November 10

Structured Word Inquiry

One of my goals as a teacher is to help students see that WE ALL have areas where we shine, and areas where we may not be as strong.

One of those ‘not so strong’ areas for me is that I am a terrible speller. This can be pretty embarrassing as a Language Arts teacher. Fortunately, I’ve developed tools and strategies that work for me over the years. I know how important it is to ensure things are spelled correctly before pressing send or publish. So I read, and reread my work over and over, even for something as simple as a text. Spellcheck and predictive text have been blessings in disguise for me. I often know when something just doesn’t look right, and so I check dictionaries and definitions to make sure I’m saying just what I want to say.

You can imagine my excitement then, when Mrs. Reichstein, our director of Special  Education, told me that English spelling is not just a guessing game. There are rules and strategies, that if you know them, you almost always can spell a word correctly!

I needed to learn more.

I started working with her one on one last year, and began learning a few new rules that just BLEW MY MIND. I knew these invaluable strategies would be helpful to my students as well.

Last week, she started coming in to teach our class some of these rules, and the energy during her lessons is palpable. There were so many “Aha” moments, and we can’t wait to learn more!

Here are some of the rules we’ve learned so far through investigation:

We learned a few tips to help us as we go…

We’ve started a running record of prefixes and suffixes to help us as we write…

And we’re keeping track of questions we have so that student voice guides each lesson, showing that we own our own learning…

This past week we learned that to make the letter C say |s| it must be followed by an E. But as Mrs. Reichstein tells us, don’t take her word for it! Be investigators! Can you find words that don’t follow this rule? We already thought of “fancy” and “science”. Can you think of any more?

As you make discoveries, please comment below. Or if you have any questions, comment and let us know! We’ll add them to our question board and share our discoveries about why they may break the rule.

September 18

How We BYOD

I can’t believe we’re already into our third week of school and this is my first post. I take it as a good sign that we’re so busy and engaged in class that there hasn’t been any time for an update!

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been documenting our learning!

One new addition to our school policy this year is the soft launch of our Bring Your Own Device initiative for grades 4-8. Understandably so, there has been lots of conversation about what this means in terms of screen time for our students. I thought a good first step would be to show you how we’ve been using the devices in grade 5 to help enhance our learning. Technology is being integrated in meaningful ways, not simply for the sake of using a device. While we may have these devices in our classrooms, they are by no means being used ALL the time, and we are pretty deliberate about what they are used for.

First, we’ve made a few additions to our weekly classroom jobs. This summer I read, Who Owns the Learning by Alan November. In this book, he talks about the Digital Learning Farm, and how by giving student’s jobs within the classroom that are integral to the learning, they will take more ownership of their learning and become meaningful contributors to the class culture. This fit in perfectly with the work I, and a cohort of OJCS teachers did, last year with Silvia Tolisano. This matches our own OJCS North Star that We own our own learningTherefore, three new jobs in our classroom are the researcher, the documenter, and the habit finder. The researcher helps answer our questions in the moment when they come up. I am the first to admit that there is A LOT I don’t know. In our classroom, students are curious and if questions come up we don’t know the answer to…the researcher will find it for us! The documenter captures the learning happening in the room and in the school. They take pictures and videos of important learning. This is great practice for when we launch out Student Blogs (grade 5 students did this last year, if you’d like to read more about it. The habit finder pays special attention to how we are following the 7 habits in our classroom, captures these moments and documents it for us. These will be great examples to share with the whole school at our monthly Rosh Chodesh assemblies.

 

Let’s see what some of our documenters have captured so far!

 

We were introduced to EdPuzzle, a place where we can watch videos and answer questions to check for understanding. These “flipped lessons” will most often be watched at home, but we did a quick lesson in class to make sure everyone knew what to do.

