Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pencils of Promise

One of the keynote speakers at a conference I attended earlier this month was Adam Braun of Pencils of Promise.

He was AMAZING! The entire conference room - more than 700 people - sat in rapt silence as he told us about his "defining moment" in his life and how he came to found Pencils of Promise.

Adam is in the lower right square.
Other keynote speakers were: Jessica Jackley of Kiva,
Peter Diamandis of Singularity University
and Marc and Craig Kielburger of Free the Children

Pencils of Promise, as an idea, first swam into existence when Adam asked a question of a small boy begging on the streets of India but it had its roots in an earlier incident in Adam's life.

He explained to us that as a young boy his goal in life was to succeed, to become rich and he had made that his focus in education. He worked hard, he went to university, he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in  economics, sociology and public & private sector organizations but his focus changed when he enrolled in Semester at Sea and began to travel around the world.

Adam told us that his ship was hit with a rogue wave - an enormous wave that caused the ship to wallow and tip and almost go down. Adam said that it was at that moment - when he faced almost certain death - that an incredible calm settled over him and he knew that he wouldn't die that day. He hadn't fulfilled his purpose in life.

When he returned home he packed a backpack and began hiking around the world, visiting over 50 countries and becoming very interested in international development along the way.

In India he asked a young boy a question:

What do you want most in the world?

When Adam told the conference attendees this story he said that when he heard the answer he called over an interpreter and asked him to translate the question. He didn't think the child could possibly have understood it.

The interpreter asked the question and the answer was the same:

A pencil.

From the Pencils of Promise website here are Adam's words:

I reached into my backpack,

handed him my pencil, and watched as a wave of possibility washed over him.
A smile erupted and his eyes brightened. And I saw then the profound power and promise brought through something as small as giving a pencil to just one child.

And from these two defining moments in a young man's life - a rogue wave and a question - the non-profit organization Pencils of Promise was born.

Starting with a $25 deposit in a bank (and we got to see that initial deposit slip :) ) the organization has now built more than 100 schools and hopes to break ground on many more this year.

57 million children in the world don't have access to education. Pencils of Promise is working to help that - and 100% of online donations directly fund schools.

$25 will educate one child for a year.

How many lives could we impact?

As October draws to a close another set of holidays looms on the horizon. In November I will be talking about Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving with my class. We will be remembering all the reasons we have to give thanks - and one of those reasons, surely, should be the fact that we can go to school.

I would like to support Pencils of Promise - I will do it personally but I am also going to donate all the proceeds from a new Thanksgiving project that I have created for my class - Turkey's Thanksgiving Feast.

Find it HERE

I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had - I'd like to pass them on.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Round Square Inspiration

Abraham Lincoln wrote years and years ago that:

"The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next."

What philosophy is in our classrooms now? What are we really teaching this generation? 

I was forced to really think about this when earlier this month I was able to attend the International Round Square conference in Florida. It was an inspirational and seriously thought provoking conference with amazing speakers who have really made a difference in the world.

I can't write about everything in one post (- look for later posts because I will write about some of these amazing people soon -) but I thought that today would be a good time to start to put some of my thoughts about the conference into written form.

This is a long post but I hope that you will take the time to read it all...

Our school has been a Round Square school for quite a few years and I have been aware of the ideals and principles of the organization but I haven't really been involved. This conference changed my whole outlook. It decided my class assembly theme and has caused me to really look at what I think is  important in education.

Round Square is an association of international schools - more than 100 now - on 5 continents, that represent 60,000 students. The international conference had 500 student representatives from around the globe as well as 200 teachers and heads.

The organization was founded on the ideas of Kurt Hahn, a philosopher (who was also responsible for the formation of the United World College movement, the Duke of Edinburgh Award and Outward Bound.)

Kurt Hahn believed that it is "the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion."

I loosely translated these qualities for my children into: courage, curiosity, creativity, leadership, principles, generosity and compassion and we produced our assembly using these words - and the IDEALS of Round Square - as our focus.

