Word Collectors

Today we used Peter Reynold’s book, Word Collector , to explore the concept of words having power. When we write, some words are more powerful than others. Students were given a little word collecting book, in which they will be encouraged to record powerful words they come across and want to save for future use in their writing. They got a start on their collection by looking over their homework list and the lists from classmates.

We then reread our own writing, looking for places they could turn an ordinary word into one that was more descriptive, extraordinary, unexpected, powerful etc. Basically, bumping up our work with  better word choice.

Fitbit vs. Calculator

Today we were motivated to finish calculating Mrs. Lewis’ steps, since she  borrowed a colleague’s Fitbit to wear today. There were multiple ‘steps’ to our problem solving, as some of our ‘counts’ were in steps and some were in floor tiles. We also had to account for the fact that she traveled to certain locations multiple times AND had to account for her return trip. By the end of the day, the Fitbit calculated 7 850 steps, not too far off our totals, but as the students pointed out, each day is different and we did not include steps within each room. Interesting- they did not question the accuracy of the Fitbit ! 


Within our agenda message this morning, students were asked to calculate the number of hours before the PA Day, which led to some discussion about who was accurate. Some people figured two days, therefore 48 hours. Some felt they needed to subtract an hour since the message was done at 10:00, not at the start of day. Some felt they should subtract 10 hours, the official start of Friday, and one student felt the answer was 12 – using school hours as their unit. No matter what the strategy, they are pleased enough to have a PA Day! 

Yesterday we read a book about reading a book (!)  and in it, the school had a goal of reading across America. Being Canadian, we asked, how might we read across Canada? Some students got a start on researching the distances between capital cities, which we will use to figure a way to read our way across/around the country.


Critical Thinking– After reading more about the AT RISK monarch butterfly, students were asked to generate some thoughts and wonders about what they read. We learned that readers might not always agree with information or wording in a text. For example, some students challenged the comment, “Humans love monarchs but they can harm them by accident” because the following page described how some people spray the milkweed with chemicals, an act that is quite purposeful. The text also said, “Humans and monarchs need to learn to share the Earth.” We are not convinced monarchs are the problem! 


Suffix homework due tomorrow. Good job to those who have brought it in early.

Moments from Our Day

During music class with Mr. Dumont 4 B was sounding good as they practised their first 5 five instrumental notes!

During writing workshop we explored the idea of expanding our ideas with more explaining. The class decided to call it the Stretchy Strategy.

We made some progress on calculating Mrs. Lewis’ steps, however, we got interrupted by a fire drill, and lost our momentum. So, to be continued tomorrow!

Over the last couple weeks, we have been providing a safe haven for our Monarch caterpillar named Willow. Along with a graph showing the rapid decline of the monarch population over the last 10 years, we looked at a newspaper article titled “Monarch Habitat Mowed Down”. We learned the monarch is on a Species at Risk list, and one major reason, is the destruction of their habitat.  



This launched a discussion, and the creation of a chant, about the necessities of life that a habitat provides plants and animals. (The X represents a clap)

Food, Water, Air    X   

Space and Light  X

Make a habitat X

Just right! 

Groups excitedly began plans for creating a habitat within the class (2 live habitats, 3 models) They made habitat selections last week,  so today they started some decision making, sketching, and creating lists of materials they would need.


No Fitbit? No Problem!

No Fitbit? No problem!

Well, actually having no Fitbit has become a problem. A mathematical problem. 

Mrs. Lewis, one of our amazing Educational Assistants, joked about the number of steps she must put into each day with all the help she provides within the school. Though the students felt she should just buy a Fitbit, and couldn’t imagine a time when people did not have them (!), we did feel we could come up with other strategies to help track her fitness.  

After weeding out a few suggestions that involved following her around all day or having her step in mud so we could track her footprints, we agreed it would be more efficient (and less messy!) to find out where she travels in a day and measure the distances. We started by recording our predictions: Approximately how many steps do you think Mrs. Lewis takes in a school day?

We then set out to collect measurements in different areas of the school and discovered some strategies were more effective than others. We also realized we needed more information. How long is Mrs. Lewis’ stride? How many times a day does she travel from one point to another? 

