Thursday, 20 December 2012

Goodbye 2012 School Year

And then there was one day left...

This week was such a hectic and busy week. It is the week before Christmas, the last week of the school year, the week of graduation and also the week to pack up our whole school to move to our new site.

I can't believe the end of the year is already here. As a sixth grade teacher, I am full of emotion seeing my students get ready for high school. On Tuesday night, we held their graduation ceremony. It was a lovely night and the kids had a blast. I am so glad that we are able to give our students such a wonderful send off.  (Check out the wonderful cake we had made for our graduates!)

The remainder of this week has been spent wrapping up the school year and moving all at once. Teaching in a classroom with no chairs, whiteboards and desks proves to be a tricky task but all the teachers seem to be adapting their lessons very well. It definitely makes you appreciate how lucky we are to teach in a country where those resources are so readily available.

And today I got to meet my new class. I am so excited with the students I have and for what is in store next year. I am overwhelmed with a mix of emotions; sad to see my six's move on to high school, while being excited for them at the same time, and also being excited for a new school year.  Less than 5 more teaching hours left and this school year is over. Good bye 2012 school year, it has been a pleasure!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Silence for Sandy Hook Elementary

Perimeter and Area Challenge

Today's measurement task: To construct 4 different rectangles, two with a perimeter of 24cm and two with an area of 24cm squared. 

Students were given these simple instructions and off they went. Some students began to use their knowledge of times tables and recognized how that could help them. Others struggled with understanding the concept of perimeter but used unifix blocks to help them.

And our results during share time were the following:

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Wow! Two weeks left...

Seriously, two weeks left...where has the time gone. It is almost the end of the year and I am faced with mixed emotions as expected. This year has been challenging, exciting, rewarding and definitely a year of professional growth for myself. 

My students are moving on to high school and I feel like they are my little babies and I want to protect them but know that I can't. I just hope that I have prepared them as much as I could. 

And...graduation is in one more week! ***mini heart attack*** I've been a ball of stress lately over running graduation. This is the first time I've been the one leading the organisation of this event and boy is it ever a big job. One week left and we still need to practise our songs, order the balloons, get pictures printed, frame our pictures, do a dress rehearsal and sound check, etc, etc, the list goes on....

On a very positive note, today I got to meet my new team members and plan for next year. It was really sad to not be planning for next year with the same team I've had for nearly two years. But at the same time, it was wonderful to meet the two new staff members who are joining our team. They are super keen and seem like they will fit right in no problem. Today was a very exciting day as we planned out new topics of study and how we are going to run our year level next year. And at the beginning of next year, we will be moving into a shiny brand new school!!! ***exciting*** So there is a lot that will be new for us as teachers as well as the students. It will be a joint learning experience. Our new school is an open concept teaching and learning space, so for those who do not know what that is, it basically is one large space without distinct teaching classrooms. All of the 5/6 teachers are responsible for all of the 5/6 students, although we do have home groups for administration purposes. We have been moving slowly towards this concept but next year will be a huge change. And as much as I am nervous, I am also very excited to see how it all pans out. 

Two more weeks...two more weeks... oh and did I mention that I am going home (Canada) for Christmas. Which means I have to plan graduation, organise the end of the year, start planning for next year andddddd pack for my holidays all in two weeks!!! Hopefully I can keep my blog up to speed on all the exciting adventures in store. :)

Monday, 10 December 2012

Nominated for the Liebster Award!!!

Thank you to Amanda Kilgore from 6th Grade and Going   for the nomination. 

The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. It is to show new bloggers that they are appreciated, and to help spread the word about new blogs.

 There are some rules that go along with it...
1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
4. Choose 11 blogs you love (with less than 200 followers) and link them in your post.
5. No tag back.

 Okay, then. Let's get started.

