Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The ABC's of Art

Using art in the classroom will surprise and excite you in what your students are able to accomplish and surprise you in how creative and original they can be.
I have had probably my most artistic class in my second year in Grade Four and I'm very impressed that my grade room teaching career will end (at this point) with this very artistic and creative class.
The biggest thing that has helped me plan lessons for examples of the principles and elements was the website called the ABC's of Art from (
Check out their different posters that really helped my students to understand what we asked of them.


Monday, April 28, 2014

When Art, Technology, & Classrooms Come Together

This year our class has been very fortunate to have participated in many different activities that have spanned many different facets outside the classroom.

Our latest endeavour is being part of Jennifer Wagner's (@jenwagner) Picture It! 2014.  This is the second project by Jen that our class has taken part off (we earlier stacked Oreo Cookies as part of the O.R.E.O. Project 2014) and it is a very interesting project.

It works as each class involved is separated into groups, with 24 classrooms involved in a group.  A picture is decided upon - this year's picture is Van Gogh's Starry Night.  Each classroom needs to colour a section of that picture and mail it to the other 23 schools participating.

Our classroom has been busy colouring section three of our group's rendition of Starry Night and the kids have used alot of their creativity.

In addition to colouring, each school sends along an All About Us brochure telling the schools involved about their class, including how many students, what they learn, and interesting things about the school, and most importantly where they are from.

My kids have been very interested in where each of these schools are and what they do.  Each time we get a picture (to this point we have received four), we post it up on our board and paste the parts together.  Each time we get a piece of the picture, the kids want to know who coloured it and if they are Grade Four or not.

They are even so amazed if it's coloured by a Grade Six (to which point they go, I can colour better than a Grade Six, ahaha!)

This project not only shows the impact of art, but also of technology and classroom integration.  It incoroporates colour, line, shape, and texture in art and also the idea that the world is much bigger than just our classrooms.

My students have been amazed by it and are really waiting in anticipation for the school in our group from New Zealand to send their picture! (especially since there are only three schools in our group not from the United States - including us).

A big thank you to Jen for her hard work organizing such an enormous undertaking and making it fun!  Make sure to visit her website, to find out more about her yearly projects!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The More Things Change, The More Things Shouldn't Stay the Same

Is it April already?!

Two and a half or so months left with our munchkins!

Spring Break was very well placed this year, but it gave me a refreshed outlook on my teaching.

This year, my second year of teaching, has really shown me how much preparation, planning, and then how to put into effect our lessons with proper supports in-class needs to go into our days.  We NEED to make sure things change, not stay stale, push the envelope and make our lessons more engaging and activating for our students.

Some teachers you can see have hit a wall and no amount of summer vacation, Spring Break, or Christmas vacation can refresh their outlook on how and what they teach.

It's sad because the kids are the ones who will suffer.

So the more things change, the more things shouldn't stay the same.

Meaning, our kids will file past our classroom door and then leave for the next year, but we want to make sure that each one learned something valuable.

I am a big believer in memorization and repitition in engraining information for my students.  That's why I continually have our Multiplication Table up on the wall.  It helps the kids to find the answers and eventually I have seen students not use it to solve questions. 

More practice/repetition/memorization = better retention (not all the time though).

We need to make sure we are fresh, engaging, and fun.

Because that's what teaching is all about.

And believe me, kids remember the teachers who make lessons engaging and FUN (I know I do)!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Who Listens in Class Anyways?

Yesterday, I did a small exercise with my class having to do with listening and reading instructions.

My kids are notorious for not putting their name or date on papers, even though there's a sign in front of the in-bin asking if they have.

My kids are also notorious for coming to me stating they don't understand a question without reading it at least once, luckily they may have even read it once!  I always stress they should read a question at least two-three times before they ask for help!