The IDEALS are the pillars of a Round Square school - they are what we believe in and what our educational program is hinged on.
Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service.

The problem to date has been that most of the Round Square activities are for older children - for middle school and up - so my challenge was to see how we can fully integrate the ideals into Primary.

 My class and I brainstormed and we came up with the idea of a Round Square Ripple club.

We based our idea on the quote by Mother Teresa:

"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."

We held a Round Square table talk where we arranged our desks into a big square and we brainstormed ideas.

We talked about ways to integrate internationalism and service and leadership into our classrooms and my girls came up with great ideas.

We decided that we could work really hard to learn another language - we do Spanish but no-one is fluent so we decided that we could ask our 2 Spanish-speaking students to help us all learn it better; we can re-link with schools in other countries through our class blog. (Last year we linked with a school in Wales and in Morocco and this year there is a possibility of adding Romania, Columbia, South Africa and Wisconsin, USA to our international classroom!)

We talked about service and the little things we could do (like growing our hair for Locks of Love or donating our birthday money to the SPCA).

We decided that at recess we would pick up any trash that we could find and we discussed our school garden (Year 4 will take ownership of one garden bed this year so we will be planting vegetables)

We talked about the things that we think make a great leader.

These are, of course, things that we talk about at school all the time but this was the first time that I felt like my class was really taking ownership of it.

They painted pictures for their assembly, they got the video camera and interviewed other Primary students to find out what they knew about Round Square (sadly, very little!) and we put together a powerpoint to showcase the IDEALS with photos from Primary to show what we are doing already.

It was a huge success - and my class have been asked to repeat their assembly for the Secondary department on November 19th.

This is, of course, wonderful and my children are thrilled - but the biggest thing about this assembly, and the conference, for me was that it really made me think about the way I teach, why I teach and what our responsibility as educators really is.

School is much, much more than simply teaching children to read and write - we have a huge responsibility to the future generations of our world. If we don't teach them the principles of kindness, love, tolerance, generosity and compassion NOW then our world is going to be a miserable place in the future.

Today we read about atrocious acts occurring in schools all the time - the incident at Sandy Hook shocked the world - but smaller acts of bullying and unkindness take place all the time in our classrooms and schools.

It's our job as teachers to make a difference. And we do that though compassion and love for our students.

"Not all of us can do great things but we can all do small things with great love." 
Mother Teresa.

God grant me the ability to do this in my classroom - every day.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween and holidays...

We had our Halloween fun day on Thursday last week - hugely successful and enjoyed by all the kiddies. :) This year we very cleverly planned all our activities for the afternoon so that we could send all the children home immediately afterwards - the sugar highs would be their parents' problem not ours. :)

And if you look at this cookie you will see why a sugar high was going to be a problem!! Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen so much icing on one cookie!!

We split our children into three mixed groups and rotated them through the classrooms. Thankfully I had the craft room so we quietly - and in a relaxed fashion - made symmetrical positive/negative pumpkins and some lollipop ghosts. I had lots of parent volunteers so was able to hand everything over to them and wander around with my camera. :)


In my team teachers rooms we had the infamous cookie decorating - very loud and messy but again, plenty of volunteers - and the final room had pumpkin carving. Each class has to carve a pumpkin for our annual Halloween fair so we always do this in the afternoon so that parents can help. :) Usually we have plenty of dads but for some reason this year only two moms volunteered for the messiest job of all.

The kids had a lot of fun helping to scoop out the pumpkins and design the faces :) but the moms definitely had to do some tidying up at the end :).

On the Friday I ended up with only 12 children as several of them left early for the holidays so I abandoned all hope of work and we played games instead. We had fall-themed puzzle sheets and a fun movie and we did ONE math activity from a freebie (What's My Shape) I snaffled from Deana at Primary Punch

It was SO much fun. The directions call for the shapes to be put on headbands but in the interests of time I taped or paper-clipped them to the backs of the children.

They then went around asking questions to see if they could identify their shapes. They loved it - eventually I took away their question cards and then the shape cards to see what they could remember and they were awesome.

