Sunday, March 5, 2017

Stars and Planets

My group just finished their stars and planets unit. I am teaching grade 4/5 in British Columbia and the new BC grade 4 curriculum now has some stars and planets including: 'Local changes caused by the Earth's axis, rotation, and orbit and the effects of the relative position of the Sun, Moon, and Earth'. To tackle these topics I taught my Stars and Planets unit which includes a variety of different lessons and activities about the stars, the moon, and the planets in our solar system and then I made sure to create lots of dialogue and discussion surrounding the topics from the New BC Curriculum that fit in with my unit quite nicely. 

My students did a fabulous job with the moon homework assignment found in my Stars and Planets unit where students look for the moon in the night sky for 14 nights in a row and draw a diagram of what they see. We then used the website to check for the phases of the moon, the height and position of the moon, the moon rising time, and the next special lunar events. 

We completed a few stars and planets art activities including an activity where students chose a constellation to re create using gold stickers and black construction paper. We also painted pictures of our solar system where Students used paint to create their art on white paper and once their paintings were dry students cut out their planets and glued them on blue paper. I handed out gold stickers to use for stars. I think this gave their art a nice sparkle! 

My students really enjoyed the stars and planets scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt includes a poster for the sun and each planet in our solar system and a question sheet with 7 questions related to the stars and planets that students need to find the answers to on the posters provided. 

My group's 'star question cubes' were a success and my unit also includes a cutting and pasting the phases of the moon in the correct order activity which made teaching the phases of the moon easy. My group also came up with some very creative new planet names for the creative writing activity where they pretended to be an astronomer who just discovered a new planet. The Bingo game where students find classmates who can answer questions about the stars and planets was an excellent review and a fun activity which can be adapted for any unit! 

My 79 page Stars and Planets Unit is jammed packed full of fun and creative activities that will make teaching and learning about space fun and easy. The unit is cross curricular as it includes reading, writing, and science activities. The activities are easy to make adaptations for all of your student's needs, and this unit also includes many interactive notebook activities. Which my students loved! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Week! 

My class was lucky enough to participate in this year’s Great Canadian Valentine Swap! This year over 250 Canadian classrooms participated! Which is amazing! This Valentine Exchange was organized by Emily from Emmy Mac Shop.Thank you so much Emily for all of the hard work you put into organizing this multi classroom exchange! How the Exchange worked was each participating classroom was placed in a group. My group had 22 other classrooms in it, and each participating classroom sent a valentine to each of the other participating classrooms in the group. My class sent a valentine to classrooms across Canada from Ontario, Northwest Territories, Alberta, and British Columbia. 
For the valentines that my class sent out, my students each wrote a letter to go with their handmade valentine and then I set up a craft table with a variety of crafting supplies. I would not do this next year! I did not think about the price of sending crafts in the mail and some of the letters were quite expensive to send in the mail. Next year each student will definitely all have a common template for their valentine so that all of the envelopes are all the same size when they are ready to go in the mail.

Starting around February 1st, my mail box at
school started to fill up with valentine’s from the classrooms that we sent our Valentine cards to. On Valentine’s Day during our class valentine party I handed out a valentine from the exchange to each of the students in my classroom. My students were very excited and had fun reading and sharing the letters and valentine artwork that they received from their new friends. 

Thank you so much Emily for organizing this fantastic multi school exchange! 

Monday, February 6, 2017

It's a Sweetheart of a Sale.... and Enter to Win!

It is that time again, TPT is having one of its quarterly site wide sales! This sale will be a two day sale starting on February 7th. My entire store will be on sale for 20% off and you can use the code LOVETpT at check out for an additional 8% off. Now would be the perfect time to stock up on your Valentine, Spring, and End of the Year resources! I'll be on the hunt for some clip art too! Now for more great news! I am giving away a $10 TPT gift card and a copy of one of my newest products: Reading is Thinking: 20 Activities to Teach the Thinking Behind Reading on The Third Grade Zoo's Facebook page, to enter to win all
you have to do is like my Facebook post and comment with a reading strategy that works in your classroom that you would like to share with other teachers. I will randomly chose the winner on February 8th. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Partner Talk

Partner talk is an important skill that gives students the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with others, practice their communication skills, learn the important skill of getting along with others, and if partner talk is structured properly, it gives the opportunity to have student’s understanding of a topic checked more regularly than a teacher can provide because of the student to teacher ratio. 

What exactly is partner talk? Partner talk is structured discussion of a given topic between two students. Partner talk works best when only 2 students are involved, the partners know what is expected of them, and there is a time limit. 

How do you teach partner talk? Partner talk takes practice, but before you can practice the skill of partner talk, students need to understand that being good at partner talk is a skill and there are rules. Before I begin to have students practice partner talk I have the class brain storm with chart paper ‘What successful partner talk looks like’, ‘What partner talk should NOT look like’, and lastly ‘Why is partner talk important?’. It is my belief that if students do not understand why it is important for them to do something, then they will not put in the efforts to do it well. 

