Sunday, 30 December 2012

2 1/2 days to go!

Of holiday that is :) It's been such a long, relaxing break that it's hard to believe I'll have to be getting up at 5.30 again next Wednesday to get ready for a school day! Granted, it's just a PD day so no children will be in but still... I hope I a) hear the alarm and b) pay attention to it!
Today is a stormy wet day and I'm still in my pajamas at lunch time :) My 3 dogs (my dad has gone away and I am dog-sitting his weimaraner, Luna - who joins my own boxer, Bear and border collie, Panda) are lolling around on sofas and dog beds; my husband is watching football and my daughter, I think, is asleep. It's a cozy day :)

Luna and Bear - best buddies :)

I've been working away on Valentine activities which makes me feel incredibly organized and have printed off all my activities for the first two days of the New Year. All this blogging ( and reading of amazing blogs) has RE-INSPIRED me and I am ready to have some fun.

Our new topic this term is Rainforests - which I just love - so I am tweaking all my projects and designing some new ones to really challenge my little people. I have binders and folders and journals and spread sheets and cool new games and posters and I WILL keep my desk tidy this year so that I can find all these amazing new resources!
I don't think I've been so excited to go back to school for a long time :) (I mean I love teaching but it all feels different somehow - I just love this blogging world!)

Next week I'm guest blogging as part of a linky exchange and someone else will be blogging here. The idea is we can all follow a big circle and read lots of different blogs. It sounds like fun but I'm feeling a tad intimidated because this is such a baby blog and there are really so many amazing teachers out there that sometimes I feel a little inadequate. Hopefully my post will be alright :) Have to remember the reason I started this whole thing which was to share and learn! (Sometimes the whole follower thing catches up to me and I start worrying - another resolution: don't stress about numbers :) )

Thanks to all the people whose blogs I read almost daily now - for the inspiration and the revitalization.
Wishing you all a happy New Year!


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Best and Brightest

I found this while blog hopping today and decided to link up :) to Bunting, Books and Bainbridge . I've got used to blogging about my classroom so being on holiday is causing major withdrawal symptoms - this may ease them somewhat :)

My blog is still so new that it doesn't have a lot of "best" moments - that I can really point to anyway but... these are my choices.

My favourite/best post was Sister School  - I loved telling about the school we correspond with in Haiti and plan to make this an ongoing blog entry as we do more and more for and with our friends in Bois d'Avril. I guess I could link this with Fraction Trees and Letters to Haiti  since it showcases some of the beautiful letters my children wrote to their friends.

The blog I've liked the best this year has been Fourth Grade Studio but I'm discovering new ones all the time :) and am beginning to follow lots of other innovative and creative teachers. I hope to make more friends around the world as I continue to explore.

The best thing (so far) that I have planned for January is to take part in a Flat Gingerbread Exchange with classes in the US. It's the first time I've ever done this so I'm really excited about it and know that my class is going to LOVE it!
I'd love to get involved in more international exchange projects!

The best thing I made this year - well that's easy because I've only just started so I don't have a lot :) I liked my Festive Fractions unit and the best freebie was Fraction Snowman. It made the BEST classroom display as well this term :)

The best personal thing that happened this year - there were a few. My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, my son celebrated his 1st wedding anniversary :), my daughter finally went to college and got a 3.7 GPA in her first semester, my dad is battling a medical condition in a miraculous way (a true answer to prayer!)  my study buddy group has grown closer and closer and I have re-connected with God in a huge way. It has been a blessed year.

Plus I love my class of 2012/2013 - 16 little people to teach this year - and I have the best co-teachers :) Looking forward to the new year in my Year 4/Grade 3 classroom!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Eve!!!

It's Christmas Eve! I'm making split pea soup for dinner tonight, a vegan entree for Christmas Day at my sister's house tomorrow and I've just posted my Polar Problem Solving on TpT. I've also packed 30 bags of sugar cookies for our church Community Christmas lunch tomorrow and have been to the grocery store - a most productive day so far. The dogs are inside with me - Panda has just stolen a snowman ornament from the Christmas tree (which only went up last night!!) and has torn it to pieces  - and I'm feeling all Christmassy and cozy. Still have to clean the house - it may be cozy but it's a bit untidy - and then pick up my daughter and do a few more last minute errands. We're going to go to the late night Christmas service tonight and the beach tomorrow (weather permitting) before going to my sister's. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!

Panda - looking angelic after eating a snowman ornament!

