Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Channeling Kandinsky

So, some art projects come about because they are a natural fit with something we are currently studying. Others (like the one I am sharing today) come about because I have too much stuff!!!!

My student teacher had a bunch of left over felt from a project she did during one of her Social Studies units. Then I got another donation of fabrics from the quilting ladies at a local church. Fabric overload!!!!

So, I decided to do a textile art project. A very, very simple art project that was inspired by my love of all things Kandinsky and, especially, his use of circles.

The inspiration:

The project in process:

The finished project:

They look so pretty and a spot of colour to our windows. I love how they sway in the breeze when I open the windows. Such a simple project. I love it!!!



Sunday, March 29, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Chapter 7: Manipulatives, Experiments, Labs & Models


It is time for Chapter 7 of the book study. I'm linking up today with Deanna Jump to talk about the use of manipulatives, experiments, labs & models. 

Using manipulatives in math is as familiar as breathing for me. We do tons of things with them. From explorations at the start of the year...

To using them to play math games...

To using them to create questions for worksheets...like Domino Addition (wish I had a photo!) where they pull a domino to created the question to complete. 

I use manipulatives a lot in math and I am very comfortable doing so. I wouldn't teach math any other way. Besides the benefits to using manipulatives, doing strictly pencil and paper work would be way too b.o.r.i.n.g!!!!

But, I have to be honest here. I do not do nearly enough of the other parts of this stragtegy. I do not comfortably lean towards the experiments, labs and models part of this strategy. The subject that should naturally lead to these strategies is science and, I have got to say that, science is not my forte. Plus, when it comes to our Science curriculum, it seems that some units lend themselves more to experiments than others. 

For example, we are currently studying the seasons. I am sure that there are some experiments I could come up with but I don't know what they are! We will be integrating art into this unit and I suppose I could try to have them create a model. But, to be honest, it would be a huge stretch for me to figure out how to do that and, with time constraints already on me to complete the unit, it probably won't happen. Who am I kidding? It won't happen!!!!

Whereas, our last unit on Force & Motion just naturally lent itself to doing experiments. I wish I had some photos to show you but we did all sorts of ramps and made things slide down them. We added friction to see what would happen. We made predictions and then, after the experiments, we observed what happened. I wished I had gotten more photos but I was too busy running around trying to help 48 students do experiments at one time. Yep! I was teaching both classes AT THE SAME TIME!!! (Note to self: never try to do that unit with 48 kids at the same time again!!!!!)

So, I definitely have room for improvement in this strategy. I'll keep you posted if I try something new and let you know how it goes!



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Chapter 6


I am behind again on these chapter studies! No excuse except that I'm on Spring Break and sleeping and reading (non school related books!) take precedence right now!!! For this chapter I am linking up with One Extra Degree to talk about Humour. Hmmm....

I'm not really sure how funny I am but I do like to have fun with the kids and we can get pretty silly sometimes! It helps that I have a teaching partner next door who is off the Richter scale for being silly and out there. She helps to bring out the silly in me!

Here's my thinking on this one...

I do love me a funny story! (And yes, Mum, I know my English was incorrect there!) There is just something about a really funny story that brings a group together. My new favourite is this one:

I picked it out when I was shopping with the teacher next door. She bought it and I can't wait to read it to my class. I heard and saw her reading it to her kids right before the break and, I kid you not, I thought the kids were going to pee themselves they were laughing so hard!!!!

Probably the place I inject humour and silliness the most is when using my own life as the topic for writing. I model writing for the kids by writing about little snippets of my life. Whether it is about my poor dear husband lying on the bed and right into a pile of doggie throw up (amazing how the grosser it is, the funnier the kids think it is!) to my dog doing hand stands every time he pees. My hubby and dog are the main sources of entertainment in my stories. Though I do sometimes put in things about my own childhood that the kids find pretty weird or silly. I find that sharing parts of myself makes a huge difference in the relationships I build with the students. 

I must admit that when I first started teaching I didn't really do this. I think it is something that comes with experience and practice. As a beginning teacher, I wanted to keep them on task and behaving as much as possible. Getting them all amped up and silly by telling a story would have made me worried about getting them back on task afterwards. Now, I am confident enough in my teaching and routines to be able to loosen up and show the kids that learning can be silly and fun as well as serious.

