Skip to content

About Margaret Black

Grade 4/5 teacher at Rama Central P.S. in Central Ontario. Website:


During the month of September, our class reviewed math concepts, completed the PRIME numeracy test (which identifies strengths and needs in the areas of number sense and operations) and began to move forward with our math program.

Our math program follows the Simcoe County District School Board's Course of Study.  The Course of Study summarizes key principles and learning expectations in the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum and provides a teaching sequence, timeline, and list of tools and lesson resources needed to cover the expectations.

This is a sample of the Grade 5 Course of Study Overview
and the outline for Unit 1. 

There are similar documents for Grade 6.

Resources listed in the Course of Study include "Nelson Math,"
"The Super Source Math Resource" and the Ontario Ministry of Education's
"Guides to Effective Instruction in Math, Grades 4-6."
We utilize all three of these resources in our classroom.


Our math period begins with "bell work" from the Canadian resource Daily Math.

This resource provides practice with all five strands of math each week.

After "bell work," we engage in a three-part math lesson that includes:

  1. A "minds-on" activity that serves to review a familiar math concept or introduce a new one;
  2. A lesson and an opportunity for partner- and independent-practice;
  3. An opportunity for the class consolidate understanding by discussing new insights gleaned from the lesson.  Consolidation sometimes includes creating a note, in the form of a definition, rule or procedure that students copy into a math journal, for future reference.

At the conclusion of instruction about a concept, each student answers a math question on a piece of paper called an "exit card." Exit cards indicate how well each student understood the concept.  Students who have difficulty answering the question, or who ask for additional assistance, are offered Guided Math instruction the following day.


Once a week, our class participates in Numeration Stations.  These math stations, or centres, are geared toward improving proficiency with math facts and mental math.  Instant recall of simple addition and subtraction equations and "times tables," and an ability to do simple math in one's head, improves a student's efficiency in solving more complex math problems.

We begin Numeration Stations with a "Times Table Challenge" quiz.

After we take up the quiz, students rotate through a variety of numeration games and activities.  During the rotation, I conduct Guided Math sessions with small groups, to ensure that each student is progressing to the best of his/her ability.

The following pictures show some of the components of Numeration Stations:

Stations include "Fraction Stories,"  Guided Math, Board and Card Games,
"Math Mysteries," and "Math Frog" (a Grade 4-6 math game website
created and hosted by the University of Waterloo).

These are some of the resources for Numeration Stations.

These are some of the 15+ math games that are stored in the green bin (above).


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me: or to add a comment to this page.

The class spent the month of September reviewing literacy concepts and skills, completing CASI reading assessments and writing "recounts."  Next week, Guided Reading will begin and students will start working more independently on literacy skills.

Our balanced literacy program includes reading, writing, oral communication and media studies.  These are some of the elements of our reading and writing programs:

Daily Language Review "bell work" provides grammar, punctuation, word usage and sentence editing practice.

Daily Five "is a structure that helps students develop the daily habits of reading, writing, and working independently that will lead to a lifetime of literacy independence."  Students engage in three twenty-minute activity rotations, within a morning literacy block, and are provided with choice regarding the order in which they complete various tasks.


These are the cornerstones of Daily Five:

Read to Self:  The best way for a student to become a better reader is to practice each day, with books the student chooses at his/her
just-right reading level.

Read to Someone:  Reading to someone provides more time to practice strategies, helping students work on fluency and expression, check for understanding, hear their own voice, and share in the learning community.

Spelling - Word Work:   Correct spelling allows for more fluent writing, thus speeding up the ability to write and get thinking down on paper.  This is an essential foundation for writers.  Every two weeks, students are provided with five words to explore (e.g. homonyms or words from our Science and Social Studies curriculum) and choose five other words from their personal reading and writing.

Work on Writing:  Just like reading, the best way for students to become better writers is to practice writing each day.  During Daily Five, students have an opportunity to work on "Writer's Workshop" assignments, Nelson Literacy reading reflections or journal entries.

Listen to Reading:  When students hear examples of good literature and fluent reading, they learn more words, thus expanding their vocabulary and becoming better readers.  In our classroom, "listen to reading" involves the teacher or a student reading a section of a chapter book aloud to the class.


 Each student in our class receives regular Guided Reading instruction, in a small group setting.  Our Guided Reading resource is the Nelson Literacy Kit, which includes reading folders that connect to Science, Social Studies, Health and Character Education.  Pictured above are samples of Grade 5 (top) and Grade 6 (bottom) Guided Reading folders. 

We also utilize Nelson Literacy student books, which contain Shared and Independent Reading selections and reading reflection prompts.  We use these books to enrich our studies of various subjects.  The Grade 5 books are shown on the top row and the Grade 6 books on the bottom.

Writer's Workshop
includes the study and practice of various forms of writing.  These include:  narratives, recounts, procedures, discussions, explanations, reports, and persuasive letters.  Proofreading and editing of a student's own work, providing feedback on classmates' writng and goal setting toward becoming better writers are also focal points within our writing program.  This year, students at our school are creating writing portfolios in binders provided by the school board for this purpose.


Oral and Media Literacy comprise the the other two strands in our balanced literacy programIn future BLOG posts, student-reporters will provide updates about our learning in these, and other, subject areas.

My next BLOG post will feature the elements of our Numeracy (Math) program.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me: or to add a comment to this page.


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: 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:

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:

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: or the school phone number:  705-689-2031.

Margaret Black

Skip to toolbar