After the rules are in place, the next step is to have students sit in partners. (For the first few times you will need to be careful who you assign as partners together as you will want the first time to go as smooth as possible! But, make sure to place an emphasis on the fact that the goal of partner talk is that students can work cooperatively with anyone in the classroom!) Next, assign each partner the label of ‘partner A’ or ‘partner B’. (The easiest way I have found to assign partner A or B labels is to label the partner who is closest to the door is partner A and the partner furthest way from the door becomes partner B). Once everyone has the label, you are going to have each set of partners practice partner talk. This mean one listens and one speaks. Give the students an easy discussion for this practice session. For example you might say:
“Partner A is going to speak first, Partner A is going to tell their partner what their favourite food is and what makes it their favourite for the next 30 seconds, and GO!” 
After the 30 seconds are up you will then stop all of the partner A’s, and the partner B’s will have their turn to tell their partner what their favourite food is and why they like that particular food while partner A listens. After the first partner talk session make sure to congratulate the students on how well they are doing, even if it wasn’t perfect let them know that partner talk can be tough and with practice it will become easier and easier!

After you have the rules of partner talk established, and students know what is expected of them, have the class practice partner talk regularly and switch up the partners. 

Partner Talk Practice Lesson Ideas: 
Here is a fun lesson idea to practice partner talk! Read the class a picture book and stop the story periodically to have students predict what will happen next in the story, have them create their predictions with play dough. After their play dough creations are complete, have students turn to their partner and give them 30 seconds to tell their partner what their prediction is and then listen as their partner shares their predictions. 

Create or find cards with common questions such as: what is your favourite animal? Where is the furthest place you have traveled to? Or, how many brothers or sisters do you have? Give each student a card and have students get out of their seats and find a partner. Once every student has a partner have the students answer the two questions one at a time practicing being the speaker and the listener. Once students are finished, students will trade cards and find a different partner. 

If you can teach something you know it well! In math have students work with a partner and have partner A teach a math strategy to partner B! Partner B will then listen and apply the strategy that partner A has taught them. Students can then reverse roles. This would be a good activity to do before completing a math journal. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Festive Christmas Activities for the Classroom!

Some of you may be off for Christmas break already, this year my school goes all the way until tomorrow, which is December 23rd. It is the closest I’ve ever gone to Christmas in my whole teaching career, but I am trying to make the best of it and do as many fun and engaging Christmas themed activities as I can! This blog post is all about sharing some of the activities my class has enjoyed. Throughout the month of December we have been winding down, practising for the Christmas concert, and working on a variety of Christmas and Winter activities. 

Some of my students were away this week because their families went away for Christmas, so I decided to have my students make their Christmas gifts for their families yesterday. My group really loved the process and the smells involved with candle making and I think candles will be a gift that parents, mums in particular might enjoy as a homemade gift from their child. We used sheets of bees wax and candle wick that I purchased from our local Michael's. Afterwards students wrapped their candles in tissue paper and ribbon and then decorated paper bags to take them home in. 

This month we also learned about letter writing. It started with the end of our Robert Munsch unit and my students wrote letters to our favourite Canadian author. Next we wrote letters to Santa Claus. The kids really loved writing to Santa and they were especially excited after I promised that he would write back. If you live in Canada your own kids or your classroom students can use the address: Santa Claus North Pole HOH OHO and Santa will write back. Next, just for fun, we wrote letters to the Grinch asking him to not steal Christmas this year. My students filled out a graphic organizer listing three reasons why the Grinch should not steal Christmas and then they got started on their letters. These letters were not mailed, and the Grinch will not write back! Letters to the Grinch is one out of thirty-one Christmas themed activities that is part of my Christmas Math and Language Arts Unit follow the link learn more about this fantastic festive product! 

Pinterest is filled with different Christmas craft ideas and one that has come across my feed a lot is the paper plate snow globe art project, so I decided to give it a go this year and they turned out great! Be careful when cutting out the bottoms of the paper plates though! I cut my hand with scissors! Luckily, I prepped all of the cutting ahead of time, so the kids wouldn’t have the struggle. The student’s decorated their snow globe using: paint, construction paper, ribbon, glitter, and a variety of little Christmas themed stickers that I found at the dollar store. While the kids were decorated their snow globes I took each student out into the hallway and took their picture. The kids loved making silly poses for this! The next day after their art was dry and the pictures were printed, students cut out their picture and glued themselves down onto their paper plate snow globes. 

If you were an elf in Santa’s workshop and were given the task to invent a new toy, what would you invent? This activity was part of my Christmas Writing Centres product.  My students were quite creative with their inventions! They came up with a pancake making T.V., A giant cat toy, a remote control helicopter that you can fly in, and a virtual video game that you can smell, taste, and touch while player. 