One of the best things about our new school is it has wide open spaces. These spaces just scream out for cartwheels! Last year, all three of the teachers in my community had a cartwheel competition in front of all 76 students. I am happy to say that I can still rock a cartwheel! I was doing them in my classroom (yes, you heard me right!) just before the break. And then, of course, the kids wanted to show me their cartwheels so we had a little impromptu cartwheel time during Choosing. So much fun!

One thing I dearly, dearly want to start using in my classroom is Go Noodle. 

I signed up ages ago but just haven't made using it a habit in our classroom. Luckily, I am currently reading Gretchen Rubin's new book Better Than Before and it is all about habits!!!! Maybe I'll be able to make Go Noodle a habit after I finish reading about how to make habits stick! Click on my quirky character up above to go to Go Noodle. It is filled with tons and tons of Brain Breaks! I will be using it this coming term. I want to set up some sort of timer to go off every 20 minutes or so for a Brain Break time. I think the class will love it!

I also like the suggestion in the chapter about using the "class clown." Kind of a "don't fight them, join them" philosophy. I have a couple of kids who can be disruptive at times. Maybe if I give them the task of bringing a joke to school and giving their silliness a focus it will help. Can't hurt to try, huh?

And, that is pretty much it for me on this chapter. I'm off to read some more non-school related books and, maybe, take a nap, too!



Monday, March 16, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Chapter 5

I am linking up with Michelle over at  Fabulous in First for Chapter 5 of the book study on Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate. 

The strategy discussed in this chapter is on using graphic organizers,semantic maps and word webs with students. To be honest, this chapter is one where I really need to step up my game!

I do use graphic organizers in my teaching but, must admit, this year I haven't used them as often. It really feels like there has been a lot this year that I never got to or didn't do the way I would have done it in past years. The only thing I can think is that with the year starting with us missing over 3 weeks of school (darn strike!!!) I kind of started off already feeling behind. Plus, I had a student teacher for 3 weeks in first term and ALL 12 weeks of second term. A lot of my old standbys have been set aside so far this year.

Here's my thinking...

The good thing is that I have my class back to myself when school starts next week and I can hardly wait! Don't get me wrong...I loved my student teacher (she totally rocks and we are all going to miss her a lot!) and she brought many great ideas to the classroom. I learned a lot from her and plan to incorporate some of her class management and drama ideas into my teaching. 

Yet, there is something about having the kids back to myself that gets me excited. I have been planning new units since February and am looking forward to teaching them. Plus, I am psyched to get Daily 5 going again with even higher expectations for the kids this term. After reading Chapter 5, I am also going to introduce more graphic organizers to our learning. The next three months are going to be awesome!



Thursday, March 12, 2015

Gallery Walk Part 2

Here are the other half of the wonderful art pieces my lovelies did at the Art Gallery last month. Better late than never, I suppose!!!

"I like squares because I like squares."

"I like it because I painted a Canada flag."

The Scrape of Storm
"I named it The Scrape of Storm because I used the comb and scraped it and for the storm part I did lots of black. Altogether it looked like a storm."

"I named the painting Diamond because I like diamonds."

"I named my art Fish because it looks like a fish."

Undersea Storm
"I think it looks like underwater."

The Tornadoes
"I called it Tornadoes because I see a tornado."

The 2 4 6 8 Line
"I wrote The 2 4 6 8 Line because I like lines and numbers."

Line + Diamond + Circle 
( The artist used the symbols for the shapes not words but I can't get my computer to do it properly. Sorry!)
"I like my painting."

The Big Dude
"I called it that because it looks sort of like a dude."

The Fiery Land of Doom
"It looks really dark and really doomy and fiery."

And one last one that, unfortunately, does not have an Artist's Statement to accompany it as this lovely went on a vacation right after the field trip.

So, there you have it! All of the masterpieces created by my lovelies on our wonderful field trip to the VAG. If you haven't been, you need to go and check it out! Especially right now over Spring Break...they have daily programing that is free for children 12 and under. So, what are you waiting for? Check it out already!!!!

