Math Centres

Today’s math centers are:

1. Math with technology: students will be using the ipads and ipods to create an “ebook” about “plus grand”. During centres, I will send two groups of students into the school with our mascots Coco and Biscuit to take pictures of things that are “plus grand que”. Students will return to the classroom to stitch their photos together into a book.


Math by myself: students will complete an addition worksheet.

3. Math with someone: students will use manipulatives and their math journals to create addition stories.

4. Math games: there are two today: addition war and addition tenzie



The “Studio”

I began working with puppets in the primary classroom many years ago when I first attended a workshop on francisation and how to encourage the use of French among children who were born of Francophone parents but who’s families no longer used French at home. Paul et Suzanne were introduced to me! Two simple puppets who I used in the classroom all the time to demonstrate a back-and-forth conversation. My students at the time really connected with our “special guests” who often expressed happiness or disappointment, depending on my needs :)

Fast forward a few years…

I have been slowly integrating puppets back into my grade one classroom. My school has had a focus on Lister’s approach to intensive French and I was looking for a way to model a conversation for my students. After modelling, my puppet would travel the classroom.

I asked the first student: qu’est-ce que tu as mangé ce matin?

Student: j’ai mangé une pomme.

Puppet: ah! Tu as mangé une pomme?

Student: oui! J’aime les pommes! Et toi? Qu’est-ce que tu as mangé?

Puppet: j’ai mangé trios carottes!

Student: ah! Tu as mangé trois carottes!

Puppet: oui! J’aime les carottes!

The conversation took a couple of weeks to build using the intensive French model, but in the end my students were able to have a fairly organic conversation. I think it’s still a work in progress, but I’m excited to see where it goes.

Following this, we opened a “production studio” in a corner of our classroom. It required three people on a team: two puppet masters and a director to work the camera (we just used photo booth). In the video you can hear me coaching a bit, but following this, I left the studio open during literacy centres and listened in on their conversations. Pretty exciting to hear and I had a hard time keeping kids out of the studio when I wanted them to sit back down!

Our current plan is to leave the studio open and share the results during a school assembly.

A technical note: I found that the classroom has to be quite quiet to make it work so that we can hear the dialogue. We might try opening the centre during reading time and using a couple of mics. My class generally reads silently for 10 minutes after lunch while I work on guided reading with a small group. I don’t see why I couldn’t also have a small group working in the studio at the same time.

Reading Buddies

The best way I ever heard professional learning from our peers put was “steal something good”. It’s always very intimidating to have our teaching peers in our classroom when we feel that we are being “evaluated”,  but sharing something successful always comes more easily. My reading buddy structure is something I stole from @TSpasoff when we worked together #Hawrylak in Saskatchewan. I was always the big buddies and she was always the little buddies.

Each student in my class has a magazine box ($1 per 2 boxes from the dollar store) and each student has a pencil case ($1 ea from the dollar store). I could use plastic ziploc bags, but the canvas pencil cases are more durable and I have used the boxes and pencil cases for the past 4 years for various purposes.





I spent one 30 minute session with the Grade 4 students, teaching them the routine. I walked them through the routine and modeled with them. The Grade 4 teacher, M. Corbeil, came to my classroom and spent the half hour with my students. After this initial training session, the Big Buddies know how to be a “teacher” for the Little Buddies.

Inside the pencil cases, I have placed flash cards that are leveled for my students. Some begin with letters of the alphabet, some with sounds taken from the “Village des sons” kit, and some are working with the first 100 sight words for Grade 1 French Immersion in Alberta, which I took from @Shannon_Wiebe who has her blog here. (I initially met Shannon online via Twitter when I first moved to Alberta and was looking to make professional connections)



Inside each box is a pencil case for sight words, two or three books from our home reading program, and a notebook. You might notice that I’m slightly obsessive about numbering my students. That way it’s easy to put any missing pieces back in the right place. When I was a grade 4 teacher, I even had my students number each of the words in their pocket just in case of words that were dropped on the floor.


The Big Buddies are in charge of running students through their flashcards and know that I only want them to give students positive feedback. When a word is read correctly, the Big Buddy puts a check mark on it. If it is read incorrectly, the Big Buddy reads it, the Little Buddy repeats it, and it goes into another pile for more practice. Once a word has three check marks the Little Buddy has mastered it and it goes home. When the pile of flashcards gets low the Big Buddy lets me know and I refresh the pile with the next level up.


After working through the flashcards, Big Buddies help their Little Buddies move on to reading the books. Little Buddies are responsible for reading and Big Buddies are responsible for “helping” to read by using reading strategies (sound it out, use the picture cues, what sounds do you recognize).

After reading, big buddies must provide feedback, both by “telling” their buddy and by “writing” their feedback so that I can see it. I have trained the Big Buddies to share two stars and a wish: two things their buddy did very well and one thing they might keep working on for next time. This feedback is valuable for me and my mentor teacher also had big buddies prepare a feedback sheet for parents at the end of the term. My hope is to have big buddies prepare this to share with one of our “Sharing my learning” sheets for parents, which my Grade 1 team sends home approximately once per month.


