Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Tree Inquiry Continues ... and Senses Start!

This week, we went to check on our tree. Our weather up here had a big change - it snowed ... and the snow stayed! The changes in the forest were beautiful.

 Tree Inquiry Observation for Primary Students

As always, students put their observation sheet on a clipboard. We checked the temperature on the Yahoo! weather app and recorded it then off we went!

 Tree Inquiry Observation for Primary Students

I always fill our picnic-type basket up with extra pencils, some erasers, and crayons.

 Tree Inquiry Observation for Primary Students

In their writing and their chatter, I noticed a lot of students thought their tree was dead! Instead of just telling them the trees are dormant, I found a book on the EPIC! app (sign up as an educator and it's free for you forever!). There is a section about seasonal changes in plants. We discussed how going dormant is the plant version of hibernation. Then, we wrote about it using a writing prompt page from my Daily and Seasonal Changes (writing prompts) package.

 Tree Inquiry Observation for Primary Students

We are also loving our senses inquiry. I set out five stations every day and they choose a new one to explore and document.

 My Senses Inquiry

At the smelling table, the mortar and pestle is a big hit. We picked some cedar leaves from the backyard forest. I put the ends of the limes and lemons cut for the tasting table. The oil of oregano is a big hit - so yucky! Today, an educational assistant gave us a peppermint tea bag to try smelling! It was a big hit!

 My Senses Inquiry

For some reason, I never have any extra marshmallows ... hmm.

Happy November!

Miss Laidlaw

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Our Senses

Today, we started learning about our senses. This is part of our Grade 1 Health and Science curriculum as well as the Grade 2 Health (Growth and Development) curricula.

I've been thinking this lends itself to inquiry and hands-on learning for quite awhile. Last year, I simply read a book and maybe did some labelling activities. It was totally boring!

Last night, I made a booklet for my students to record their observations from the provocations I will set out next week. Today, we read a book on the EPIC! app (which is free for educators and has a plethora of amazing books - great for read alouds!). We read "My Senses Help Me" by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company). The publisher has also provided a book for each of the 5 main senses in the free teachers' edition of this app.

 Senses - Primary Unit - Inquiry and Hands-On Learning

Today, students wrote the names of the 5 main senses in their booklet then labelled the sense organs. They're absolutely loving this booklet!

 Senses - Primary Unit - Inquiry - Hands-On Learning

 Senses - Primary Unit - Inquiry - Hands-On Learning

I can't wait to set up these provocations (lists of ideas for which are also included in this product). They're already loving mashing up leaves with my mortar and pestle.

 Senses - Primary Unit - Inquiry - Hands-On Learning

Monday, 29 September 2014

Sound Skills Oral Language Activity - Early Reading and Writing Skills

Today, I practised this Sound Skills activity with my students. It covers:
- sound segmentation
- sound blending
- sound-letter correspondence
- counting phonemes (sounds)

We gather in a circle and one student writes our letters on the whiteboard or SmartBoard. As we progress with our Words Their Way accomplishments, I add blends, digraphs, and long vowel patterns.

Recording it on Audioboo was just an added bonus. My students ask me to plug it into our SmartBoard audio system so they can hear themselves "from the ceiling" (where the speakers are). Adorable!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

My Word Work Program

So, I was talking with my colleagues during our carpool to work today and I'm pretty sure we're going to look at early literacy and word work as our Collaborative Inquiry. After school, I gave a quick tutorial to another colleague about how to score Words Their Way assessments.

I love my word work program and my kids do, too. I've started to create my own resources, too, as well as keeping my traditional manipulatives (word wall, dictionaries, stamps, stickers, foam letters, string, etc.). The kids appreciate the choices when they're assigned this centre.

Today, I tried out my new resource. Students read the words at the top and graph how frequently they find them. They loved it! It was a good way to introduce Data Management concepts, too.

 Read and Graph Pre-Primer Dolch Sight Words

All of my students are currently at the Dolch Pre-Primer level. I will be creating adapted resources for the other levels shortly - and for Words Their Way groupings, too.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Centres Organization

I've been asked this many times: "How do you manage your centres?"

I first started The Daily 5 three years ago in a Grade 5 LTO (long-term occasional assignment covering a maternity leave). I let the students pick freely - checking in with a clothespin clipped to a chart. It didn't work; students chose the same thing all the time, spent forever choosing, chose what their friends chose, and we spent more time handing out the clothespins and clipping them on the chart than I'd like.

Then I moved to Grades 1/2. I used old library pockets labelled with the centres which were stapled stapled to a bulletin board with popsicle sticks labelled with students' names. It was OK but I had the same problems. Plus, we kept losing or breaking the popsicle sticks!