My class also made a variety of Christmas crafts to help decorate the gym for the Christmas concert. We read the polar express and the students wrote about what they would have chosen if they got to chose the first gift of Christmas. What are some activities that you like to use in your classroom? 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Create Story Board Games Instead of Book Reports

As some of my blog readers may know from previous posts, I am a huge Robert Munsch fan! He is my all time favourite children's authors, and my class is currently in the middle of my Robert Munsch unit. Each day we read a different Robert Munch story and then we do an activity to go with that story that centres around story elements, cause and effect, sequence of events, proper paragraph writing, or another literary skill. Last week we read the story 'David's Father' and each student made a board game inspired by this favourite Robert Munch story. The students really loved playing their board games with their classmates after they were finished! After reading the story we went over the sequence of events as a class and then we generated fun ideas as a class as to what could be included from the story that would be fun to include on the board game. After that we talked about different things you might see on a board game for example: cards, money, game pieces, squares that say "go back three places", ladders you can fall down... ect. The creation of the board games took my students 3 work periods (a shorter time that I would have thought), and they were anxious to get started playing the games even when the games were incomplete they wanted to get playing. We used bingo chips as player markers, and I had dice from math games in the cupboard. I highly recommend this fun activity it was engaging, cross curricular, and fun! 

Friday, November 11, 2016

How to establish Communication Between the Home and the School for Difficult Students.

How do you establish daily communication with the parent or guardian of a student who you are struggling with in the classroom? It's hard to find time for daily phone calls and parents may become frustrated if you are calling them all the time, so I establish a system where students glue a small chart into a notebook each day where parents can quickly check and see if their child has had a good day based on how many stickers are on the page. 

The parent and the teacher can also write notes in the book. This book is either hand delivered to the parent by the teacher when the parent picks up their child, or if the student goes on the bus I place the book in the student's backpack. The parent should be expecting this form of communication every day. 

Additionally, I encourage parents to have conversations with their child about the day and if they want establish some kind of a reward if they earn all or most of their stickers for the day. 

For more classroom management ideas check out my Behaviour Management Strategies Package which is for sale in my TPT Store. 

Happy Teaching Everyone! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

How do you teach children to visualize while reading?

Do you ever think about the thinking your brain is doing while reading? When you are a good reader you do all of the 'thinking': the questioning, connecting, interring, and visualizing without even thinking about it. I asked my students today to raise their hand if they saw the movie in their brain when they were reading and some hands went up, but not as many has I had hoped. Today I did a lesson with my class where I read a story called 'Tell Me a Dragon" by Jackie Morris. 

Before I read the story I taped paper over the front and back cover of the book and had students play a quick game to try and guess what the story was about. Students were allowed to ask me yes or no questions about the subject of the story until they guessed what the story was about. After the students knew the story was about dragons I began to read the story. Every once and awhile I stopped and asked the students to choose on of the dragons on their sheet (I copied and pasted 3 dragon outlines from google onto one page for this lesson) and students were asked to make one of the dragons on their sheet look like how they would visualize the dragon the story was describing. If the story described a dragon that lives in the ocean and spends the day racing dolphins students need to make one of the dragons look like it might live in the ocean. 

Once we had finished the story and all three dragons had been coloured I then asked students to get their creative thinking going and invent a new dragon write a new page for the book 'Tell Me a Dragon'. First we did a quick brain storm with potential dragon themes and we talked about how the dragon's teeth, tail, wings could all be made unique by the chosen them of the dragon. With these directions my students did a terrific job in creating some unique dragons below is a sample of the writing produced by my students. 

Visualization is an important reading skill and this type of whole class exercise can be done with any story, so get creative, play on your student's interests, and make learning fun! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Kindness Flower

I always start the beginning of the school year in a positive way with lots of friendship, anti-bullying, and social emotional activities. These types of activities not only set the tone for a great year by helping to build a family like atmosphere these lessons also include team building elements and they are perfect for reinforcing classroom expectations in terms of how we treat one another inside and outside the classroom. 

The last friendship lesson I did with my group went awesome! I set up the lesson by giving each student an envelope with their name on it that contained 5 flower petals. We then went outside and all of the students sat in a circle on the field.  Each student passed their envelope to the student to the left, that student then opened the envelope, took out one petal, and wrote one compliment to the original owner of the envelope. After everyone had written one compliment students then passed the envelope to the left again and everyone then removed one petal from the new envelope and write a positive comment to that student too. Students need to continue passing the envelopes to the left until all 5 petals in each envelope has a compliment. (The envelopes need to be passed to the left around the circle 5 times). 

Afterwards, we went back to the classroom and students got to ensemble their flowers. Students used construction paper to make clouds, grass, leaves and a flower stem to decorate around their flower. 

This is the third group that I have done this activity with and it is always exciting to see the student's faces light up when they read all of the anonymous compliments. I would recommend this activity for any class even high school kids would benefit from this activity! Check out my Friendship Unit and my Social Emotional Unit for more creative lessons on the topic of kindness, friendship, and self esteem.