Little Buddies are then asked to write and draw about the story that they read that week by using words that they know, that they find in the classroom or that they have in their pencil cases.


When students are ready for a new book, I have them make the exchange during a quiet reading time – 10 minutes after lunch recess – students know their reading level and are responsible for making the exchange. The books come from the baskets I have organized for our home reading program. I have the good fortune to be teaching in a school and in a classroom with LOTS of leveled books in our reading program. As a part of our home reading, the Grade 1 students take home 3 books per week. There are generally lots of books left over in the classroom to put another 2 or 3 into each reading box.

During the 30 minute buddy period,  M. Corbeil and I circulate, ensuring that all students are on task and giving Big Buddies feedback. So far we have found this to be very successful and we have had very little trouble keeping students engaged. The Little Buddies get good one-on-one practice and Big Buddies get to review reading techniques, modeling and mentoring their Little Buddies.

In addition, I find that the reading boxes are easy for me to pull out if I find that I have a quiet few moments in the class; it’s easy to pull a student and their box and do an intensive 10 minutes of practice.

The Day the Crayons Quit

As sometimes happens, I was absent from my classroom two weeks ago for a morning and there were no subs available, so my students were divided up and sent to work in various classrooms. I was stunned by some of the art work some of my boys brought back to class! The teacher they worked with, Valérie Perrault-Murphy, who always does such a good job of integrating literature into her classroom, shared this story with me.

“The Day the Crayons Quit” is a story about crayons who, frustrated, write a letter to their owner in the hopes of having him change the way he uses them.

Lesson plan ideas include using the story to start a conversation in Character Circle about the importance of teamwork. Valérie then had the kids create their own drawings. There were only two rules: all of the colours had to cooperate to create one picture and there could be no white space left on the pages.

With older kids, I would also use this book to teach about letter writing and voice.

Any other ideas are welcome!


The power of student blogging

As I prepare to move into a grade one classroom on Monday, I have put a great deal of thought into what kind of classroom it should be; a place where my students feel comfortable taking learning risks and sharing their ideas. I am planning to blog with my students again this year, and I know some parents who wonder what their six- year-old might possibly have to say.

My own son blogs here. This is where he writes about things that are interesting to him. At this point, he is most comfortable having me scribe for him as he doesn’t feel confident enough yet to have a go on his own, though he is becoming confident enough to have a go at invented spelling on paper. He particularly enjoys taking pictures around the house and telling about them.

I have been blogging with my older students (grade 4, 5, 7, 8) for several years now, and I have found the old quote to be true: if a student writes for the teacher they want it to be good enough. If a student writes for an audience they want it to be good.

One of my former students blogs here. He updates it regularly on his own and it’s an outlet for him to share his own interests (and I have to admit that I learned a thing or two about Mincraft from him).

In the past I have used blogmeister, which I honestly always found clunky and my students didn’t love it. I have moved over to edublogs in the last few years and have found it to be exactly what I’m looking for: it gives me the control I need, my students have some privacy, and using the app on the iPad makes it easy for students to access.

Grade One

Blogging with children this young will be a new challenge for me, but based on experience and the examples I have looked at I think it is achievable.

Cathy Kassidy blogs with her grade ones with beautiful results. I love that the student entries are not limited to text but that the students feel free to take a learning risk by writing invented spelling on their blog (although the Cathy’s having recorded beside it in standard spelling helps).

The Current Plan
My plan is to have my students blogging using iPads and iPods, using the edublogs app, which largely eliminates the trouble of logging in. First, my students will work with tech buddies, who I happen to have had the good fortune of teaching as a classroom teacher while their teacher was on sabbatical. He is also a techie teacher and comfortable undertaking this with me. Once my students are trained, I think it will be easy for them to add to their own blog. Of course, next year CBE will be moving to IRIS, which largely eliminates the need for an online blogging portfolio, but I still stand by the statement that the nature of the work being public makes it better, so even if it no longer serves the purpose of being a portfolio, I still think it holds value.

Looking forward to trying with my students and sharing the results.

The Book of Awesome

One of the things I love about parenting is watching my kids grow and learn. It was a revelation to me about six months ago that my son LOVED science. Since the time he was born, I had been reading him mostly narrative fiction and he liked it well enough. He loved cuddles and would sit still for an incredibly long time, listening. He paged through books on his own, sure. But, one day we went to the book store together and he picked out a book about lizards, and suddenly he poured over the pages all on his own! He suddenly wanted to know what the words on the page said. Suddenly, he kept coming back to the same book over and over again!

In the last few weeks, we have worked to find science-related books for him to read and I see lightbulb moments happening ALL. THE. TIME! He asks questions! He makes predictions! He’s excited to write and draw about what he sees!

That’s all… I’m just excited for my own child and wanted to share. That’s the kind of wonder I try to bring into my classroom. Sometimes you show a child a hundred things before they find something that flips a switch for them.

Dictée 10