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We have enjoyed a very productive and fun first two weeks of school. In preparation to learn the Grade 5 curriculum, we have engaged in some team-building activities, established classroom rules and routines, completed a learning style inventory, completed PRIME math and CASI reading comprehension baseline tests, and reviewed concepts from Grade 4.

This is our class' "Community Agreement" (the guidelines for behaviour upon which we all agreed):

Community-Agreement

These are some images of students working on paragraph writing in our school's new outdoor classroom:

This is what math looked like this afternoon, in our "indoor classroom":

We are also studying media literacy and math within the context of the school's "Fall Food Drive for Orphaned Wildlife." That project is explained in a separate BLOG post.

We will be alternating between Social Studies and Science, throughout the school year. We are starting with the Social Studies unit about Canada's government, because it ties in so nicely with the Federal election. Today, students watched part of last evening's leadership debate. They made some keen observations about the types of responses and demeanor of each candidate. Closer to the election, we will hold our own mock poll, to see how students in our class would vote.

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Our first gym unit is baseball, and our first health unit will be about healthy living (nutrition and exercise):

We started off our visual arts program with "Name Graffiti" posters:

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Within the arts curriculum, Mrs. Black will also be teaching drama. Mr. Volgmann, will teach our class music and dance.

We are looking forward to having you along on this year's adventure in learning. You can sign up to receive an e-mail notification whenever a new BLOG post is published. That way, you won't miss out on any of the action!

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  mblack@scdsb.on.ca or to add a comment to this page.

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Dear Parents:

Welcome to our class BLOG.  This is where you will find all the news about what we are doing in class.  We will try to provide you with information and updates at least twice a month.  Sometimes I will author BLOG posts and other times students will be invited to write the updates themselves.

During our first week of school, we developed a "Community Agreement" to ensure that everyone in class feels valued, respected and is able to learn to the best of his/her ability.  This is our agreement (click on it to see an enlargement):

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Some of you have already mentioned that one of the activities your child particularly enjoyed during our first week of school was "field work." For Grade 4 students, field work ties in with their Science topic "Habitats and Communities" and their Social Studies topic, "Physical Regions of Canada."  For Grade 5 students, field work relates to their Science topic "Conservation of Energy and Resources."  We will also be using outdoor sessions as the basis for writing, math and arts assignments.

During our initial outdoor sessions, students began to learn how to focus on schoolwork in the outdoors and to take accurate and comprehensive field observation notes.  After our second outdoor learning session, students used their field sketches to develop more detailed drawings, back in the classroom.  Here is what field work looks like on the front lawn of the school:

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We hope you enjoy this little window into Grade 4/5!

Sincerely,
Mrs. Black

P.S.  Feel free to share our BLOG address with Grandparents and other relatives.  🙂

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Thank you for visiting our class BLOG. If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  mblack@mail1.scdsb.on.ca or to add a comment to this page.

Week One is now behind us and we are off to a great start!  We spent much of our first four days reviewing Literacy and Math concepts, getting acquainted and team-building.  We also reviewed school rules, and established classroom rules and routines that will foster comfort and productivity.

COMMUNITY AGREEMENT

The class has created a "Community Agreement" (list of good behaviour principles) using the character traits listed on a Restorative Practices poster that the Simcoe County District School Board provided.  Students then drew from their Community Agreement to create a short list of "The Big Five" rules for classroom behaviour.  When solving conflicts or dealing with habitual or major misbehaviours, we will use the poster to identify:

  • what happened and why
  • how the behaviours of particular students affected others
  • what can be done to make amends
  • what can be learned from the incident(s)
  • which areas of character education may need further reinforcement

If you click on the Community Agreement poster, you can see an enlarged version of it.

Other tools that we use in our classroom to encourage good behaviour are explained in last year's "Open House" BLOG post:
http://blackdeer.edublogs.org/2011/09/23/

COOPERATIVE LEARNING

The following is an example of one of this week's fun (and frustrating) cooperative learning activities.

Students were placed in random groups of four and given 15 minutes to build the tallest freestanding tower possible, using only uncooked spaghetti noodles and miniature marshmallows.

They soon discovered that the task was not as easy as it sounded, with spaghetti noodles snapping easily and pliable marshmallows not holding the structures in a very secure manner.

In the end, a few groups were able to build a structure that could support itself, but the greater lessons learned from this exercise were about the challenges of working collaboratively toward a common goal.  During our debrief, one student said, "I think I should have listened more to the members of my group.  I thought I had a great idea, and wouldn't listen to them until my idea didn't work."  Another said, "I knew that triangles were the strongest shape, but no one in my group would let me speak."  One group found that whenever they reached near consensus about a design idea, a lone dissenter would usually opt out and refuse to help.  These are great observations about potential pitfalls that students need to avoid when working in teams to fulfill academic goals.

Here are a few pictures of the spaghetti tower-building activity:

This is the tallest freestanding tower that was created.  It measured 42 cm in height.  Congratulations to David, Eric, Jillian and Pyper!

You can find the instructions for the spaghetti tower activity here:  http://www.schcounselor.com/2009/10/spaghetti-marshmallows-and-cooperation.html

If you haven't already done so, please subscribe to our BLOG updates by e-mail and check out our class' "Live Binders" page.  There are a links to both up there...

Thank you for visiting the class, via our BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me:  mblack@mail1.scdsb.on.ca or to add a comment to this page.

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Thank you to all of the parents and students who came to our Open House and toured the classroom.  It was a pleasure to meet with you.  For those who missed this event, or who would like to know more about our program and routines, here is some additional information:


This is the "graffiti art" we created to welcome parents to our classroom.