WFP - Spring Break 2015
Click on the picture to go to the Family Activities page at the VAG!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapter 4 Games


"You don't stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing."

This quote at the beginning of Chapter 4 in our book study hits the nail right on the head for me. I have used games in my classroom for as long as I can remember. They play in structured games during Math and Daily 5. They also play in games of their own making in Choosing Time. I don't think I could enjoy teaching without games in my classroom.

Here's my thinking on this strategy...

Games are a wonderful way to add to our learning. They are fun. They let us play with friends. They help us to learn many social expectations (taking turns, sharing etc) and they help us practice and refine our understanding of concepts. What's not to love?!?!

Math games are one of my Must Do's during math rotations. They play a number of different card games (i.e.Addition War) and also games like BUMP, Snakes and Ladders and a bunch of games I have purchased from Scholastic over the years. One of the best things about games is that I can easily modify them for different students. For example, when playing BUMP the kids can choose between using two dice or three. The more dice, the higher number they have to add. They can self monitor and work at a level that feels right to them. I have found that math games are the perfect way to reinforce and practice the math facts that we do during seat work activities. The kids are practicing without realizing it; they just think they are playing a game!!!

I use games as well during my Daily 5 time. I haven't put out as many this year (to be honest, I don't know where they all are as I didn't get to clean up my classroom last year what with the strike and all...) One that has been super successful has been Go Fish with ABC's. I pulled it out when I got a student in my class who spoke no English. I played with him every day for a week or so. Then I taught some other students how to play. He loved it AND he has learned most of his letters as a result! And the other students love to be able to be the "teacher" for a little while. Win win!!!!

In addition to the organized game playing that I do during Math Rotations and Daily 5, I also encourage game playing during Choosing Time (aka Centres). Sometimes students choose to play games that they know like Chess or UNO. Other times they engage in creative game playing making up their own rules. I feel that this time is invaluable. I have had adults ask me why I let the students have Choosing Time. Some have basically told me that Choosing Time does not have a place in a grade 1/2 classroom. To them, I say that I emphatically disagree and, after reading this chapter, I will give them the quote above that I love so much.



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Book Study: Chapter 3 Field Trips


Oops! I am falling behind on this book study! My only excuse is that Spring Break started and I have been sleeping and reading for the past 3 days!!!!

So, I'm going to try to catch up today.

Chapter 3 is on field trips.  I love the opening line in this chapter where the author says that "[t]he purpose of the brain is not to make good grades or to score high on standardized tests." Can I get a hallelujah?!?!

Here is my thinking about how I am doing with field trips...

I've gotta be honest here, field trips are not my most favourite thing to do. The amount of extra work that goes into the booking, planning and organizing of a field trip is something I tend to avoid. I am definitely not going to ever win the title of Queen of Paperwork!

Also, I have to feel that there is a solid educational purpose behind the field trip. I don't really believe in going on a field trip just because. It has to be something worthwhile and it has to fit with our curriculum goals. 

I once worked at a school where students had never left their community. I mean, quite literally, ever. They were 5 years old and had never been out of the ten block radius around their homes. They lived in a large city with museums, art galleries, gardens, the ocean and an aquarium, a planetarium, Science World.... You get the idea! 

When I worked there, going on field trips had a larger significance than just extending curriculum learning. We were providing them with life experiences that they would not have otherwise. At that school, we went on at least two field trips per term. (Oh, and a bonus was that I never booked any of the trips...they were all organized by our Resource teacher. I just had to show up. Yay!) 

For the last 9 years I have been at a school where many of the students have family passes to places like the aquarium and Science World. Many families routinely go skiing for the weekend or on vacation to Hawaii on Spring Break. The families provide their children with many rich life experiences and, I have to admit, the feeling that I need to provide them with lots of field trips isn't really there the same way as it was at my old school. Plus, it is hard to find places that they haven't all been already!!!!

However, that said, I know that there is room for improvement. 

This year we went on a fantastic field trip to the Art Gallery where we got to see some works by Emily Carr and Landon Mackenzie and do a workshop (Having a hands on workshop is key. Especially if we are going somewhere many of them have been before with family. The workshop provides a change to their previous experiences.) If I had been more on the ball, I could've booked us in to go again to see the Cezanne exhibit this coming term. Next year I am going to book in August so that I can take advantage of their 3 field trip special (each time you go, you pay less!)

