I really had a lot of fun teaching today and just want to reflect on the successes we had in the classroom today.
My teaching partner organized a guest speaker today who is the grand-parent of one of our students. He put a lot of time into organizing our guest for the day and preparing the links to King George’s community garden/ ecology project.
We started off our inquiry by asking a question: what do bees contribute to our ecology?
As soon as students entered the room there was a different energy as they noticed that many artifacts had already been set up around the room. Our guest speaker was a francophone, so it was interesting for students to hear another new accent and learn lots of vocabulary.
While Burt presented, Robert and I took notes in a way that students are accustomed to seeing: on chart paper.
After the presentation, students had the opportunity to explore the artifacts and taste fresh honey.
They took a short break for recess and were then ready to organize their ideas. We began with an open reflection in their visual journals where students were invited to reflect through images and words about what they remembered or most enjoyed.
After the initial reflection, we gathered students to reflect together and to organize notes into 4 student-chosen categories. They colour-coded their notes and organized them into a concept web, which they will use in the following days to write a well-organized essay.
Part of the purpose of this modeling is to guide students in their genius hour work. While we had only planned on an hour for the presentation and reflection, the lesson actually extended all morning and unfolded rather organically. It was so much fun to play off of each other’s strengths and to build a lesson that was so rich for our students.
April is poetry month. This month we celebrated by reading and writing poetry and playing with figurative language.
The poetry of Shel Silverstein inspired us to write many different kinds of poetry: list poems, concrete poems, rhyming poems and epigrams.
Today we read the book “Green
” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, which inspired us to explore color and to create interesting imagery. I read the story and students took talk time to tell one another an interesting sentence about what they saw. Then students used paint cards to write a colour-inspired poem. I was really excited to see how engaged they were in writing.
I would definitely say that this was a success.
I feel like I’m still getting the hang of Daily 5 in math in grade 3; with every change of grade level there is a learning curve while learning a new curriculum and gathering materials that support the learning.
This week my students are moving into multiplication and division, which has them over the moon (maybe because they perceive this to be “big kid” math).
Our centres are:
Math by myself: copy new vocabulary and begin this chapter’s illustrated dictionary.
Math with the teacher: guided introduction to the concept.
Math with a friend: textbook practice
Math problem: continue work on designing the community garden for our school.
Math with technology: IXL on the computer or splash math on the iPad
Math games: I have… Who has…
I started the students who already have a foundation in multiplication and division at the more independent work and those who were still at the introductory stage in more supported work. I love that this allows me time to really target students at the right level for them but also allows them to interact, practice, and learn from one another.
Our school is currently engaged in a hands-on, design thinking project: Puzzle Permaculture. This project goes well together with the BP energy project first undertaken by our Arts Ed teacher and adopted by every teacher in the building. For this project, the Grade 3s are exploring the idea of creating a community garden and integrating solar technology into our school. Both projects will take place over a couple of years, so we’re asking students to take a long view of our community.
Today, students participated in project, in which they got to design a garden that will fit within the space reserved for it here at King George School. The students first got to play with their ideas for the garden and then got to learn a little bit about the placement of plants in terms of sun exposure and plants that help each other grow.
It was interesting to see my students engaged in hands on learning and using a new model of gardening than what so many of us have grown up with: a rectangular patch of dirt with rows and rows of vegetables and maybe a row of flowers at the end or around the edges. I was excited to see them asking real questions about what plants might grow here, exploring possible problems and solutions.
Many years ago, I worked with some colleagues at Hawrylak to develop a math lab for our students. We put all of the French Immersion students in Grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 together in the Shared Learning area.
We created an extensive bank of levelled math problems and colour coded them according to difficulty. Each student was allowed to choose their own level with the understanding that they were each responsible for the work they did each week in math lab.
Each student kept a math journal. At the top of the page, students were required to record the colour of the problem and the number of the page they were working on. These problems were evaluated through meetings with the teacher, which allowed students to get one-on-one, just-in-time feedback. During this time, we had the support of every classroom teacher, the learning support teacher, and the vice-principal, which helped to reduce the student-to-teacher ratio. Our goal was to check in with each kid every day and ensure that they were getting exactly the support they needed.
I enjoyed this time with my students and am looking forward to adapting the math lab format to my current classroom. I have developed a bank of problems that are eau levelled. So rather than choosing a different coloured sheet, which might be a deterrent to some students who are embarrassed about choosing easier problems, each student gets a problem sheet that looks the same as the others and on the sheet there are four different levels of problems.
Many of the problems I have used for the first batch have been inspired by the book 50 Leveled Math Problems.
These days I have been challenged to integrate technology in a classroom where I am not in charge of all of the technology. In the past, I have run a one-to-one classroom and found it easy to integrate technology all day long everyday. Now that I am sharing with the school and have to very deliberately book technology time for my students, it has changed the way we use it.
I have recently begun using GAFE with my students and with some other groups around the school. With my students in third grade, I found that it was easy to integrate by training up a few students and then using them as my “expert” students to get everyone going.
I find that Googledocs is one of the easiest places for my students to work, as they then have immediate access to their documents at home. In addition, I ask that my students share documents with me when they are ready to for teacher feedback. I can use the comment function in the student document and provide students with an immediate, just-in-time, mini-lesson related to their work and they are able to integrate the feedback immediately without having to copy out their entire document a second time.
This has been a good way to interact with students and I feel that it has improved the quality of their work.
The wonder wall came about quite by accident one day. To be honest, open house was coming up so I hastily threw a hand-made “tableau de découvertes” poster up on the blank bulletin board, not knowing really what I had in mind but knowing that I wanted it to be an organic place for students to ask questions and share answers.
Then after parent night, the board was left alone until we went outside to observe the soundscape around our school. When we came back in we discussed what we had observed with all of our senses. One of the students remarked that she had seen pussy willows. My teaching partner noted that it was impossible for pussy willows to be out because it was the wrong season.
This was the question that constructivists seek: that moment where a learner’s understanding is challenged and the paradigm is forced to shift. I was just so happy to see the moment come so organically.
If it was impossible, how had our student made such an observation? The next time we went outside we looked for pussy willows… And sure enough they were there. Not because they were ripe and had opened on their own but because students had stripped them off the branches and had dropped them on the ground. We took one of the stripped branches and stuck it up on our bulletin board. Next, the questions started to come fast and furious: what would happen to the plant if all of the pussy willows were stripped off? Would birds eat them? Immediately, we needed a place to organize our questions. I stuck up three large sheets of paper for “my questions”, “what I think I know”, things I have learned” and the side of the board was reserved for “ideas that turned out to be mistaken”.
As the weeks passed, students were welcome to add questions and to add answers they thought they already knew. The wonder wall has been quiet over the last few days, but we are ready to give it another boost next week when we begin some student-lead research. My assistant principal @shafinad has shared the brilliant app aurasma with me and I’m so excited to have the students start creating videos that link directly from the wonder wall to videos of their learning! In the past I have created similar “off the wall” projects that linked from QR codes, but I think the Aurasma will be much more dynamic and students will be more inclined to scan one another’s work.
I would love to guide students to linking their work from last year on animals to their research this year. I think it would show them that the work they do never has to be entirely left in the past. In addition, it takes the work out of the four walls of the classroom and into the up-and-coming-learning-commons.
More to come!