So we played a team game - the Autumn Leaves versus the Pumpkins. :) Everyone closed their eyes, I drew 2 shapes on the board, one person from each team rushed up and wrote the name of the shape underneath. First person to finish won a point for their team. It was a dead even tie! They know their shapes pretty well! I'll play it all again after our holiday for the benefit of the missing students. :)

So now, I have a blissful week stretching out ahead of me - long days in pajamas, cups of tea, bonding with my doggies... The weather is cooler, the sun is shining - wonderful!!!

I did volunteer to go in and help with the holiday school program on Thursday from 12.30 to 4.30 but I think that will be a lot of fun - oh, and I do need to go in and tidy up the classroom and prepare for next week but for today.... today, I'm going to kick back and enjoy the peace. :)

Happy Monday, all.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Spooky Surprise Math

We're on holiday next week for our half term so we won't be in school over Halloween - which means we have been doing all our seasonal activities this week. :)

Yesterday we did an open-ended Math project and finished it up today. It was great fun!!

Godfrey and Giselle Ghost are hosting a surprise sleepover party on Halloween and they want to decorate their haunted house and provide party treats for their six guests. They asked my class to help them shop for supplies but only gave them $100 to spend.

The girls started to shop
They added and multiplied; they returned items and
chose others..

They discussed and discussed and discussed some more

Finally the purchasing was completed and the
decorating began
Walls were painted...

Blood was added :)
The purchased decorations were installed in the rooms.

Once the house was finished, the budgeting completed
and the amount spent and change received computed
the house was moved to it's "garden" and the  background
decorating began!

They did such an AWESOME job with
this project!

I love this one!! I've got a very creative class this year :)

It was a fun Math lesson - addition, multiplication, money and budgeting all wrapped up in a Halloween theme. And I have a great bulletin board display for tomorrow's pumpkin carving! :)

So if you're looking for something fun to do next week (if you're in school, that is) feel free to check out Spooky Surprise. There's an extension activity as well for older grades. :) 

My class just loved it - and you know what was the best part? I had a surprise walk-in evaluation in the middle of it and got a GLOWING report because the kids were all so engaged and excited. I love it when things like that happen. :)

Click HERE to find this 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Symmetry - Halloween style

It's only Monday and this week is already trying my patience considerably. After a somewhat stressful assembly practice that ran over into recess, I took my class outside and kept them out for an additional 10 minutes, made all the hyper ones run laps around the field and then took them all back inside where I totally scrapped the plans for the day and decided to teach my introductory lesson on lines of symmetry by making Halloween witches.

It was kind of fun. We cut out circles and folded them and folded them and folded them (to see how many lines of symmetry we could make - decided it could be an infinite number if we could fold closely enough together :) ) then we folded black paper and drew triangles. Luckily a few of them - totally by luck - turned out to be equilateral so we were able to discuss the fact that different shaped triangles had different numbers of lines of symmetry.

At this point a bright little spark shouted out that we were making witches :) so I was able to move on to the bodies quite easily.

The only rules were that every body part had to be cut on a fold so that it was symmetrical - it had to have at least one line of symmetry - and the kids had to fold every piece so that they could count the lines, before adding it to their picture.

I have to say they didn't manage all the directions perfectly but they didn't do a bad job. :)

I liked this dress - with one line of
symmetry neatly folded :)
And look at the adorable stockings and shoes!

When their pictures were finished we labelled them with lines of symmetry on one side and names of polygons on the other side - a combination math lesson!! If the shape wasn't a polygon they had to write "not a polygon" beside it. :)

It certainly showed me who still doesn't know the names of polygons (and who doesn't know what a polygon is at ALL) but in the end all the little witches turned out beautifully.

One cute little witch
Another cute little witch!

And a whole pile of symmetrical little witches!!

My girls weren't too sure if they were doing Math or Art :) but isn't that the best type of lesson anyway? Hopefully they'll remember something about lines of symmetry!! 

