the relationship between the two was almost impossible. So it was time to get out my new teaching aid.

Kids love hands on things, and these strings of pony beads are great for helping kids understand tenths and hundredths.

There are ten beads of one colour in a set, and ten sets of beads on a string, making 100 beads. They can be really useful for students in lower grades who are beginning to learn what 100 is, and they are great for 4th graders struggling to understand how tenths and hundredths fit together. I'd already modelled the concept using a square divided into 100 smaller squares, and the kids had done some work with that, but getting these out (and everyone got to "play" with their own), really helped them see. Each single bead was one hundredth of the whole string, and ten hundredth beads went together to make one tenth!

We'll see how much they remember on Monday!

P.S. A big thank you to Mary Kluck and Lesley Kimber for getting me the supplies to create these great teaching aids, and to Janet Singer for giving me a sample and showing me some ways to use them.

18 February 2013

Giving kids choices

The first installment
There is something to be said in favour of giving kids choices.

That statement is very broad, but then the whole idea of giving kids choices and helping them make wise choices has wide application.

In this case, I'm talking about reading. I was thrilled to hear a parent tell me today that it is no longer a battle to get her daughter to read. Yes!!! :) At the start of the year, and the first parent-teacher conference, this parent had confided in me that her daughter really hated reading. I made a few suggestions, and made two resources available. One of the resources was an on-line reading program where kids read books that are just the right level for them.  The other resource was my classroom library.

When I started at EWIS back in August 2010, I had no classroom library. Over the past 2 years, largely thanks to some generous donations and an excellent 2nd hand bookshop, I have built a collection of over 500 books, ranging from beginning levels through to advanced grade 5+ reading levels. The books include a variety of genres at a variety of reading levels.

While reading for 15 minutes each day is a compulsory part of homework, I don't tell the children what they have to read. I do however ensure they have access to books to read. Every morning the children have a chance to change their classroom library book (unless they are late for school). It has worked.

Ready for the start of this year.

In September this year, the student concerned was choosing mostly short stories in picture books. As the year progressed I've watched her discover chapter books, and she's now happily reading medium level chapter books.

So this post is in honour of all those who have contributed to the Grade 4K classroom library. It is the envy of other classes, and the students love it. Thank you all so much.

16 February 2013

Secretly Smitten: Love Changes Everything

Including:   Love Between the Lines (by Colleen Coble)
                    Make Me a Match (by Kristin Billerbeck)
                    Knit One, Love Two (by Diann Hunt)
                    Love Blooms (by Denise Hunter)

I just love it when I get four books for the price of one! What most amazed me about this set of 4 novellas is how four different authors can write four unique stories, while taking a single overarching plot through to a satisfying conclusion.

When a young girl discovers a set of military dog tags belonging to an older ladies sweetheart who had supposedly died in a conflict in Korea, three sisters set out to find out what happened. Along the way, each of the girls, and their mother discover true love in unexpected places. With a neat blend of mystery and romance, this set of four stories had me turning the pages when I should have been asleep. Set in a small country town called "Smitten", which is fighting for survival and desperate to gain selection as a tourist destination on the state rail network, with all the joys and challenges of small town living, this was a fun book to read. As for the conclusion, well I'll just say it was an unexpected, but happy ending. You'll just have to read it to find out.

Secretly Smitten is well written, with realistic characters, and five satisfying plots. Each of the characters also learns important life lessons, and there is an underlying reminder that God is in control, and He wants good things for His children.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

11 February 2013

A somewhat quieter than normal day

Today was a school day! Yes! Why did only 14 of my 22 students showed up for class today? I'm kidding, right? Ah, no, not kidding. Yes, I had a lovely day with the 14 students who did come to school today.

First of all, why were there so many away? Well, I don't live in China, but there are many people of Chinese descent in Cambodia, and both yesterday and today the markets were closed (apart from all the people who moved as much of their stock as they could outside or who had outside stalls) along with many businesses for Chinese New Year! Last year we closed too, but with so many holidays it was decided not to take this one (which wasn't compulsory like some of the others). Unfortunately for me, our local photocopy shop was one of the business that was closed, so I had to do a little improvisation, but we got there. After school I went to a big photocopy shop a little further away as was suitably impressed with the speed and quality of their work and the price was the same as well. The material I was copying was all designed to be copied, so no problems with copyright.

