Reflecting on Learning…

Happy weekend, division 2 families! I hope you are enjoying the sunshine! Here are a few highlights from last week…

On Friday, students were invited to explore a selection of quotations about learning. Each student chose one quote that spoke to him or her and then found a quiet space in the class to think about the meaning of the quote and identify personal connections to it.

Then, after instruction and modelling of some reading and oratory skills, students rehearsed their quotes aloud 10-15 times, working on their fluency, expression, and phrasing. They experimented with reading their quotes in monotone voices, without attending to punctuation. They also practiced being overly dramatic and speaking with exaggerated singsong voices. Then they practiced saying the quotes for one another in partners and small groups using conversational voices that felt energized yet natural. Eventually we created the above video to capture our learning and to share with families.

What else happened last week? We had fun getting deeper into our unit on fractions, decimals, and percent. We seem to frequently make lots of connections between fractions and food—the students most enjoy thinking of how fractions can be used to make equitable distributions of things like candy, cake, and pizza! Ha! Students also took home their “Fractions Fortune Teller” games to practice with families.

As well, since this past week was the week before I submitted report cards to the office for processing, there was a fair bit of catch up work for students: presenting book talks, doing math quiz rewrites, math meetings, fixing up portfolios, and working on puppets and puppet shows. The puppet shows have been hilarious—such a creative, fun part of the day!

We also enjoyed some exciting soccer, hockey, and gymnastics in the gym.

“Fun fact”: I have now submitted the report cards for our class for term 2 to the office. It took me about 26-hours to write them, spread out over the last two weeks of evenings and weekends—so my family will sure be happy to have me back and present in their lives! I write longer report cards because I believe it’s important to not only “report” on students, but to try to capture a snapshot of their wonderful qualities and contributions as a time capsule for them and to shed light on the details of the kind of learning division the students are experiencing. I hope these reports and blog help families to feel connected and to have richer after school conversations at home.

Thank you for you checking in on this blog and for watching the dialogue videos this term—I hope you have enjoyed hearing the sweetness of these creative, critical thinkers in our class as they work through big ideas in discussion. This is a time in the world when it helps to focus on the moments of learning, optimism, and joy—it’s a privilege to see your children create these kind of moments everyday.

Puppet Trading Post, Book Talk, etc.

Hello, division 2 families! I have to brag to you about how amazing your kids are—and what they did that made my day…

As you know, we have been learning about the fur trade in Social Studies; and in Art/ADST we have been making puppets. Well, students have been bringing in lots of interesting fabric pieces, socks, buttons, ribbon, etc., and sharing these with each other. These supplies have become highly sought after resources!

So a few students made a fun connection after being inspired by Canadian fur trading posts. They set up their own “PUPPET SUPPLY TRADING POST” to help systematize fair distribution of their supplies.

What a brilliant cross-curricular connection! We are seeing meaningful bartering happen in class, and some students are offering their puppet-making and sewing services to others and posting their little “store front signs”. It’s fun to see! Someone noted that it’s nice and different that no animals were harmed in our “puppet fur trade” — puppet pelts are definitely vegan!

When students link their historical learning to their own lives and have fun in the process, it’s a teacher’s dream come true! (When I teach the fur trade to new students next year, I will definitely time it to line up with puppet making again!)

Also, today we enjoyed so more book talks by the students. All the talks have been really well done and are motivating students to want to read more!

We also did a re-write of the Division quiz today, and had an optional math enrichment quiz on the topics of exponents and order of operations (BEDMAS). Lots of great thinking happened in our class today!

Fractions, Sewing & Book Talks

Welcome back! Today we launched the week with our new unit on fractions. We started from the basics, identifying that a fraction is a part of a whole.

The bottom number (denominator) tells us how many parts the whole is divided into and the top number (numerator) says how many parts we have.

Homework: Students will be bringing home a “Fractions Placemat”. Students should explain to family members what they learned about fractions today. (Teaching others is great reinforcement of learning.)

We also began our sewing lessons today! We established our safety systems and guidelines, and then students watched me demo some skills. Then they began practicing what they learned. Everyone is doing a great job!

In the afternoon in Language Arts, we began work on our “Book Talks”. I played the following video that I made for students as an example of a Book Talk that would meet all of the criteria. We reviewed and discussed the Book Talk template and the Assessment sheet in depth with examples, so students can feel clear on the expectations. Then students had a work period to begin planning their talk; I circulated the room to answer questions and support students one-to-one in planning. *If you have time this week, please invite your child to practice presenting his/her book talk to you.

The Tortoise and the Hare, Puppetry & Book Talks

Happy Family Day weekend! I hope you enjoy some special time together. Today students are bringing home a permission form for our puppet making and sewing unit. As well, they have completed a “figurative language” quiz and letter assignment to share with you.

Now, here is a recap our action-packed day, along with the details of the fun storytelling homework and an upcoming “Book Talk” assignment.