 

 

We also spent some time practicing our Math critical thinking skills by choosing a question to answer, solving it with our partner, and then documenting our thinking process on Flipgrid. We used the video feature and also the new whiteboard feature to create tutorials. By focusing on what we learned and what we found challenging, we’ll be able to use that learning for next time!

 

 

 

 

We also started reading our first class novel, Wonder, by R.J Palacio. We’ve already had some great discussions about friendship, acceptance and kindness. Even though some of us have already read this book before, we know that books are like gifts (simile alert! We also started talking about literary devices 😉). You can find something new each time you open it!

Finally, today students started watching video feedback from me on their first paragraphs. Using Screencastify, I was able to record myself editing the students’ work, offering tips and suggestions for improvements they could make. This personalized feedback allowed students to focus on the specific skills they are working towards, and make any necessary changes at their own pace. Afterward, one student said she couldn’t believe how helpful it was to be able to have the video open in the corner of the screen, while her document was open as well. She was able to pause the video at appropriate times and edit her work as necessary.

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg! It’s so exciting to see how much we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time. It’s clear that this is going to be a great year!

May 13

Grade 5 Book Club!

Last week, each student had a look at various book choices in class, and wrote down three options of books they wanted to read. Today they found out which book they will be reading over the next 4 weeks.

In addition to reading, each student will also have a “job” that will rotate each week:

  • Discussion Director: write down 4 open-ended questions about that week’s reading to discuss with your group
  • Passage Finder: Write down 2 interesting/funny/important passages that you’d like to share with your group
  • Word Wizard: Write down 6 new vocabulary words, their definition, part of speech, and use in a sentence.

All this information is explained in more detail in the package the students received today. They have decided how much needs to be read each week, and they have decided which job they will be responsible for each week. It is important that each student stay on top of their reading and job, as the rest of their group is relying on them! We will be meeting with our groups EVERY MONDAY. So by next week, students will need to have finished their first week of reading and complete their job for the week so they are ready for their group discussion Monday afternoon.

We are in the process of locating audiobooks for all the novels, to help make the reading easier. However, in the meantime, here are some links to YouTube. Although they are not the best, they are better than nothing 🙂

 

Bridge to Terabithia

Rules

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (starts about 1 minute in)

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

I Am David

 

Please let me know if you have any questions!

March 26

What’s new?

We had an incredible visit from playwright, Emil Sher, yesterday. He came to speak to grades 5-8 about turning Hana’s Suitcase into a play. It was captivating, informative and extremely enjoyable to learn from him. In our ongoing effort to develop our media literacy skills, the grade 5 students helped me tweet out about his visit. We had a pleasant surprise this morning when we checked up on the status of the Tweet! Check out my blog post to see what we found, and what we did with the information!

 

Our multiplication and division skills have also been improving! We will be having a test next Tuesday, April 2. Here is a link to the test outline. Today, Mr. Kom also helped us with our study skills. He shared this planner with us, which each student has started to fill out for themselves. Depending on each student’s extra-curricular activities and schedules, their planner will look different. Students are encouraged to practice using whichever tools they feel work best for them. As always, extra practice worksheets will be provided in class, students can take the textbook home, they can practice on Prodigy, and they can explore some of the other suggestions made as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are two videos reviewing the strategies we’ve learned for both multiplication and division.

Multiplication:

Division:

 

March 22

Things to Remember

Happy Friday!

It has been a fun-filled week full of costumes and activities. But that doesn’t mean the learning has stopped!

 

Math

Today the students got their “Adding and Subtracting Decimals” test back. Please sign and return on Monday.

We have continued with our multiplication and division unit. Students have learned a few different strategies for this, and I will be posting a blog with a tutorial on these strategies shortly. In the meantime, you can ask your child to share what they’ve learned so far with you.