Now, I made a table with four quadrants. I divided the class into four groups. I did not divide them by age, ability, or any other data! There are a few reasons for this:
  1. to separate behavioural students
  2. availability of resources (I don't have to make 5 copies of the Words Their Way, Sound Skills, or Dolch activity for the Word Work station as there will likely be several different levels of ability in the group.)
  3. so higher-level students can assist lower-level students if needed (as I will be busy with reading conferences)
  4. each group will have roughly the same level of overall independence

I LOVE this because it's small and doesn't take up a lot of wall space. It's not huge, colourful, and clunky. It's not distracting. It's small and purposeful and not overpowering. It's simple and low-prep and low-maintenance.

* I don't do "Read to Someone" regularly as it's too loud at the moment and I like to introduce it later on in the year when they're a bit more mature and can regulate their voices better (and have some read-the-words ability).

Last year, I had the same chart in my room and I used Post-It notes with the centre titles on them and moved them around each centre change. It worked well but Post-Its lose their stickiness. This year, I've labelled coloured popsicle sticks and affixed self-adhesive velcro from the craft section of Dollarama.

When it's time to change the centres, we will reconvene on the carpet and I will assign the new centres. This way, I can ensure each child is practising each skill.

I use the same chart for my BUILD Math centres. I have different popsicle sticks with the BUILD Math centres (Buddy Games, Using Manipulatives, Independent/Interactive Math, Learning Numbers, Doing Math). During our Math block, we just switch-up the sticks we're using! They're all stored neatly in a magnetic locker organizer nearby.

How do I get my guided groups, then?

My groups change all the time based on need and because students are learning and making gains at different paces - plus because of absences, SST (student support teacher) help, et cetera.

Before assigning the groups, I simply announce: "____, I need to have a reading meeting with you. Please meet me at the guided reading table - bring _[any supplies needed]_."

Sometimes, I meet with one student to work on a specific skill - or because of attention difficulties when working in groups - or to complete a reading level assessment with them. Sometimes, it's a group to have a guided reading session.

I hope this helps! How do you organize your centres?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Our Tree Inquiry Began!

We started our day with a morning meeting then went outside to begin our Tree Inquiry. Each student had a clipboard, pencil, and a wooden clothespin with their name on it (to clip onto the tree so they can remember which one is theirs). I took a wooden basket of extra supplies and erasers - thank goodness!

We're fortunate to have a wonderful natural space for our yard. We have several ponds (with frogs), a tree nursery, and a forested area with trails!

The students loved picking a tree, sitting down, and drawing it. When we got back into the classroom, they coloured it and wrote an "I noticed" sentence. We opened the Yahoo! Weather app and checked the temperature; we discussed what measuring temperature means and what the little degrees symbol means.

 Tree Inquiry and Observation Kit for Primary Learners

They've already asked when our next nature walk is!

My Tree Inquiry Kit is regularly $2.25 on Teachers Pay Teachers. It's on sale for 20% off today and tomorrow (September 15 and 16) - $1.80!

 Tree Inquiry Kit for Primary Learners

Also THIS happened over the weekend! I'm probably more excited than the kids because it's the first time I've ever seen a cocoon! My students asked to use the Zoomy handheld microscope and make a video ... probably because they wanted to choose the music again! Can you tell they were excited?

Have a great week!

~ Amy

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Activating Prior Knowledge and Inferring in Science

Today, I played the YouTube video we posted of our Monarch caterpillars eating milkweed (using our Zoomy handheld microscope). I urged my students to look closely and draw what they see - using detail! It was awesome to see them looking so closely ... and all the while saying "I wonder" statements aloud and trying to answer, using their schema, others' questions.

I See, I Know, I Think, I Wonder - Looking Closely and Inferencing

Tomorrow, they will complete the "I think," "I know," and "I wonder" boxes. I'm excited to see what they write and draw!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Zoomy Microscopes and Monarch Caterpillars

I'm really excited about this purchase. The kids asked to use it again today. My only regret is not being super-rich and being able to buy one for each student when we have the computers or netbooks.

Here's the video we shot yesterday of our caterpillar going to town on the milkweed we found in our playground:

Monday, 8 September 2014

Monarch Caterpillar Study!

I'm trying it! I finally found somebody who has a connection to get Monarch caterpillars. I've never actually even seen one before last Friday (when I got mine).

To go along with our study, I created a Differentiated Monarch Caterpillar and Butterfly Inquiry Package. I teach Grades 1 and 2 and have a lot of beginning readers and writers, so it's very differentiated and is geared toward the early Primary learner.