Today we had dramatic fun as I modelled some storytelling skills using puppets. I read Aesop’s fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare” aloud and then retold it in my own words in a theatrical way. I emphasized for students skills for vocal projection and dynamic expression, and showed how to create unique voices for characters. My goal was to infuse humour and playfulness when animating the puppets so as to underscore the message of the tale. Storytelling is most effective when it is engaging for the audience!

HOMEWORK: I have asked students to each retell the “Tortoise and the Hare” in their own fun way to someone in their family this weekend. They can change story elements or even alter characters (like maybe it’s about a slug and a cheetah); however, students should still follow the narrative arc: (1.) a slow character and a fast character compete in a race; (2.) the slow character beats the the fast one because the latter is prideful and thinks he’s so fast that he can afford to take nap during the race; and finally, (3.) the slow character wins because “slow and steady wins the race.”

Today students also practiced the R.A.C.E. strategy as a way to add structure and support to their reading responses—but more on that in next week’s posts as it deserves some time to explain.

A big focus of the day for students was preparing to present a “Book Talk”. I first presented on purpose a few TERRIBLE examples of Book Talks on the books “James and the Giant Peach” and “White Fang”. I invited students to identify my mistakes and areas for improvement. From their observations, we brainstormed some criteria for an EXCELLENT Book Talk and read a comic about the same topic.

In the afternoon, I gave students a Book Talk Assessment description and sample template they could use to organize their presentations. We will be working with the template again next Tuesday to make sure students are clear on what is expected. Then we had library time, and I urged students to choose a great novel that they are happy to recommend and that they have read within the last two months (or will have finished reading by next week).

The purpose of this assignment is to challenge students to (a.) strengthen their public speaking skills, (b.) practice writing an interesting and logically organized presentation, (c.) showcase their skills of summarizing and reflecting upon their reading, (d.) inspire others to want to read their books, and (e.) promote literacy to contribute to our culture of learning.

Students will sign up for presentation slots that start next Thursday, Feb. 24 and run through until March 6th. Alternatively, students may create a video of their Book Talk and email a link or file of it to me before March 6th.

Figurative Language!

Hello! Congratulations to all division 2 students for their efforts in our division unit. We had our unit quiz today, and I can see the wonderful growth in learning. I am proud of you!

A reminder that we will offer a division unit quiz rewrite (or Math Meeting) next week for students who request that opportunity. *I ask that students spend time at home reviewing their class worksheets and our blog tutorials and get help from family and/or myself after school before attempting a rewrite. We want to make sure we have done the work to be able to achieve and celebrate growth.

Today we had fun exploring figurative language! Students worked together to reflect upon, compare and sort various examples of metaphors, similes and literal statements. Midway we did some “formative assessment” to check our understanding through a call-out activity and review quiz, and then students began to apply their learning by using figurative language when writing letters to people they care about and admire.

We discussed the assignment’s basic criteria and reviewed an example letter, and then I invited students to apply their creativity to express themselves in the ways they saw fit.

This lesson was another effort towards empowering students to access a broader palette of literary tools in their fiction and non-fiction writing. I am excited to see how they translate this new knowledge when writing metaphorical “I Am” poems next week! Our division 2 writers are so thoughtful and imaginative!

Historical Inquiry, Division & Figurative Language

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today in math we reviewed division and applied our understanding in various real world contexts.

We reviewed the steps for solving a word problem: (1.) Read the word problem; (2.) Underline key words; (3.) Create a number sentence; (4.) Solve the problem and show your work; (5.) Write your answer as a complete sentence; (6.) Check that your answer and your sentence make sense and actually answer the question being asked. We practiced talking through how to solve 12 different division word problems together as a class and then students did some independent practice and created more of their own questions.

After recess and some review of our Social Studies learning on the fur trade, we turned to Language Arts and went deeper into the topic of “figurative language”. We checked our understanding of similes and metaphors by creating and discussing the merits of some new examples together.

After lunch, students were treated to an exciting Social Studies lesson by Mr. Cairns who brought in a chest of special historical items for students to explore and analyze. Students discussed what they believe the purpose and significance of the objects was. This was a fascinating “object-based inquiry” made possible by a lovely educational kit provided on loan from the Royal BC Museum.

Wolves continued!

Today in division 2 we continued exploring wolves and what we can learn from them. Students had a rich dialogue about this question: If our class is like a wolf pack, then how can we each contribute to help our wolf pack be happy, healthy and successful? (NOTE: See yesterday’s post for a tutorial on how we painted the wolves.)

Then each student reflected upon his/her own unique contributions to our positive class culture. I introduced the supporting framework and ideas below and we discussed them. I encouraged students to feel free to borrow and build upon the ideas and frameworks as needed but to personalize their writing. I provide this step-by-step instruction to teach students a writing process they can emulate in time with independence. I believe that scaffolding learning with clear examples and strategies is an important the way we can see the greatest growth in young writers.