Here's a link to Polar Problem Solving if anyone is interested :)

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Wishes

This is just a quick post to say Merry Christmas to everyone. Hope your holidays are relaxing, peaceful, joyful and blessed.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Tell Me Something Good

Rowdy in First Grade is having a Christmas-style linky. I've never done one before but this looks fun :) (Click on the link to go straight to her website to link up yourself - I just cannot get the hang of these buttons yet!)

So here goes...

Something good in the classroom

I loved the Christmas letters we sent to Haiti this year. We correspond with a sister school in Bois d'Avril (only 33 children in the school and it has hardly anything) Our second lot of letters were written in French and I was so proud of my girls for taking their time and producing beautiful letters.

Something good at home

My daughter is home from her first semester at university and just today told me she got a 3.7 GPA. Yay! I'm making our traditional family Christmas treat - chocolate cornflake clusters - to celebrate.

Gifts purchased in the past

Well for quite a few years we haven't given adult gifts at Christmas but have donated to charities instead. It varies every year. One year we all chose our favourite charity and put the names in a hat and pulled one; one year we just chose our own. This year I have donated to Heifer International (it sends practical help - ducks, geese, rabbits, llamas, cows - to people around the world) and have bought a llama for my son, his wife, my daughter and her boyfriend to share and I bought a sheep for my nephews :) My husband and I bought a llama several years ago and then got a little furry llama ornament to put on the tree to remind ourselves of our special gift.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Cleaning Up

I went into an empty school today with very mixed feelings. It was quiet and I got a lot done but the whole time I was there I was thinking about fellow teachers all over the US, wondering what was happening in their classrooms today and how they were dealing with questions from their children. I also spent some time looking around my room and wondering what I would do in the event that anything happened in our school. Where would I hide my children? Well, there's nowhere! I'd have to stuff them all behind my desk - we have no large cupboards or anything like that and the class door opens outwards so we couldn't barricade it. I've never thought like this about my classroom; I never thought I would have to consider this sort of safety when I entered teaching but the reality is I see things differently now - as do many of us, I suspect, no matter where we live...

So... the paint cupboard is now clean. It is amazing what you can find at the back of a small cupboard under the sink - and quite disgusting as well! However, I now know where all the paint brushes are, I know what paint I have, I found some very nice sponges for sponge painting and, thankfully, I discovered a very old and brittle gallon of black paint that had split (!!!) and was able to carefully extract it before it spilled all over the place.
I took down all the gold tinsel, relocated the snowflakes to the corridor bulletin board and hung up rainforest flower chains and some really pretty butterflies that I got when I visited my daughter in Florida. Ready now for the kiddie creations in January!

The desks, thank goodness, are now SPOTLESS. We had a "snow" day on Friday - the only snow we'll get in this part of the world - and cleaned the desks with shaving cream. (It works beautifully - guaranteed to remove anything except permanent gold marker!) To make it an educational activity we did a little bit of addition. :)
The girls got covered in shaving cream and managed to cover the bathroom sinks - the Grade 2 students came to report it to me so we had to all troop down to the bathrooms to clean up there as well. However, this cleaning activity was a lot more fun than my solitary cleaning of the paint cupboard.

Shaving cream addition

Our "snow day"

And this was trying to be NEAT!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Two Tortoises on Red and Green Day

Red and Green Day is our end-of-Christmas-term party day! Normally our children wear uniforms to school so any grub day is exciting but Red and Green Day is always so festive! Once again we divided our year group up into three different classes (we like to mix them all up so the children can be with their friends in other classes once in a while) and had three activities:


Making angels

Candy Cane Mice

Decorating Cookies

And where do the tortoises come in?

Well, one is our class pet - a box turtle of uncertain ancestry. Last year he was called Rosie Peanut but this year he has been "The Tortoise". He's more or less in hibernation right now - we dig him up every couple of days, soak him in his bath and offer food but really all he wants to do is sleep.

The Tortoise under his heat lamp

And the second tortoise is our Roman Formation that we practiced on the field today. I'm not sure that they would have survived in battle but my 11th Legion had a great time demonstrating the Tortoise, the Wedge and the Circle before having a mock battle. Sadly, we had to have a civil war (due to the fact that the other two classes haven't quite finished their shields) but we managed to get in quite a few blows before the swords turned into noodles :)

Our numbers were a little depleted due to two soldiers being back in the garrison with illness and two more incapacitated on the sidelines (aka friendship problem) but a small tortoise is better than no tortoise!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

12/12/12 - A Day of Dozens

Today we celebrated 12/12/12! It was a last minute thing as I only realized what today's date would be  last night as I was writing it on the board so... quick change of plans and I designed a Day of Dozens for the year group :)

We started with the 12 x table - the children wrote it out on Christmas lights, attached the lights to construction paper strips and glittered them heavily.