11 Random Things About Me

1. I have played softball for more than half of my life. 
2. My partner is more than a foot taller than me. 
3. I have a small...ok, very large obsession with Taylor Swift.
4. My absolute favourite place in Australia is Byron Bay! So amazing!
5. I have traveled to 11 countries and countless number of cities. (adding two more countries to the list in less than two weeks)
6. I am a reality show junkie although it is hard to find time to watch TV. Jersey Shore, The Hills, any reality name it, I love it. 
7. My favourite book is still the Kite Runner (nothing has topped it yet).
8. I love board games, especially Cranium. This is where my competitive side comes out. 
9. I started playing a new sport (netball) at the age of 26 and although I am still developing my skills, I love every game that I play. 
10. Even though Australian's don't celebrate Halloween, it is still my favourite holiday. 
11. Fireworks make me excited every single time.

6th Grade and Going's questions for me

1. What is your favorite band? Band...hmmm that's tricky, so let me go back to my youth and say Backstreet Boys.
2. If you could do anything in life with no limitations, what would you do? I would love to teach children in developing countries and help them develop their language skills and entrepreneurship capabilities.
3. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and who would you take with you? I would love to go the Maldives with my partner.
4. What is the best moment that you have had as a teacher? There are so many, but I think the day that I left my old contract and the overwhelming thank you's from students and presents that they bought with their own allowances was just an amazing experience.
5. What is your pet peeve? When people don't change the toilet paper roll.
6. What is your favorite movie? Toss up between Dirty Dancing and Grease.
7. If you had to eat one thing every day for life what would it be? Lobster, lobster and more lobster.
8. What time do you wake up? For work, 5:50am. On the weekends, around 8am because the sun wakes me up.
9. What is/will be the name of your first born? I have no idea.
10. What did you have for breakfast today? A banana.
11. Would you choose teaching if given the chance to go back and do it all over again? Absolutely!!!

11 Questions for the People I nominate:
1. What is your favorite band?
2. If you could do anything in life with no limitations, what would you do?
3. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and who would you take with you?
4. What is the best moment that you have had as a teacher?
5. What is your pet peeve?
6. What is your favorite movie?
7. If you had to eat one thing every day for life what would it be?
8. What time do you wake up?
9. What is/will be the name of your first born?
10. What did you have for breakfast today?
11. Would you choose teaching if given the chance to go back and do it all over again?
11 Blogs that I love:

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Definition of Perimeter and Area

My learning coach presented this activity to me to use in the classroom as we are working on measurement. It focuses on the use of a learning objective and summary of learning after the task is complete.

As a class, we came up with our own definition for perimeter and area. It needed some prompts and the definitions aren't perfect but they are what the best that the kids came up with and what they will use to remember. When we finished our lesson, students wrote on a sticky note what they had learnt that day and posted the sticky notes in the Summary of our Learning section. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Incredibly Shrinking Notes

The third strategy we used in summarising was "Incredibly Shrinking Notes" (the other ones were One Dollar Sentences and Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then).

For our example in class, we watched a video from Behind the News about Gangnam Style. I thought I would pick a topic that students are interested in so that they could learn what Gangnam Style is actually about since it is the new craze. 

We watched the video first and students jotted down all the facts they could remember from the video.  We came up with a list of ten different facts.

Next, we began to shrink our notes. As a class, we selected the five most important facts that we thought reflected the main idea of the video. This proves to be a challenging activity as some students struggle to decide facts that are related to the main idea and those facts that are supporting details. 

And finally, we created one sentence to reflect what we believed the main idea of the video was by taking two to three of our facts and placing it into a sentence.

And that, folks, is how you incredibly shrink your notes.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Maths Vocabulary Posters

The importance of using proper terminology in maths has been proven in numerous studies. Thus, when beginning new units in maths, I also make sure that we come up with a class vocabulary poster. This poster begins with all the vocabulary that the students initially can think of that relate to the topic and as we work through the unit, we add more words to the poster. 

This is also very important for any EAL students in your classroom as it helps them to develop their knowledge of the English language and add to their maths vocabulary. 

Here are some examples from different maths units in my class:

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Planning for a Narrative

To help students get used to creating a plan for a narrative, we did a bit of practise. 

We began by creating massive lists for "setting", "characters", and "plot" and all students in the class contributed their ideas to our class posters. This helped generate ideas of what you could write a narrative about. 