So, here's a template of the first Pop Quiz I gave them yesterday.
Now, the fact that my kids enjoyed this pop quiz so much obviously was attributed to the fact that alot of the instructions on this pop quiz were silly or goofy (you need to have fun learning) shows me that they may not have gotten the real reason of the quiz.
I had to sit down with them afterwards before the final bell rang to discuss with them the meaning of the quiz. 
It was not for them to have extra time to fool around and read - it was to test HOW WELL THEY LISTEN and READ INSTRUCTIONS.
A pre-cursor to this quiz above was that when the come to #5 the third time, they skip it.  I gave them oral instructions beforehand explaining this, even writing it on the board.
Some of my kids asked me what the consquences were, I put their name on the board.  Some looked at me as I wandered around the classroom, I also put their names on the board.  Some laughed, their names went on the board.  At the end of the day, those who continually asked what the serious consequences were were not listening to instruction and I wasn't surprised by who those students were.
I gave each of those kids who kept asking a strike for everytime they asked, so they stopped asking very quickly.
I will definitely do this again, but keeping in mind I am doing it because there are those kids in my classroom who do not read or follow instructions consistently.  I knew right away who the ones were that could follow instructions and they did every single one perfectly.
Try this in your class, see what you might find!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Learning Persevering & Discipline in Grade Four

It is once again report card season and while I started earlier than most of my colleagues (and finished in time to use our "Report Card Writing PD Day" to plan and prep lessons), it is still a very busy time in the year with under four months to go until summer holidays.

The biggest project we have on the go right now is on a famous Canadian who has shown the characteristics of Perseverance and Discipline.

Each of my students drew a name out of a hat and we discussed each of their famous Canadians.  I gave them some background on their Canadian so they went into researching their person knowing what to expect.

There was a long range: Terry Fox, Mario Lemieux, Maurice Richard, Rick Hansen, Alexander Graham Bell, Chris Hadfield, Roberta Bondar, Dr. Frederick Banting, Shania Twain, Timothy Eaton, Wayne Gretzky, and Dr. David Suzuki to name a few.

Of course, everyone's first thought when I introduced this research project was Terry Fox and rightly so.  We already ran the annual Terry Fox Run back in September and watch the ESPN documentary "Into the Wind" as I do every year with my kids.  I know I always get extremely emotional watching it every year so I'm hoping the kids really take to heart how important it is to have perseverance and discipline to get somewhere in life.

Some of their Canadians they have to research maybe had things come a little easier than others, but the entire project is focused on how if you work hard and are determined, you can do great things.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Texture Landscapes: Using Texture, Lines, Colous, & Shapes

I was absolutley floored at how creative my kids can be, even six months into the school year!

Even our principal came by and remarked on how well some of my students did on their artwork.  Learning about the Elements and Principles of Design this year has been a much smoother process, in which I have included Powerpoint presentations to show the kids what they can possibly make and give them that little extra inspiration if they have none.

For the Texture Landscapes, you need:
- cardstock
- black construction paper (for background)
- glue
- black fine tip felt pen or fine tipped Sharpie
- pencils
- pencil crayons, crayons, or markers
- creativity

Step 1: Sketch out your landscape, including mountains, sky, sun or moon, clouds, river or lake, hills, tree, grass, and dirt with pencil.

Step 2: Trace over your pencil drawing with a fine tip black felt pen or fine tipped Sharpie.

Step 3: Pick a different colour for every part of your artwork.  Every part must also include different shapes and lines to define how they look - whether rough, smooth, jagged, or soft.  Show texture through your shapes and lines.

Step 4: Make sure there is no white space if you can help it.  Fill your space (another element of design) up a completely as you can.



Step 7: Display your artwork for all to see!

Teaching How to be Good Citizens in Today's Society

I find it very hard to understand how people do not know how to be good citizens - whether it be taking care of themselves, others, or the world around them.

I have posters that I post on the wall above my classroom door that display the different character traits I want my students to exude every single day - no matter if they are in the classroom, in park during recess, at home, on the way home, in gym - EVERYWHERE and ALWAYS!

Citizenship wraps all the different traits into one: Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, Compassion, Diligence, Justice, and Perseverence - these are the main traits that I see our future world leaders needing more of than we see now.

These Citizenship collages are a bit sparse, but it wasn't the outcome of these collages that I was carign for, it was the co-operation that took place between the groups and the emphasis that they had to work together with specific jobs and roles if they wanted to complete a good, clean final project.  As Grade Four has progressed this year, they have gained an understanding of what their roles need to be if they want success in a group and individually.

Some, obviously more than others.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Using Math Journals for Honest Dialogue

This year in Math has been very engaging and honest and because of that the learning my students have done has improved ten fold from my students from last year.

A large part of that comes with them journalling their feelings, reactions, opinions, and honest talk about Math. 

I found this great link from Joanne Griffin that includes 101 Math Journal Topics.  You can download the .DOC from her website here.