The problem solving will continue tomorrow. Once we have an answer,  Mrs. Lewis will borrow someone else’s Fitbit for a day to see how our calculations compare to the tracking device. (Keeping in mind, of course, that each day is different). 


Homework: Today students brought home a little homework task involving suffixes. We read about suffixes and did a similar activity in class, so they should know what to do. Students were given  the option of using paper from home or bringing paper from school. Due: Thursday.

Reminder: Friday is a PA Day.


Little Book- Big Thinking

Today we used a lovely little book by Linda Kranz    to explore some deeper thinking and launch an art activity that took us out of our comfort zone.

Before showing the actual pages of the book, students were given quotes from the book and copies of the illustrations with the text blocked out. They were asked to determine which illustrations best represented the words. At first they were trying to fit the words in like a puzzle, but then realized they had to think more deeply- use inferring skills!! 

We noted how an artist could use space, colour, and line etc. to communicate the same message as words did.


After reading the bits of wisdom offered in the text, students wrote a reflection about their own opinion about the advice.

A few students predicted what would have been an obvious art follow up for some, to paint rocks (similar to the illustrations) and we may do that for another purpose at another time, but I wanted to take them in a less obvious direction. The emphasis today was that art is a form of communication that can make us think and feel. So, during a listening/drawing activity, students were asked to draw different lines without lifting their pencil. Draw a line that is straight, then  zig zag, then curvy. No problem. But then it got a little confusing/uncomfortable for some! They were asked to continue drawing so the line was sad, confused, angry, excited, loud etc. The looks on their faces!!

We revisited an earlier conversation where students had identified many reasons why ART IS IMPORTANT ( good way to express feelings, makes you happy, calms you, shows your personality, makes you think, helps you create and problem solve, it moves you). We recognized that the activity was pushing some of us outside our comfort zone, but we were definitely thinking.

The next part of the challenge is now to use what they drew to create a piece of art that communicates a message or Big Idea. After some guidance, a few are on their way. For example: one student is using their lines to create a spider. Big Idea: Spiders cause different feelings in different people. 

Another student is turning their lines into a roller coaster. Big Idea: People go through different emotions on a roller coaster.

We will likely revisit this book for other deep thinking opportunities.

Developing Learning Skill Awareness – and More

We used our agenda today not only to record the coordinates of our work space, but to also set a learning skill goal for ourselves. To develop a clear understanding of how to demonstrate the learning skills, throughout the day, we identify which learning skills we need, and recognize when/how they are being demonstrated. Today we used coloured tiles as a visual, to self track our independent work habits.  

This morning, each province (seating group) found a line of tape on their desks with a range of numbers for which they had to create a number line. Remembering yesterday’s advice, they measured out equal distances to mark benchmark points. Students ‘ín’ Manitoba and Northwest Territories had a break in their line and had to do some problem solving.  

Now that our provinces and territories have been determined, we are now planning to add some habitats to our Canada Classroom. In addition to two live habitats (an aquarium and terrarium), we are going to use our display shelves to create models of some Canadian habitats (e.g. forests, grasslands, wetlands). After demonstrating some polite conversation skills during our knowledge building circle (“I’d like to add on to what ____ said”, “I agree with”, “I respectfully disagree” etc.), students formed groups, generated a top three list of which habitat they would like to be responsible for and provided reasons for why their group should be chosen.

In other news…

We had our first Fire Drill today. We have French and Phys. Ed tomorrow. Our math homework is due tomorrow. Good job to all those who showed initiative by completing their work early and to those who showed courage and responsibility by asking for clarification.

Collaborative Math and Writing Tips

With a shorter math session today (since we had music first off) we used the period to work together by sequencing a range of numbers from 500 to 10 000. We used a very long skipping rope to create a number line and discovered that sequencing numbers is different than labeling a number line. We forgot to ensure the distance between each interval of one thousand was equal. (We realized this when one of our classmates ‘walked” the line and some of his steps were much larger than others!).