Then we did some mad minutes - write 12 things from 12 different categories as fast as you can. Some ideas were: 12 different candies, 12 colors, 12 countries, 12 months, 12 girls in our year group etc.
Next we gave pairs of children 36 mini marshmallows and 12 toothpicks and told them to construct a dozen snowmen...

( 1 pair started off gaily putting 5 marshmallows on every toothpick and then had a little problem to solve at the end :) ) but most of them managed to construct 12 snowmen made of 3 marshmallows each.

Naturally they ate the snowmen!

Following the sugar dose we played a team game - Draw 12 in 12!
Each team got a title - Twelve Terrific Tortoises Tasting Tangerines was one! - and they then had 12 minutes to draw a poster to illustrate their title.

The start of the race

One of the finished products :) Not bad for 12 minutes!

At 12:00 we took them all outside and arranged them in a giant 12 on the field and then did a count down to 12:12 on 12/12/12. They drew a clock to remember what they were doing at this historic time!


We ended the day with a fun pack of lots of different activities - math, literacy and just plain fun - all involving 12s. I particularly liked watching them try to fill a dozen eggs with 12 different animals that lay eggs! Apparently bats lay eggs! I'll bet you didn't know that! 

It'll be a hundred years before this day rolls around again so I'm glad we celebrated!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Fraction Trees and Letters to Haiti

We continued our Christmas fraction fun today by making Fraction Trees. The children could choose to do either a "thirds" tree or a "sixths" tree, construct it and then decide what fraction of the tree they would decorate. They labeled the fraction on the present under the tree and then added some fingerprint snow. Lots of glitter and snowy fingerprints all over the painting table! The trees look pretty though.

After a little trouble with the scanner I managed to safely send all our Holiday Greeting letters to Haiti and got them pinned up on the bulletin board. It looks very festive.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Just to let you know...

I am playing with my blog's appearance :) It will probably change a lot over the next couple of weeks as I experiment. Bear with us as we renovate :)

Weekend Thoughts - and some new activities

I just read a very thought provoking post on Fourth Grade Studio (click here to read) - I left a long comment on it because it really struck home. Definitely go and visit Meg's blog whenever you can. She writes from the heart and I find it very inspirational.
We did a creative writing activity this week - Reindeer on Strike. I decided that we would plan it properly - class discussion, good planning sheets, rough draft, self-edit and then neat copy. It worked well and the children wrote some great stories. When I read Meg's post (above) I realized that I have come a long way as a teacher in the past year. With this writing activity I emphasized the need for capital letters and punctuation (as always) but I didn't obsess about it. This is a major breakthrough because I am an obsessive person. I like things to be done properly and I like to know that I (and my students) have done my/our best. Sometimes this is not a good thing. Sometimes I think it is best to enjoy the moment, messy and inaccurate as it may be! I have to say that my classroom and my house both reflect this "messy" attitude :) For some reason I am only obsessive about the written project. :) (In fact, as I write I can hear my husband puttering around with a broom - I love this man!)
Anyway - I have found that a relaxed attitude to the kids' work - while still holding them accountable to produce their own personal best - actually results in amazing work. I will remember this when it gets to National Curriculum Assessment time :)

And now, some new activities. My class, as a whole, loathe grammar. A collective groan goes up every time the grammar text books appear - and I can't say that I blame them. I always found it incredibly boring as a student as well. In an effort to make it more interesting I have been making grammar games this term and we have been playing with them. It has been great fun! We've played grammar bingo, noun and adjective sort, silly sentence trains, I Have Who Has games - much more interesting than just doing text book exercises. Today I finally finished putting them all together in a pack and have posted it to TpT - yay! Here's a link if you want to check it out. Grammar Games

And here's some pictures of the games in action. (Please ignore the absolutely FILTHY desks - we will be doing our Great Shaving Cream Clean Up next week before the holidays start. I don't know how they get their desks so dirty - it's a true talent that every single one of them has!)

                                                            Grammar Bingo

                                                   Silly Sentence Trains
                                                          Adjective Noun Sort

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sister School

This week we wrote letters to our sister school in the village of Bois d'Avril in Haiti. The grandparents of one of the children in my class live in Haiti and have sponsored the building of a small school in the village where they live. They asked us if we would like to correspond with their students and I leapt at the opportunity!