But here are some examples of work and the honest, sometimes brutal, answers you can get from their Math journalling.

Believe it or not, your Math curriculum can very well we swayed by your students honest reactions to their Math learning.  It isn't just as simple as saying, "This is what you need to learn and there's only one way to do it."
If you want to reach every student in your classroom, they need to be able to have an avenue to share their thoughts, opinions, and especially feelings about Math.
I have one student who absolutely despises Math, most because we do the occassional worksheet or textbook work.  He can't concentrate and when he does and can't understand a question, he shuts out Math and begins to either distract others or even complain he's not good at Math when he is actually one of my best students.
Incorporating Math Games this year has made the dialogue between my students and myself alot more open and engaging because I told them specifically I rather not give them worksheets or pencil and paper work because games can help them practice everyday in a fun way.  Some of my students would sometimes rather do a Cross-Number Puzzle for their Math Centre instead of a game and will frequently ask me if they can.
But I wouldn't have known this if the dialogue hadn't been opened via their Math Journals.  They feel safer and more confident to ask me if they can do either pencil or paper work or if they can play games.
Having that safe atmosphere for learning and having fun at the same time is a great way to foster a positive learning environment!

TeachersPayTeachers Is Awesome...But Also Very Tempting

I just recently started to post some of my games and work that I have used in my classroom onto the popular TeachersPayTeachers website.

I'm not going to charge money for games that took me 10-15 minutes to make, what's the point?  I do enjoy grabbing freebies off the website, so why should I think other teachers would enjoy the same thing?

This morning, I have already posted our student created Multiplication Search & Find, which was created by one of my students this year!  He is very excited that he created this game, just wait until he hears that other teachers may be using it as well!

There is also a adjective card sort game with Comparative and Superlative Adjectives.  It is a long but not exhaustive list of the different adjectives (up to eight pages!) that you can laminate, cut out, and put into decks of cards to play!

You can visit my store here:

Have a great day teaching the future!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Top 5 Math Apps in Grade 4A

In our class this year, we have been blessed with four available iPads for the kids to use this year during our Math Centre time.
However, I have been told by many of my students that they have gone home that night and downloaded many of the games!  I was shocked!  A good surprised kind of shocked that is.
I know it is technology and it is more prevalent in our culture and society and especially schooling now that it has been and is still growing, but the fact they had enough fun during Math class to spend their own personal time at home to download a game was astounding!  It was also very rewarding and made me realize how much fun Math has become during our Math Centres!
For you parents or fellow teachers who are looking for some good apps (these do cost a little bit, but are worth it!) here are some maybe you can get your kids to work on their numeracy skills at home on your very own iPad devices.

1. Math Run: Panda Chase

This app is a slam dunk for our top played Math App during Math Centre.  It might have something to do with the fac that it resembles Temple Run so much, but incoroporates Math.  I even had a fellow teacher walk into my classroom and almost tell some of my kids to stop playing because she thought it WAS Temple Run.

Kids have a character they pick for adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing and they have run the course (ala Temple Run) and if the Panda who is chasing them (for some reason he's angry) catches them they need to answer Math questions correctly in a certain amount of time to continue.

There are level upgrades where they can go to other continents on Earth.  It is a really good motivating game.

The kids have fun with it and since we are getting into the later stages of multiplication and division, I encourage them to make sure they don't do simple adding and subtracting all the time.  I keep an eye on their games to see if they actually are challenging themselves.

This App has been very well reviewed by many different websites and App reviewers.  Here are a few places to find reviews on it AppShopper, App Store Arcade, and AppFinder.

Find it here on the Apple App Store.

Mr. E. Rating: 4.5/5

2. & 3. Math Blaster: Hyperblast & Hyperblast 2

When I got the LITE version of these games, my kids went nuts and wanted me to get the full version ASAP.  Well now that I have the full versions, they still like the game, but there isn't that intrigue anymore.
Still, it is a challenging game in the vein of a first player shooting game but it is their player against mechanical bosses who they defeat by answering an increasingly harder level of questions as the game goes on.
It is a game that makes the kids think quick on their feet (unless they're sitting down...I'm sorry) and come up with mental math answers as quickly as possible.
 Math Blaster is available on both iPad and Android devices.  Check the game blog here.
Find Math Blaster: Hyperblast here on the Apple App Store.
Find Hyperblast 2 here on the Apple App Store.