As I knew last week that I would have three students absent all week this week, plus one more definitely away today and tomorrow, I decided to do a mini-unit on Chimpanzees this week. It fits in perfectly with our Biomes curriculum content, and the material I discovered incorporates maths, science and language arts, so I'm not feeling bad about diverging from core curriculum for a week. Pity I wasn't more organised with my printing and copying.

Something I like to do, and which was suggested in the curriculum guide I'm using, is to start the unit by creating a KWL chart. For the non-teachers among you K = Know, W = Want (to know) and L= Learned. Today we did the K and W sections. At the end of the week we will complete the L. It's always fun doing this, and I usually discover some interesting knowledge already existing among my students as well as some erroneous knowledge. That was certainly true today. In doing the K section, I don't discard anything, but rather hope that, as the unit proceeds, the students will discover the errors themselves. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. Mostly it does.

So just what did my students think they knew about chimpanzees. Here's a snapshot of what I got on the whiteboard.

As for their questions. Wow! These kids had some amazing questions. Once again, I try to record them all, eliminating overlap as far as I can. Here's what I got down, and they actually had a few more which just wouldn't fit.

So what do you think of those questions? Aren't these kids great thinkers? I'm really looking forward to the rest of this mini-unit. I already know we're going to answer a lot of their questions. Hopefully they'll be encouraged to go searching on their own for those which we don't answer.

Tomorrow I plan to create a poster with this information, leaving lots of space for the L section. On Friday I'll give students small pieces of paper in various shapes so they can record what they have learned and put it all together. You might want to check back next week to see the final product.

Silent Night: A Rock Harbor Christmas novella by Colleen Coble

What do you get when you mix a rebellious student, a stray parachuter, a loving family and a search and rescue dog team? You get another great story from Colleen Coble. It's a while since I read the first book in the Rock Harbour series, but reading this book has me itching to read the ones I missed.

When Laurie turns up unexpectedly in Rock Harbor, followed closely by a search and rescue call out for Bree Matthews and her canine partner Samson, you can expect excitement. As Bree struggles to come to terms with a recent miscarriage and an unsuccessful search, while Laurie is confused by the desire of the adoptive parents to share her identity with their adopted daughter, Kade and Bree also seek to help the local sheriff solve a mystery.

So, will they find the parachuter? What about that missing girl? Look out for a surprise twist at the end of the story.

This short novella is great quick read. The characters are real, and the situations equally real. Once again Colleen Coble captures her reader’s attention with just the right amount of suspense, romance, and descriptive writing. While this is a Christian novella, there isn't a huge amount of Christian content in it, which would make it an ideal book for those wanting a good clean read.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

08 February 2013

"Gonna" - No, I have not forgotten my English grammar ...

I'm gonna do this! I'm gonna do that! He was gonna go to the beach. She was gonna have a swim.

No, I haven't forgotten my English grammar, but it is so hard at times to correct words like "gonna" in children's writing when I hear myself saying, "We're gonna have fun next week."

Now I know, and I'm sure most of those reading this know, that the word "gonna" does not exist and is a colloquialism or slang from of "going to". The difficulty comes when you are teaching English Language Learners in the context of mainstream English education, and you know that you say it that way yourself. Grrr.

Another thought. It is much easier to write correct English than it is to speak it. The difficulty is that my students hear me a lot more than they see my writing.

So what do you think? Are you "gonna" have fun this weekend? Am I "gonna" see you on Monday?

I guess the first step to addressing my oral use of this word in the classroom is realising that I'm saying it. Next I need to stop myself before I say it and say "going to" instead. Hmmm, I wonder how I'll go?

How would you go?

P.S. I just ran a spell check on this article and the only errors it highlighted were "Grrr" and "Hmmm". I guess that means "gonna" is acceptable English - NOT!