We also have a fantastic outdoor classroom and garden at our new school and I do not use either nearly enough. I've participated in the Earthbites program along with the rest of the school but that's about it. I know it is a wonderful teaching space and I am determined to use it more. I am going to try to teach a lesson out there at least three times before the end of this year. 

Both of these photos are of last year's class working on planting potatoes and herbs.
Can't find any of this year's group for some reason!

So, while I know that there is value in field trips, I also know that I tend to avoid them if possible. If I could just have a private secretary to take care of all the paperwork etc then maybe I'd go on more! I have to say that, this chapter has definitely left me with some thinking to do...



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Chapter 2


So, the other day, I wrote about Chapter 1 of this book. The book study is being hosted by a series of different bloggers. Chapters 1 & 2 are being hosted by Elizabeth over at Kickin' It In Kindergarten. Thanks, Elizabeth! Here is Chapter 2! I just didn't have time to do them together in one post! 

The book study is on the book Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate and is all about best practice strategies for learning. It is set up so that each chapter addresses a different strategy for creating optimal brain involvement during instruction. It is a very easy read with some great ideas for putting the strategies into practice right away. I love that! 

I have to say that this chapter was my chapter!!! It speaks right to my heart and my belief in teaching an Arts integrated curriculum. I just wish that the suits in charge would realize that cutting the Arts is not the way to balance a budget! 

I know that I have been a doodler forever. Any lecture, meeting, seminar, you name it, where I have to sit and listen will result in a bunch of notes with doodles along the side. Doodling helps me listen and process what is being said. There was a time when my doodling was a problem for some teachers. They thought I wasn't paying attention to their lessons. They were wrong. 

Science has now shown us that there are a lot of different ways that people learn. For me, doodling is one of them. I know that there are kids out there that learn just the same way. Using drawing and artwork in the classroom provides opportunities for kids to put their thoughts into pictures. This can potentially open up learning to students. 

So, here is my thinking after reading Chapter 2...

I think a lot of teachers shy away from using drawing and artwork in the classroom because they do not feel that they are very good at it themselves. Well, let me be the first to say that I am not a great artist by any stretch of the imagination. I can draw passable pictures if I have an image to use for shape etc. I have never taken any formal art lessons at all. I just love being creative. And, I can tell you from experience, that kids are very forgiving. They praise my attempts (even when the dog looks more like a rabid coyote!) I am the Queen of Directed Drawing!

So, I would say to all teachers out there to give it a try even especially if you think you can't do it very well. In my opinion, it is just as important for my lovelies to see me trying to do something that I am not really good at as it is for them to do it themselves. 

Draw Write Now, Book 1

I use the series of Draw Write Now books A LOT (farm book is one of 8 in the series) and would highly recommend them. You can find them here. Also, Usborne has some really good ones, too. Like this one here...

Drawing animals

So, what are you waiting for? Pick up a felt (preferably a yummy smelling one!) and go for it!

I feel pretty good about my use of this strategy already. There is, of course, always room for improvement but, overall, I am pretty confident about my ability to use this strategy. 



Monday, March 2, 2015


Hey everyone! I am linking up with Farley over at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for this month's Currently.

Here goes!

listening...I have recently discovered the a cappella group, Home Free. Apparently they were the winners on some tv show called The Sing Off (that I have never heard of!) Anywho, I love them! My favourite song is a tie between Any Way the Wind Blows and Everything Will Be Okay. Check them out...