Mr. E. Rating: 4/5

4. 10 Monkeys Multiplication

I found this app thanks to my tech-savvy father-in-law (John Evans - and I love it.  I have mostly used this app with my weakest Math student and it has been a fun way for him to improve his multiplication skills.  Instead of guessing, he can begin to memorize his multiplication facts through playing the game a few times a week.
The game's premise is there are 10 monkeys that need to be saved from their captors in Africa.  Each monkey is released when you get a certain amount of points to unlock them.  Each monkey also has a multiplication times table assigned to them that you need to answer the questions for from 2-12.
It is very engaging for my students who do play it, but it can get a little repetitive.  I would recommend it for helping those struggling or for extra practice.
Here is a review of 10 Monkeys Multiplication from Smart Apps for Kids.
Find it here on the Apple App Store.

Mr. E. Rating: 3.5/5


5. Mystery Math Town

Only recently have my kids gotten into this game.  I had one of them explain how the game works to me and I think it is more geared towards younger grades, although you can gear it towards a higher elementary grade if you want - a very flexible game.
It uses intrigue, mystery, and Math to solve problems and what is amiss in the town.  A very interesting game.
It did cost $2.99 and it was worth it.  Here are some reviews on it from Geek with Juniors and Best Apps for Kids
Find it here on the Apple App Store.

Mr. E. Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Being Patriotic in Grade Four

I love the Winter Olympics.  Not just for the hockey where Team Canada is always a threat to win, but for the sheer joy of watching my country compete and show themselves off on the international stage.

Many Canadians are known for not tooting their own horns, but in 4A this year I have really wanted the students to have an understanding of what it means to be proud to be a Canadian by watching these athletes compete every day.

Yesterday, we watched the three Canadian teams skate in the short program of the pairs figure skating.  When the team of Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers finished second after their skate, my classroom erupted.  They seem to be catching a little bit of Canadian Olympic fever.

Now, it will all really start I think when the Canadian men's hockey team takes on Norway on Thursday morning, but until then, my kids are more than willing to watch different events for the sake of the speed and skill as well as for cheering Canada on.

We are keeping track of our Canadian medal count as a school and our class is keeping track of who wins each medal with a medal tracker board outside our classroom in the hallway.

Whoever said Canadians weren't allowed to be patriotic or too shy to be patriotic?  Well, in 4A, I can see some grade fours who are just willing to not only be patriotic, but to learn how to cheer for a win, humbly take a loss, and cheer for what they believe in no matter what.

Friday, February 7, 2014

We Read Because We Care

It's a great initiative that we are doing as a class and the kids seem very motivated to do it!  We are a week into it and we have already read nine books!  The goal is to read 100 books by May 31, 2014!

If you don't know about Scholastic's Classrooms Care initiative, it is a great initiative that helps kids to love to read and also donates towards kids who are not able to access books!  My kids were pumped when they heard about the fact they can help other kids their age get books.

You can visit the website and get involved!  The website is

Another contest they are psyched for is winning an iPad!  There's no purchase or contest necessary.  Just fill in the kids names, your name as a teacher, and all the school's information.

You can also win a Hi-Tech Classroom as a teacher.

Check out Scholastic's Contest page:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

We Love To Read!

So February is National 'I Love To Read Month' and to coincide with that, it is, of course, the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  It is called 'Go For The Gold!"

Now, our school has already put together an entire month of events that have to do with the Winter Olympic theme, but our own class has put together a contest aside from the school's overall theme.

Each student keeps track of all the minutes they read both in class and at home.  At school, they keep a chart (I used the Daily Reading Log from that they can keep track of their minutes when they read either when they are done their work or during Daily Five time.  They keep track of their time independently, which they should know how to do since we covered time in our very first Math unit this year.

As a class, we are keeping track on our big 4A LOVES TO READ chart.

All the kids names are at the very bottom and each 30 minutes they read, they get a ticket!

They have also given me their reading pledges for the month, telling me what they pledge to read during I Love To Read Month.  Thanks to for providing the template for them to do a 'craftivity' for them to set their goals.

They have also given me their reading pledges for the month, telling me what they pledge to read during I Love To Read Month. Thanks to for providing the template for them to do a 'craftivity' for them to set their goals.

They get to not only set their goals, but also colour their books and have a little fun while preparing the month goals for themselves.

It's been a quieter month (compared to earlier months) in our class as the kids really want to get that Scholastic prize.