In the next session when we introduced the planning template to the students, our class completed the following activity. I wrote each different idea for characters (ex. cowboys, astronauts, doctors, aliens) and each different idea for settings (ex. beach, archeology dig, museum, bank) on little slips of paper. 

One by one, each students came up and selected one paper for setting and one paper for characters from a jar. They then had to create a plot and storyline that involved the settings and characters they selected and complete a planning document for that.

An example is the following:

Setting: Outer Space

Characters: Cowboys

(Students had to create their own plots related to those items)

Plot: Cowboys get trapped in outer space as punishment for losing a rodeo. 

Resolution: The cowboys use their lassos to catch Earth and drag themselves back to Earth. 

This activity was wonderful and students had so much fun coming up with all their amazing creative ideas. Also, this activity is great for EAL students as it forces them to think outside of what they are familiar with. An EAL student in my class picked "ocean" as his setting and "soccer players" as his characters. He knew what soccer players were as he loves soccer but had to ask what the "ocean" was. After explaining to him and showing him a picture, he knew exactly what it was and was then able to plan a story. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Division Using Different Strategies

To end my unit on division, I had students work through different word problems. They were quite good at understanding the problem but the challenge was that they had to use a variety of the strategies we learnt in class to solve the word problems. Here is some of their work:

In this example, this student showed how to solve division problems using sharing, inverse operations, and repeated addition.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Chapter Books for New Readers

This has always been a struggle for me and I know for many other teachers:

What texts do you give to students in your class who need extra assistance in reading or are EAL students? How do you select a text that is at their reading level but also at their interest level?

I did endless searching this year to find chapter books that caters to new and developing readers. And surprisingly there are excellent books out there that are chapter books and have a larger font, easier vocabulary and simple concepts but still interest students. 

Below are some examples that you can try to use in your classroom. And the best thing is that each book comes in a series, so if a student takes interest, there are more books to follow.

Series: My Weird School Daze                                       Series: Billie B Brown
            by Dan Gutman                                                    by Sally Rippin

Series: Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew                       Series: Boy vs. Beast
 by Carolyn Keene                                                          by Mac Park

Series: Zac Power                                               Series: The Go Girl Difference
by H.I. Larry                                                       by Chrissie Perry


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Probability Statements

This activity comes from George Booker's book "Teaching Primary Mathematics"

In the early stages of our unit on probability, students were placed into mixed ability groups and given the following cards. Each card had a statement that could be made in reference to probability.

In groups, students had to place the cards on a probability scale in order from 100% chance to 0% chance. It was interesting to see their answers and how they interpreted the vocabulary on the cards. Especially "fat chance", as most students thought this meant a big chance. A great diagnostic tool as well. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

EAL Students in a Mainstream Class

I had a student in my class who was a part of the language centre and was a very new arrival to Australia. His English was extremely limited, and that is where I am faced with the challenge. How do you incorporate students with limited English into a mainstream class? If they've had the same amount of schooling in their native language, than they should be able to work at the same level as the other students who are native English speakers. 

Lucky for me, I have an Education Support staff that speaks/read/writes Turkish which is the language that this student spoke. She was so helpful and handy to have and we tried to ensure that he was doing the same/or very similar activities as the rest of the class. Although you want EAL students to learn English, it is still important that you use the native language in the beginning stages of English language acquisition.

For a deconstruction activity, my ES translated the writing into Turkish. Then, in working with the student, they wrote out each part of the deconstruction in Turkish and next translated it in English. This way, the student could understand each part of the information report and also know what that part was called in English.

Another example of this was in our integrated unit on the Olympics. The student completed a KWL chart, just like everyone else, but began in his language and then translated the words he knew into English with assistance. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Teaching Division using Inverse

I often find division the hardest of the operations to teach simply because I think I struggle myself to simplify it for students. This time around I really tried to break it down and provide students with as many strategies as possible to help them understand the concept.

Our strategies included: vocabulary, sharing, repeated addition and repeated subtraction and we have now moved on to inverse operations.