Bois d'Avril in Haiti - the school is the yellow building

We wrote our first introductory letters back in early November and scanned and sent them via email to the grandparents. Since they have electricity and modern conveniences (they also house the two teachers of the school) they were able to print the letters and take them to the children. We received our replies a couple of weeks later - written in Creole!! Translation was a bit tricky to say the least but we managed to get two letters put into English - my class were thrilled.

Here's one of the letters that the children in Haiti scanned and sent to us.

There are only 33 children in the school in Bois d'Avril and they are in classes K - Grade 3. We thought that they were the same age as our children but when we got the letters we realized that some of the children are 15! This is the first opportunity that they have had to get an education.
Our children are so privileged where we live - and often they don't realize it at all. Corresponding with this little school in Haiti has opened their eyes to the lives of others in a very real way.

We wrote our Christmas letters this week and we wrote them in French. The girls drew the most beautiful pictures they have drawn all year and their writing was wonderful. They wanted to do their best for their pen pals. We've also taken all our photos and put them on small Christmas trees so that our friends in Haiti can put faces to our names :)
We're hoping that this project will grow to become more than exchanging letters. Our dream is to be able to support this little school financially as well - to help provide what the children need to learn.

We'll send our Christmas letters on Monday - and I'll post some photos of them here too.
Does anyone else correspond with schools in different places?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Today was Gingerbread Day!

Today was the day! Gingerbread Day in Year 4! It was great fun :)
We started with handwriting - "Today is Gingerbread Day. We will be having a fun day!" then moved on to crown making. After that we had the whole year group (48 children) in my room and we did the Eat the Gingerbread Body Part  Bar Graph activity.
The most popular body part this year was ... the LEFT ARM!!

After recess we divided the children up into groups and rotated them through the three classrooms doing a different activity in each room. We had gingerbread house cards in one room...

gingerbread glyphs in the 2nd room...

and cookie decorating in room 3!

After lunch we finished our bar graphs and drew pictographs before heading off to specialist lessons. For homework they all have a mini-book story where they have to fill in the missing adjectives :)

It was a super fun day and we all enjoyed ourselves very much. I should have taken a photo of the 3 teachers dressed in their brown outfits, crowns and candy buttons but sadly I forgot :( Maybe next year!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Festive Fraction Fun

We made these CUTE fraction snowmen as an introductory/review Math lesson on Fractions this week. Since we did it step-by-step the girls had no idea what they were making until we got to the "Whole" head and drew the eyes and nose. Then there were squeals of delight as they realized that they  had made...

 ... a Fraction Snowman.

I turned this into a freebie for my TpT store :) You can download it here


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Swords, Shields and Snowflakes

We had an alliterative art day this week! We finished our Roman shields, constructed and painted our Roman swords (ready for battle sometime before the end of term!) and made snowflakes for the lower Primary Christmas concert and our own classroom. There was a little bit of Math in the form of measuring the swords and hanging the evergreen garlands (e.g. I have four 9 ft garlands - how many feet in total am I hanging? :) but otherwise it really was a very relaxing art day. We all need one of those now and then in school :) Here are some photos of our day.

                            We are the 11th legion!

The children designed their own swords and then painted them. Every single one is covered in blood! There are no pacifists in my legion!!

We used templates for the snowflakes - a little tricky for the children to cut out but glitter makes everything look good :)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Compass Work

Today we started learning about compasses and direction by making a water compass. This is a great project and gets the children excited about compasses right from the get go. Most of our compass boats pointed North but a couple (as always) pointed South. We can never figure out why this happens. It must have something to do with the way the children magnetize their needle but whatever the reason it always makes a good discussion point :)

                                                     Here's one of our finished boats!

We followed up our experiment by going outside with compasses and navigating our way around the field. Later this week we'll have a treasure hunt and see how much the children remember. They'll have to use their compass to find the treasure somewhere in the school. :)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Gingerbread Day

We celebrate Gingerbread Day every year. It's always a secret and I'm not telling what day it will be yet but here are some of our favourite activities posted on TpT.

Go to Gingerbread Day on TpT

Romans and Celts

We finished our giant Roman soldier and Celtic warrior this week. The children painted them and made labels and then stapled them (using a thousand staples at least) to the bulletin board. I think they look great!

New project: We've started making our shields and swords - we are Legio XI - in preparation for our mock battle and demonstration of Roman army formations next week. We're waiting on the other two legions (aka my co-teachers and their classes) to be fully armed and ready for warfare!!  I'm getting my victory laurel wreath ready! :)