 Differentiated Monarch Caterpillar and Butterfly Inquiry Study for Primary Learners

This weekend, I went to Mastermind Toys and picked up the Zoomy Handheld Digital Microscope. It was $59.95, so it made me a bit nervous. However, I'm so happy I bought it! It connects to my computer via USB and therefore, projects onto the SmartBoard. We were able to see a closer view of our caterpillar as it munched away on milkweed leaves. We can even take videos and pictures of it.

This morning, we decided to go on a milkweed hunt. I told the students our caterpillars only eat that kind of plant and the leaves we had left with it over the weekend were probably drying up quickly. We are lucky to be in the country and have a lot of "wild" around us. I explained to my students that weeds like a lot of sun, so they went running to the sunniest part of the playground - and sure enough, they found tons of milkweed!

 Students going on a milkweed hunt to feed Monarch caterpillars.

We completed the "K" part of our KWL chart. In my package, I made each section an entire page. Students at this age don't know they have to wait until later to fill out the "L" section and often have troubles fitting their large letters (and pictures) into tiny columns. I really appreciated this decision today as my students had no worries when filling out their ideas!

 What do you KNOW about Monarch caterpillars? KWL Chart for Primary learners.

Later, we wrote an observation entry about what our caterpillars did. We began by making a list of what we noticed about our caterpillars. Surprise! Guess what almost all of my students chose to write (and draw) about ... pooping!

 Monarch Caterpillar Inquiry - Observation Sheet

One Grade 1 student said "I wonder if the butterflies are poisonous too because the caterpillars are poisonous." What a great inquiry and it's exactly the kind of language and thinking I want to encourage with my students this year! I didn't tell her the answer - but I'm picking up some books from our local library this evening instead!

The package is available on my TPT store for $3. As I add to it as needed, the updates will be available free of charge. Similarly, if there is something you want to see in it, please contact me or leave a comment!

Take care.

Miss Laidlaw

Friday, 29 August 2014

Learning Goal Headers

 Learning Goal Headers - write your "I will" statements beside them. You can also print them multiple pages per sheet then affix a magnet and use them as your schedule cards!

I finally finished my classroom set-up. Beside my SmartBoard, I've set up my Learning Goal board. This is where I'll write our "I will" statements (as per Ontario's Growing Success document). Now, I just need to find more of that hand-me-down laminated blue printing paper! (Green and blue are our school colours.)

 Learning Goal Headers

Grab them for $1.00 - and everything is on SALE in my store until this Sunday (inclusive) for 10% off!


Thursday, 28 August 2014

It's the final countdown!

So, a lot of people have been asking me about my classroom organization, activities, behaviour management, et cetera, lately. I figured the easiest thing would be to create a blog to share ideas and pictures of what's going on in my classroom. I also recently became a TPT seller, which is pretty addictive!

This year, I'm going with a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach to decorating and I'd like to incorporate some of the teaching and learning philosophies, too. I've ditched my bright primary colours for earthy tones and textures. Everyone who comes into my room says it's very zen-like and calming! I must be on the right path.

I'm in a new school. It opened up in January and its classrooms are quite small. I have an entire wall that's a window (awesome!) and a SmartBoard. Two walls are covered in whiteboards and the other is shelving and a corkboard.

This year, I am trying an interactive word wall. Instead of having an overwhelming number of words displayed (not good for any student - especially with literacy or attention issues!), I've hole-punched them and put them on a shower curtain ring! Students will go to the wall, remove the ring, and find their word.

Natural-themed wicker Word Wall letters (and digraphs) to go with your Reggio Emilia-inspired room.

My words are colour-coded. I use Dolch sight words. The yellow ones in the picture are Pre-Primer words. Students working at this level during Word Work will be in "The Yellow Group." These words can be found on my store HERE for just 75 cents (available in a variety of colours)! My Primer words are blue; students working at this level are in "The Blue Group."

I've rethought putting the shower clips under the headings and I've put them beside. Underneath, I can put content subjects' vocabulary - such as my Grade 1 Social Studies Word Wall Words.

 Reading Strategies Menu - compatible with CAFE, FACE, and CRAFT -

My guided reading table is by the door. I like it there because I can monitor who goes in and who leaves the classroom - and I'm there in case of a fire drill or emergency. My Reading Strategies Menu is located behind my guided reading desk so I can refer to it when conferencing with students.

 Frog-Themed Performance Wall -

My performance wall is a frog theme this year. Usually, I use Pikachu's evolution - but it didn't fit in well with the natural look and my little Pokemon needed some serious reprinting. I decided to go with a frog theme instead.

Here are a few more photos of my room:

What part of your room are you most excited about?

~ Amy

PS - I figured out how to make the photos pin-able on Pinterest! I've also hyperlinked them to the product in my store.