Repeated addition and subtraction provided a great segway into inverse operations as students were able to make the connection between multiplication and division on their own. It is great when students can make these connections as you see the lightbulb switch in their head.

My students also love making posters in maths, so we rarely do worksheets and take a simple activity and turn it into a 5 star project. So here, I present to you, our inverse posters:

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Developing a Character

One of the first things we worked on in narrative writing is the development of a character. I wanted students to come up with as many descriptive words they could use to describe personality and physical appearance. A wonderful idea that my team came up with was to present students with a picture of a person and have them develop a character based on that prompt. 

After finding a bunch of photos online, each student was given a picture. The pictures represented people of all ages, genders, races, religions etc. etc. 

Students had to describe the physical characteristics of the character in their photo. They then had to create a personality for this person, state the role (career) of the character, their challenge and achievements and whether or not they would like to be friends with them. 

It was crucial that students knew there was no right or wrong with this activity, and that it was their own character that they were creating. 

AWESOME activity!!! Please use this in narrative writing :)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Writing Ladder - Updated

For information report writing, I used a writing ladder which worked wonderfully!

For narrative writing, I have updated my writing ladder and it looks like this:

This time, I've made it look like a ladder and the students have to "climb" up the ladder as they progress through writing their narrative. 

Each students' name is placed on a little laminated card that they move up the ladder as they finish that part of their narrative writing. 

Our ladder steps from the beginning to the end are:

Plan, Develop the Characters, Set the Scene, Orientation, Complication, Resolution, Self Editing and Revising, Publishing, Group Editing

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Day we Measured the Netball Court...

Usually I would be measuring a basketball court or a baseball diamond, but in Australia, we are measuring the netball court! For those outside of Australia who don't know what netball is (don't worry, I was in the same boat when I first arrived here), check this website out for more info:

So back to my lesson...Today we measured the netball court as part of our unit in measurement. 

Materials needed: 
A trundle wheel
A metre ruler
A measuring tape

A notebook and a pencil

First, in groups, students had to estimate what the perimeter of the netball court is in mm, cm, and m. This also tested their conversion skills. Next, they had to measure the court using each type of measuring equipment. 

It ended with students identifying which item (metre ruler, trundle wheel, measuring tape) was the best to use to measure the netball court and having to justify their choice with reasoning. We then compared our measurements and converted again between each unit of measurement. 

And students got some fresh air too!!!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Narrative Rubric

As you may remember (and if you don't, check out this post: Writing Unit Sequence, my writing sequence to begin a new writing genre always includes a rubric.

Here is the rubric jointly created by our class.

The students chose Structure, Creativity, Writing Process, Language Features, and Grammar and Spelling as the categories for a narrative rubric. 

Then working in small groups, they filled in what a 5*, 4*, and 3* and lower narrative would look like for each category. 

Once again, excellent collaboration between students. 

The creation of rubrics by the students is a part of the e5 Instructional Model, as it relates to the engage section of the model: "The teacher presents a purpose for learning, determining challenging learning goals, and making assessment and performance requirements clear."

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Measurement Scavenger Hunt

A simple activity that focuses on estimation and measurement of length. 

Students were placed in mixed ability groups and each group was given the above worksheet. We ran this activity like a competition between groups. I had a big timer on the interactive whiteboard and when I said "go", each group had three minutes to come up with as many items that would measure to approximately 1cm. We repeated this for 10cm, 50cm, and 100cm/1m. 

This was a good activity to use as a diagnostic to evaluate students' estimation skills. It was also a fun way for students to work together as a team and share their ideas. They were able to develop their estimation skills also through teamwork. 

Once again, I found this activity from NZ Maths and modified it for my maths class.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Division Strategies

My post "Sharing in Division" is about an activity that I use often at the beginning of my unit on division to teach the strategy of "sharing"

The next two strategies I teach in division are "repeated subtraction" and "repeated addition". My maths class loves hands-on activities so I am constantly thinking of different ways to teach lessons which will keep my students engaged. This strategy could have been taught simply by using a worksheet, but instead, I had students solve their division equations on a sentence strip using a number line.