I think we'll do some more symmetrical Halloween stuff - bats and pumpkins would be fun. I'd quite like to have garlands of symmetrical bats flapping around the classroom.

Maybe tomorrow! :)

Sunday, 20 October 2013

It's HERE!!!

I know, I know - it's not good blogging etiquette to post twice in one day but how could I resist?!!

It's here!!!

And I just LOVE it. Christmas has come early :)

Thank you Christi, SO MUCH!!!

It's exciting...

I am getting very excited because very soon my blog will be changing!!

I decided this summer that a new name and look was needed since my life will not always be in a 3rd grade classroom - and I would like my blog to reflect me as a person as well as me as a teacher. I haven't felt that my blog, as it is, has leant itself very well to personal reflections and, although I may not do it often, I would like to be able to sometimes share things that are maybe not so classroom oriented.

So I thought long and hard about what I wanted; I harassed friends for ideas and words and titles; I dithered over colors and quotes; I tried to explain what I really wanted - and Christi of both Design by Christi and Ms. Fultz's Corner fame, made it all happen!!

She used artwork by Crystal aka The Library Fox and tied everything together in a wonderful new design which I absolutely love.

At this time of writing I'm not exactly sure when my new look will appear but that's kind of exciting in itself! I like the anticipation - it's a bit like patting the empty Christmas stockings before going to sleep and then waking up half way through the night and patting them again! It's so exciting to feel all those  mysterious lumps and bumps and know that something magical happened in the night! :)

So I'm waiting for the magic! :) And honestly, I almost don't want to know when it will happen! :) I'd like to click on blogger one day and just see the new look.

In the meantime, while I'm waiting, I thought I'd share some of our artwork from this past week. :) This idea came from Kathy Barbro at Art Projects for Kids.

It was awesome. We did it step by step and the kiddies had no idea what they were drawing until about halfway through. They were SO excited when they saw what they had done!!

We start drawing

Adding some details

Outlined and ready to paint

I love how they all have their own character!

Painting begins

Just waiting to be outlined in black sharpie
but pretty cute anyway!!

We have one more week of school before our mid-term break - and in this week we'll be presenting our class assembly (always a nerve-wracking undertaking!!) having our sugar-filled, arts and crafts and pumpkin carving afternoon, trying to finish the first science unit (eek - has to be done so we can start unit 2 after half term!!) finishing our Halloween writing assignment, getting some Math done!!! (planning a fun, seasonal open-ended Math project for my girls!)  - oh, and I still have one more parent/teacher conference and a couple of lunch time meetings. I will be VERY ready for my holiday!! 

I'll post about our assembly when it's safely over :) - at the moment it needs some serious work. We're making a small movie for the opening and since I have never used iMovie before it is proving to be somewhat challenging. I think that perhaps this is a time to make use of our ICT teacher - I don't think I have time to really play around and figure it all out. And I NEED to have my voice deleted from all the clips! :)

Hope everyone enjoys the coming week - and for all those headed to fall break have a wonderful time. :)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Time to spend...

... at the TpT flash sale!!

On until midnight Hawaii time on the 14th October. Remember to use the promo code for the extra discount - I'm filling up my basket :)

The cute little banner is from the talented Whimsy Workshop Teaching. :)

Friday, 11 October 2013


I'm at a conference in Florida right now which has been absolutely inspirational and awesome for the entire week of very long (7.30 a.m. - 9.30 p.m. ) days.
Today, however, we all went to the Everglades! 6 busloads of students and teachers from all over the globe - it was great!

And I saw this guy! A nice big alligator, lounging around in Florida sunshine. A bit battle scarred but he was obviously quite content.

Gorgeous place!!
Checking out the boat!

And losing interest in us :)

I'll have to blog later about some of the amazing speakers I heard at this conference - they have been truly phenomenal and have really made me think about what it means to be a teacher. Not so much from the academic perspective but from the holistic side of life. When I get all my thoughts together I'll share some of it :) but for now...

enjoy the upcoming weekend :)