Friday, 16 May 2014

It's a Jungle in Here

We have been learning about the various adaptations of plants and animals found in the rainforest. Who knew that bleach could come in handy for an art project? Pictured below is a bulletin board of rainforest foliage. We used cotton swabs and bleach on green construction paper. Lots of different lines were made to show twisting vines and oblong leaves. Using a sharpie to outline our bleach designs made this artwork stand out! Colourful flowers were glued on afterwards to give our pieces a tropical feel. 

Did you know there are four layers in the rainforest? We researched and wrote informational paragraphs to go with each layer. We are making an accordion booklet and we decided to sketch each layer using pencil. Sketching each layer is a lot of work! 

Now we are using watercolour to paint each layer using different shades and tones of green.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Celebrating Our Writing

We have been using the app, Explain Everything, to comment on specific lines in our writing. You can read more about this experience here. Mrs. Steuart really pushed us to think more critically about our writing by pulling out lines and explaining why they were excellent.

Here are our videos below:

Monday, 10 February 2014

Number Talks

We participate in a "Number Talk" routine during our morning math block.  Mrs. Steuart will write an equation on the Smartboard. We look at it and think about how we could solve it in our heads. Our thumbs go up when we are ready with an answer. Then Mrs. Steuart will ask for a show of hands for people to share their mental math strategies with the class. This is the fun part because we get to see a variety of ways people solve problems mentally. There are so many strategies! The big idea is to make numbers more compatible or friendly. This means that numbers are easier to work with and they are usually multiples of five or ten.

We used the App - Explain Everything - to create videos of our mathematical thinking. Check them out below:

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Suitable Endings

I have been so impressed with my students' writing! They have been thinking about the reader by incorporating lovely language and vivid vocabulary. Their writing has also contained their voice - it really sounds like their personality. We have worked hard at creating significant leads to draw the reader in and make them want to keep reading.

After conferring with students, I've also noticed that many had one or more paragraphs explaining the main theme of their story. These paragraphs were also well written. When students got to the endings of their stories, however, I noticed they were brief. They lacked pizazz. I thought they must have lost their drive to keep writing or maybe they just weren't sure on how to make a suitable ending to satisfy a reader. Right then and there, I knew we had to have a whole class discussion. I decided to revisit a couple of those winter leads that I mentioned in another post. Underneath each lead, I placed two boxes. One box had a "basic or boring" ending written inside of it. The other box was labelled "Expert" and it was blank. I wanted students to practice re-reading the beginning of their stories to help them come up with a suitable ending. They worked in small groups talking and sharing ideas. Here are two exceptional endings!

"Skating outside can be a cold adventure if you live in Winnipeg. When I skate a warm feeling rushes through me because skating makes me feel happy, comforted and relaxed. Skating helps me express my inner being. The winter weather doesn't stop me! You have to grab life and make the most of it, even if there's frigid temperatures all winter long. What are you waiting for?

When I got outside today the cold knocked me down. But playing hockey re-energized me and lifted me back up. Why are moms always right? Playing outside in a game of hockey is where all the action lives. In fact, my cheeks are rosy, my muscles are bursting and my heart is filled with joy.
My next plan is to have students re-read their writer's notebook and review their entries - focusing on the lead and ending of each piece. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Sea Star Scientists

Did you say, "Dissection"? That's right! A guest scientist, Chukwu, from the University of Manitoba's W.I.S.E. Kid-Netic Energy Program shared his knowledge about sea life, oil spills and sea stars. We learned how hard it is to clean up an oil spill! We performed an experiment using different items (sponges, cotton and cloth) to try to clean up oil that was dropped into a bowl of water. It was very difficult! Imagine the negative impact this would have on real animals living in the ocean. The best part of the workshop was dissecting a sea star. We learned about the anatomy of a sea star as well as some of its behavioural adaptations. Chukwu made us feel like real scientists! We were using the skills of real scientists - hypothesizing, observing, collaborating and drawing conclusions.

Did you know the spines on sea stars protect them from predators?

Ampullae is a bone inside the sea star where water passes through.


Friday, 17 January 2014

Peer Revision

We have been working hard revising our winter stories. Mrs. Steuart had one student use the document camera and read their story line by line. We all gave advice when the writer was stuck or if something didn't sound quite right. This helped us know how to carefully revise when working in groups of two or three. This takes a long time if you are thinking about what makes writing sound wonderful. Painting a picture for the reader, using vivid words and starting sentences in different ways are some of the things we focused on while revising.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Writer's Workshop: How Cold Was It?

After our winter break, we started to look at other books that are filled with lovely language. "How Cold Was It?" by Jane Barclay is such a fun book to read aloud. She uses strong verbs, similes and personification. She also adds a string of adjectives written in a rhythmical pattern to describe how cold it is outside. Here is an example: "It was a howling, meowling, fur-ruffling, paw-shaking, whiskers-in-the-breeze, let-me-in-please kind of cold." This is the perfect text for Winnipeg!

I wanted students to write about a favourite outdoor winter activity. I decided to write in front of them about my favourite - walking my dogs in Assiniboine Park. I write in front of them to show that writing is hard work! I re-read my sentences over and over until it sounds right. I voice my concern that I am not sure what to put next. I try to make my thinking visible. This is so important for students to see in action.
A portion of my writing.
We have analyzed several texts as writers. I felt confident that students would be able to start their own pieces and write with stamina. However, I noticed that some were stuck on how to start. We've talked about leads many times. They understand that a lead isn't simply one sentence, yet still, I could see some frustration. We needed to revisit this in greater detail.

I created four different types of leads that deal with winter. You can grab your copy here. We read them together at the carpet. Students went back to their spots, cut them out and glued them into their writer's notebooks. They tracked their thinking in the margins and tried to be specific about what made the lead interesting for the reader. Students also shared their thinking with the whole group and we made sure to add specific notes together as a class. Now they had these examples to act as a reference page in their notebooks - another resource for their writing.

Here are some samples from a writer's notebook:

What a difference! Students are taking what they have learned from real authors, my writing and past experiences. They are sharing ideas with one another. You can see a blend of ideas from a variety of sources in their writing. I must remember what Regie has said, "You have to go slow to go fast." So true!

Students flipping through modelled writing.
Here are some examples of student writing below. These are drafts in the early stage of the writing process.

As you can see, writing is hard work!