This lesson was taught over two days, one for repeated addition and one for repeated subtraction. The simple fact of having students complete their number lines on a sentence strip, rather than on a piece of paper in their notebook caused students to stay engaged and focused (and also very excited) throughout this maths lesson. Another thing that is wonderful about my maths students is their excitement when they see their work displayed, hence students put in extra effort when they are completing a task that will be displayed.

For repeated subtraction, students were given a division equation and had to solve it using a number line. They began by drawing the line and started by placing the dividend on the right side. They then jumped backward by the amount of the divisor until they got to zero (hence, repeated subtraction). The number of jumps they made was the answer (quotient) to their division equation.

For repeated addition, students completed a number line again, however, this time they started on the left side of the number line at zero. They then proceeded to make jumps in the amount of the divisor until they reached the dividend amount. Again, the number of jumps they made was the answer (quotient) to their division equation.

 After teaching repeated addition, students made the realisation that "division is like multiplication" which was amazing as it segwayed perfectly into teaching the inverse operations strategy.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Units of Measurement

Learning Focus: Estimating length and perimeter of objects of various sizes

As I've mentioned, my students love creating posters and seeing their work displayed. So today's activity catered to this learning style. Students were given the sheets below that had a number of different pictures of objects on it.

Their task was to create a chart and estimate which unit of measurement (mm, cm, m, or km) they would use to either measure the length of perimeter of each object. They had to cut out the picture and place it in the correct column of their chart. 

This task is related to the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract approach of teaching maths as it falls directly under the pictorial. The lesson prior to this would have students estimating objects in front of them, and then they move to estimating objects based on a picture of the objects and thus need visualisation skills for this. The next lesson should be estimation based on simply seeing the name of the object without a picture.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Division Simplified

Here is a poster that I make with the children when we start our unit on division. 

It is crucial that students use the correct mathematical vocabulary but sometimes you need to break it down for the students to help them remember what the vocabulary means.

Keeping this poster up and showing 3 different ways to remember the formal algorithm. It is also very helpful for EAL (English as an Additional Language) students in a mainstream class to help them remember the correct mathematical vocabulary and to remember what the vocabulary means.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then

SWBST as referred to by my students. One of the first summarising strategies on our success criteria.

Take any narrative and have students try to fill in a SWBST chart for their narrative. This was first shown to me by my colleague Shane and it works for all skills levels too. 

I've been explicitly teaching this strategy in my whole class focus lessons and it is used as a follow up task also. Here is a picture of our class poster that gets updated for each new narrative we read. 

We also completed this strategy on the interactive whiteboard:

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Narrative Writing Goals

This is one the best parts of starting a new writing genre...

student self-evaluation and goal setting for their own writing

The idea behind this lesson is that students (especially in grade 6) are given greater ownership and accountability over their own work. By setting their own writing goals, they have achievable and visible goals set for their own writing.

To set our writing goals, students were given their pre-tests back and they had to use the rubric that we created as a class to mark their work. From that, they needed to choose the three areas that they felt they needed to improve upon from the rubric. These areas then were turned into writing goals. As a class, we shared our individual writing goals and  create a class list of the top goals.
The top goals selected by the students for narrative writing were:

1. Have a detailed plan

2. Include a title, orientation, complication, and resolution (and sometimes a cliffhanger)

3. Write in full paragraphs

4. Have lots of juicy language (descriptive and figurative)

5. Be CREATIVE (Is my story exciting to read?)

6. Use a range of punctuation correctly

They are along the left side of the poster. Then, when we work on our group editing session, students add their names (on sticky notes) to the box corresponding to the goal they achieved. They can then go back and revise to ensure they have achieved all these goals in their writing. Students love seeing their name beside each goal and really worked hard because of this.

This strategy relates to the e5 Instructional Model components of engage and evaluate.
- Engage: Teachers provide support for students to create and achieve their learning goals. 
- Evaluate: Students are able to evaluate their progress and achievements. (and in a visual format)