And....to make it even better...they are coming here to my hometown!!! This month!!!! And...my hubby got us VIP tickets! Woot! Woot!

loving...it was just a really, really great weekend. Enough sleep. Enough time to read. Some art time with my friend, Carol. A show with singing/dancing/acting starring my friend's daughter and a bunch of kids from my school. BBC on the tv. Time to blog. Time with hubby. Just a great weekend overall.

thinking...it has gotten a bit crisp out there again. I think that old adage about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb is going to hold true this year. But, I am soooo ready to pull out my clothing tubs and pull out my Spring clothes. Which, of course, means putting away the winter stuff. Yay! I love doing this each year because I always forget what I own and unpacking the tubs is kind of like shopping without spending any money or leaving the house! I am going to wait until Spring Break and then all bets are off. I am unpacking!!!!

wanting...I got a text from my good egg today telling me that she has been throwing up and is running a fever. This is the WORST part of her being at university 3,000 kilometres away from home! I just want to be there to make her some tea and take care of her. I remember being sick when I was on my own at uni and it sucked...BIGTIME! 

needing...I don't want to have to do much school work over my Spring Break, so I need to finish the Seasons unit I have been working on to teach the grade 1's. And, I need to think about math as well. Plus, art and writing and.... Well, you get the idea. Since I have had a student teacher for 6 weeks, I am further ahead than I normally would be but I still would like as much done before the break as possible.

Spring Break plans...well, reading, of course. And sleeping in. I think those pretty much go without saying!!! I want to spend some time working on our place - cleaning out cupboards, getting rid of clutter etc. And I'd like to put some time into cleaning up my good egg's room. Since she's been at uni, it has become a bit of a dumping zone. (Sorry kiddo!) Some yoga, swimming and gym visits are on the agenda, too. Hubby and I will probably spend some time thrift store surfing (one of our most favourite things to do and a serious contributor to the clutter!) and, of course, I'll be going to hear Home Free in person!!!! Our 19th wedding anniversary is also over the Spring Break so I think we'll go out for dinner or something. It's all going to be pretty low key. No big plans at all. 

So, there you go. Another Currently completed. Now head on over to Farley's and see what everyone else is up to!



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Chapter 1

So, I decided to take part in an online book study reading, discussing and putting into practice the ideas in the book Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate.


I decided to do this for a few reasons:

1) I have pretty much been out of the classroom for 6 weeks as I've had a student teacher doing 80% of the teaching. She leaves next week and this book study came along at just the right time to get me fired up for teaching again.

2) I always have more to learn! After perusing the book, which arrived one day before the official start date of the book study (thanks Amazon!), I realize that I am doing some of the strategies but I know that there is always room for improvement. 

3) The book study is being hosted by some of my favourite bloggers. I admire the work they do and hope to learn more by linking up with them.

4) It looked like fun!

So, Chapter 1 is about the strategy Brainstorming and Discussion. Elizabeth over at Kickin' It In Kindergarten kindly shared a graphic organizer to organize our thinking as we do the book study. Here are my thoughts:

I feel like I am doing a lot around brainstorming and discussion in whole group situations but there is definitely room for improvement in the small group or 1-1 area. I plan to add more of this when I am back to teaching full-time after Spring Break. 

I love the Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) strategies in general and have had great success using both the "class, class, class" and mirror strategies. I want to spend some time training the class in the "OK Teach" strategy. 

We will be doing the Second Step program after Spring Break and I think that more partner talk will deepen their learning. What better way to teach social and emotional learning than through real interactions with others?

Also, I really like the idea of  schema charts rather than K/W/L charts. I saw these over on Deanna Jump's blog post for this book study. Just click on the link above and it'll take you there! A traditional K/W/L chart gets the students to tell what they Know about a topic, then say what they Wonder about the topic and, finally, to reflect on what they have Learned about the topic. While I have never had problems doing the K and L parts of the K/W/L, it seems like we never manage to cover all of the W's that come up. I have never felt like the kids, or myself for that matter, really click with the K/W/L charts. They have always just felt like a hoop to jump through. You know, that thing they told you in Teacher's College that you have to do at the start of every new unit. 

I feel like the schema chart just fits me better somehow. And I know from experience that if I am invested in something then that comes across to the students and they become invested too. I like that a schema chart asks students what they already know, what new learning they acquire through the unit and what misconceptions they held. I also like that the language (using the word schema) ties in so nicely with the teaching I have already done around reading. And I love the way Deanna Jump does them using colour coded post-it notes (the colour coding makes my heart go pitter-patter!) I am going to use this for my Grade 1 science unit on Seasons in second term. Thanks for the great idea, Deanna!

I will post about Chapter 2 later in a separate blog post. It is on the strategy of using drawing and artwork. One of my favourite things to do!!!!