In terms of rote multiplication, next week we will be focusing on 3s and 4s. Here are some tricks to help you practice:

3 – Doubles + 1 – when multiplying by 3, multiply the number by 2 and then add one more group. Ex: 4 x 3; 4 x 2 = 8 plus one more 4 = 12. Therefore, 4 x 3 = 12

Here’s a really cool video showing how to skip count by 3s

4 – Double Double – when multiplying by 4, double the number, then double it again. Ex: 6 x 4; 6 x 2 = 12 and 12 x 2 = 24. Therefore, 6 x 4 = 24

You can use the same links from my last post to practice these new facts.

 

Public Speaking

We have started the process of writing our public speaking speeches! We will be breaking this process up into very manageable pieces, and working on it in class. The first step is to just brainstorm a topic. Here is the schedule, where you’ll be able to see all the due dates.

By Monday, students need to fill out the brainstorming sheet and email me with their topic choice. We will continue on from there next week. As always, if you have any questions, please let me know.

 

March 20

Becoming Primary Learners

There has been a lot of buzz around the school on documenting learning. As you may or may not be aware, I am part of a cohort of teachers working with Silvia Tolisano, learning and practicing various methods of documenting our own learning as teachers, and the learning of our students. Dr. Mitzmacher has blogged about our experiences, and shared his goals at the Town Hall at the beginning of the year, for all OJCS students to own their own learning (North Star!) and manage personal student blogfolios.

It has become my goal to share what I’ve been learning with my students, to help them understand what an authentic artifact of learning is, how they can capture their own learning and how they can use documentation OF, FOR and AS learning. 

 

I recently wrote a post on my professional blog about my journey so far. My ultimate goal is for each child in grade 5 this year, to share their learning journey with you – their family and friends. I welcome any and all feedback as we go through this process. Please visit my blog and share your thoughts with me and with your children. I hope you will get as much out of this process as I believe you will, and as I believe your children will!

January 22

WONDERful Acts of Kindness

 

Over the winter holidays, I read a book called, Hacking Homework by Starr Sackstein and Connie Hamilton. If you’ve read Dr. Mitzmacher’s blog, you know that homework is a topic of conversation currently going on in our school as well. One thing that resonated with me from Hacking Homework, is that we should “consider sound alternatives to traditional homework that foster a love of learning in all students and encourage them to learn outside of class, whether you tell them to or not.”

 

I have never been a huge homework-giver, but loved the ideas presented in the book about creating opportunities for students to learn valuable lessons, without necessarily realizing that they are learning. Hack 4 (be flexible with assignments and deadlines), Hack 6 (spark curiosity), Hack 7 (use social media for learning), Hack 8 (amplify student voice), and Hack 9 (team up with families) can all be found in our newest homework assignment: WONDERful Acts of Kindness.

As Summer, a character from our novel study, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, has taught us, what starts as a small act of kindness can ultimately have a very big impact. In the story, Summer started sitting with Auggie at lunch because she felt bad for him, however ended up finding a true friend in the end. Her act had a positive impact in her own life, and it also impacted the way Auggie felt every day when he came to school. On top of that, perhaps other students in the school were able to see Summer’s act of kindness and be influenced to do their own. We really have no idea the magic our simple actions can have on the world

…but we can try…

Today I launched our WONDERful Acts of Kindness challenge (based on an activity by Presto Plans). Each student will be challenged to perform (at least) three acts of kindness. When they have done their act, they will give that person a ‘Pay It Forward’ card, in the hopes that this individual will then perform their own act of kindness, continuing to pass on the card to influence others to do good deeds. This concept of Paying it Forward isn’t new, but here’s where we will try to get a little glimpse into how far our actions can travel. On the back of each ‘Pay It Forward’ card, there will be a link to this blog post, along with some guiding questions the students came up with today:

  1. What city do you live in?
  2. How did you get this card?
  3. What will you do to pass it on?

People who experience one of our acts, or feel the ripple effects, will be asked to share their story on our blog, so we can see just how far it goes!

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. I will be handing the cards out to the students on Friday to get our WONDERful Acts on the move!