After they wrote their drafts, I met with students one-to-one in writing conferences to discuss ideas and provide feedback and suggestions for editing.

The result was a wall full of thoughtful, well-structured paragraphs about so many ways our wonderful students share their great skills, qualities, and ongoing care and effort to keep our class “wolf pack” strong. Wow! This was a fabulous effort by all! See below.


Happy Friday, division 2! Today was all about wolves! But before we go any further, here is the DIVISION tutorial I tried to upload yesterday:

Here is a review of basic to more advanced division using the traditional method. We have the option to learn to additional division methods, and you can see instructional videos for these linked in the blog post on Feb. 3.

We started our day activating prior knowledge and making connections to wolves. Then I read to the students “Wolf Island”, by Celia Godkin. This story illustrates the ecological impact of removing a keystone species in a region, and we discussed the connection to our learning about the fur trade. We also reread the Coast Salish story, “Why Ravens and Wolves Hunt Together” by Celestine Aleck and discussed the symbolism of the wolf in various indigenous stories. This led to discussion of what it means to be a part of a wolf pack. We spoke about trust, loyalty, and teamwork—and about how we are all needed and play a role in ecosystem.

Then I painted a demo of a watercolour wolf face and students made their own artworks, painting themselves into our “wolf pack”. We will put up our display our “Wolf Pack” on the bulletin board on Tuesday when we’ve added our related writing pieces!

As well, students had the opportunity to see 20 minutes of episode one of the ten-part CBC documentary series, “Canada: The Story of Us”, which is a beautifully produced multi-perspective mini-series highlighting events from European contact with Indigenous peoples of North America to end of the World Wars. (PLEASE NOTE: The version of the episode we watched was censored for elementary students. This version had edited out two graphic war-like scenes. I discussed with students that they should talk with their parents/guardians about the show and decide whether watching the rest of the episode right for them. The link to that censored version is here:

NOTE: This is the “Elementary School Friendly” version.

Aesop’s Fables, the Fur Trade & more!

Happy Thursday!

We learned about Aesop’s fables today, exploring some of the history of this storyteller in Ancient Greece. Aesop was said to have been a slave who earned his freedom sharing his skills telling morality tales staring animals.

Students listened to and discussed the messages of some famous fables, including “The Tortoise and the Hare”, “The Fox and the Grapes” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. Then they took turns practicing their storytelling skills by retelling them in their own words.

We also reviewed our division skills today, and then students had the option to join our math enrichment lesson on BEDMAS (order of operations).

After lunch, we dove deeper into our learning about the fur trade. I brought in my “teaching toolbox” of related props and shared some more of the history from the first contact between the Indigenous peoples and the French and English explorers which drove demand for beaver pelts. We watched several videos, including the following:

We then focused on how trade developed in the region that would eventually become British Columbia, learning about how fish and the sea otter were focal points of trade between Europeans and First Nations.

We were lucky that some grade 4/5 students from another class had already completed a unit on the fur trade last term, and so we took a stroll down the hall to see the great information display they created…

Also, we discussed how history may be understood and retold differently, with different details emphasized/included/omitted, depending on perspective. How would a settler from France describe the events of the first trade era as compared to an English settler, or as compared to a member of one First Nations community or another from a neighbouring region? (And, if animals could talk—as they do in Aesop’s fables—how would a beaver or sea otter retell the history of the fur trade?)

Wrapping up the day, I sang for students a little song I wrote for them to teach students about the history of the fur trade and the ecological impact of extirpating heroic keystone species, like beaver and sea otters. It was a fun time!

HOMEWORK: Keep practicing division as needed. Also, I invited students to go home and retell to a family “The Tortoise and the Hare” or another of Aesop’s fables. A student may also want to retell the fur trade history he/she has learned so far.

Year of the Tiger!

Happy Lunar New Year! Happy Chinese New Year! We celebrated the holiday in division 2 by learning some New Years greetings in Mandarin and Cantonese—as well, students made shockingly beautiful tigers eyes using oil pastels. They had my video tutorial for ideas, you can see the students’ own flowing artistry and unique creativity in every single piece. I adore their beautiful art display, and I actually did a happy dance when it went up!

We also had a fun writing lesson learning about how important it is to strategically order your ideas in a paragraph, often ending in your strongest point. We used the classic salesperson exercise of “Sell Me This Pen”. Each student had the invitation to come to the front of the room and give a 30-second spontaneous sales pitch featuring three reasons to buy his/her pen—and the most compelling reason was supposed to be presented last—as a grand finale! We heard some fun, thoughtful and even hilarious persuasive points.

TONIGHT’S HOMEWORK: In addition to the long division worksheet, I’ve asked students to pick a family member and give him/her a compelling sales pitch for a pen. They can exaggerate or make up details (like this pen is an original WWII artifact)— the challenge is for students to (1.) meaningfully sequence powerful reasons with the strongest point last, (2.) use transitional phrases, and (3.) use descriptive language to paint a picture in the mind of the potential “customer”.