Classroom Door
This is our classroom door.  I am staff advisor to our school's Green Team, and our class is participating in "Pay it Forward Fridays." (We do good deeds for others that day, and ask them not to pay us back... instead, to do something nice for someone else.)

This year, we are using a round-table-type seating arrangement. This facilitates class discussions, and allows me to circulate easily, during pair and independent work periods.


"Success Criteria for Classroom Behaviour" were developed by the students. Each has indicated his/her agreement to follow these rules by signing the yellow border.


This is "Mission Control."  It is the place in our classroom where we post our daily schedule (left) and information about absences and special pick-up arrangements, etc.  This area also includes a place for monitoring individual students who are having difficulty adhering to classroom rules (the stoplight and "penalty box"), and a tracking sheet for recording points the class has earned toward a good behaviour reward (the white sheet with the grid and arrow).


Quiet work in the classroom is encouraged via instrumental music CDs, with sounds of nature.


The "Yacker Tracker" is a meter that monitors the ambient noise level in the classroom. It sounds an alarm when the class is being too loud. The noise threshold can be adjusted to accommodate different work formats (e.g. silent or partner work).


This chart is a classroom responsibility sign up sheet.  Jobs are rotated weekly.


This is the start of our math wall. The ideas on the chart paper were developed collaboratively, between the students and myself.


This is the start of our word wall. Students proofread each others' Summer Vacation Recounts and identified incorrectly-spelled words. Then the authors used dictionaries to look up correct spellings and created word cards for the wall. In addition to commonly misspelled words, our wall will also include difficult words from particular curriculum areas.

Math Groups and Guided Reading Groups are listed above/on "The Old Oak Tree."


This year, we are fulfilling some of the curriculum requirements in Science, Social Studies and Health via student-centred inquiry projects. During September, students are learning how to frame research questions, and are being reminded about the features of non-fiction texts and how to extract valuable information from non-fiction resources.


Mr. Moose towers over my "in box" and "out box."


The "burning questions" area is the place where we post questions about anything at all, that no one in the class can answer. When students finish work early, they are encouraged to choose a question from the wall, research the answer, and report back to the class.


Other enrichment opportunities include literacy practice sheets, math games, critical thinking exercises, webquests, independent research and work on this BLOG.


"The parking lot" is where students respond to requests for ideas or opinions. Each student is given a car. His/her name goes on the front, and the requested information on the back. Then, each student gets to "park" his/her car in the lot.


We strive to be good stewards of the environment by recycling, composting, and making rough notes on "GOOS" paper (paper that has already been used, but is still "good on one side.")


We also incorporate nature and the outdoors into our Science, Language, Math, Gym and Daily Physical Activity programs.  Pictured, on the left, is a checklist of "Success Criteria for Field Notes" that the class developed by
examining the field note examples on the poster.   Below the poster are the foam pads and clipboards that we take with us when we work outside.

This is a morning literacy period, on the front lawn of the school.  The class is engaged in reading.  Spreading out and being able to choose one's position to work (e.g. sitting or laying down) seems to really help with focus.


Reading with a partner.


Reading independently.

In the picture above, the class is working on math problems, from their textbooks, in the school's backyard.

Grade 5 students show their solutions to the math problems, on a large, portable whiteboard, while their "grade-mates" look on and provide feedback.

Grade 6 students do the same.


“The Food Chain Game” is the class' favourite outdoor Daily Physical Activity. This nature-based game teaches students about the relationship between producers, consumers and decomposers, while engaging them in a vigorous, strategic game of tag.

Thank you for visiting the class, via our BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me:  mblack@mail1.scdsb.on.ca or to add a comment to this page.

Rama Central P.S.

I hope you enjoyed a restful summer break.  I am returning rejuvenated and excited about the new school year!

This year, I will be implementing some new ideas with my class:

1)  An "edublog" (recommended at a Simcoe Board technology workshop) will be the primary means via which the class and I will be communicating with parents about our learning.  The blog-format will enable us to post short updates regularly, and provide a place for parents to interact with us about our learning activities.  If you subscribe to the blog (see the box on the left hand side of this page, above the calendar), you will be informed via e-mail whenever something new is posted.  For those parents without internet access, we will print some of the contents of our blog and send it home periodically.  NOTE:  Agendas will continue to be used to help students organize their work and for one-on-one communication between parents and the teacher or school office.

Project-based Learning2)  In the Spring, I completed a ten-week online course entitled, "Project-based Learning."  Project-based learning allows students to explore curriculum in exciting new ways, by posing questions or identifying problems associated with particular topics, and using computer technology and other resources to complete inquiries and action-projects that promote and demonstrate learning.  We will be starting our year with a series of lessons that teach the skills necessary for inquiry-based learning.  Then we will be engaging in some inquiry projects in the areas of Science and Social Studies.  For more information about project-based learning, see:  http://pbl-online.org/About/whatisPBL.htm

3)  In August, I attended a three-day workshop entitled, "Meeting Literacy and Numeracy Goals Through Outdoor Learning Experiences (Grades 1-8)."  This course provided me with the tools to move beyond the classroom walls for some of our Language and Math instruction, taking advantage of the natural resources that our beautiful school yard affords.  We will start our year by conducting Daily Physical Activity and Team-Building sessions outside.  Students will also learn how to make field observations in journals and then we will start exploring our school yard through Language, Math and Science activities.  Your child should be prepared for regular outdoor learning activities in any kind of weather.  For more information about environmental inquiry see:  http://www.naturalcuriosity.ca/environmental.php

I'm looking forward to teaching your child this year and to meeting with you on parent's night.  If you have any questions, comments or concerns about any aspect of our program, please do not hesitate to contact me via my school board e-mail address:  mblack@mail1.scdsb.on.ca or the school phone number:  705-689-2031.

Sincerely,
Margaret Black