We began Writing Workshop this week by building our routines, expectations, and stamina for writing. Today’s mini-lesson involved a spelling tip song (“When a word ends in e…” and a strategy for generating writing ideas/topics. We created Love It or Loathe It lists to keep on hand for those writing block moments. It’s easier to write about topics you feel strongly about. We shared some of our potential topics and realized an item on one person’s Love it list could also be on someone else’s Loathe list! E.g. Snakes!! 

Follow Ups

As a follow-up to yesterday’s math fitness, we converted our pulse results into beats per minute. We then completed another fitness session, to see if we could improve on our ability to find our pulse, record, and then transition to the next exercise quickly. 

Reading: Small groups met to discuss yet another sign post called Words of the Wiser where a supporting character offers advice to a main character resulting in some sort of change. We noticed the authors of both Willow and My Teacher and Me (which we read on the first day) used the Words of the Wiser strategy by including a student who teaches their teacher a lesson about imagination and creativity. (Picture books are proving to be an effective tool for introducing these concepts which will later be brought into our writing workshops).

And, we made some decisions about the placement of territories and provinces in our room, though we are taking some liberties with the size and exact placement. Our seating does not exactly replicate the shape of our nation, but we are getting the idea! We are also sneaking in some geometry work as students identify the grid location of their work space and recorded it into their agenda. 

Homework Reminder: Students brought home a small mathematical task yesterday. We reviewed the instructions at the end of the day yesterday and again today. We also discussed how this was a perfect time to show their learning skills.

Responsibility: ensuring they understand (asking for clarification if needed) and completing the task on time.

Initiative: Completing the task early, asking for feedback and/or challenging themselves which also involves self -regulation (as you need to know yourself and your capabilities).


Looking for Reading Signs and Elevated Heart Rates

Today students were introduced to the idea of ‘signposts’.

This concept comes from a text called Notice and Note.

The idea is to recognize the types of signals authors provide readers to help direct them to important details.Two of those signposts are ‘Again and Again’ (where an author purposefully repeats a phrase or event/action), and ‘Aha Moments’ (where a character comes to a realization).

Using our art story from Friday,

we found clear examples of both signposts used by the author, and worked on putting our thoughts into words in a reading response.

Math Fitness- I confess, with 200 less minutes a week to work with (now that we take French), it can be a bit tricky trying to figure out how to get our subject minutes in AND fit DPA into our non-gym days. So, we’re giving some ‘math fitness’ a try. Today was our first effort. After selecting exercises that would both elevate AND slow down their heart rate, students completed their exercises during timed intervals (taking and recording their pulse in between). As we get the hang of it, we should get more efficient (I hope!) and be able to incorporate a variety of math concepts. But for now, we’re going to just do calculations to convert our beats per 10 seconds to beats per minute.


First Week Reflections

In our new Reflection Books,  we took time to write some of our thoughts and feelings about the first week of Grade Four. Here are a few excerpts:

I’m happy to be sharing a room with nice people. It’s exciting to get to know more people in grade four.

I enjoyed making muffins on the first day. I can’t believe we put zucchini in it!

I was very surprised to be baking on the first day. And our room is so big, we are turning it into Canada. I can’t wait for next week.

I like how we are making our room like a map of Canada. I think this is going to be a good year.

I really like the birthday bucket. I didn’t know that was a thing in school.

I really like the birthday bucket because my classmates wrote nice messages and that made me feel good.

It was really nice that both teachers were almost in tears when we did the birthday bucket!

I’m excited that we get to learn French this year.

I enjoy French and practising how to introduce myself.

Having gym two times a week is awesome.

I like the quiet music when we are reading and writing.

I mostly like lunch because I get to see the good stuff in my lunch.

Art is my favourite subject in the whole world so I think this will be the best year. I mean it.

We did baking, a puzzle and that was only the first day. I know we will be doing a lot more fun stuff.

I like that we are all wondering if we are getting a fish or a lizard. I think it’s a fish.

The best part was discovering the caterpillar.

I’m excited that we are going to name our caterpillar.

I really like all the exciting activities. I am excited to come back tomorrow.

I like how my teacher makes us wonder about things and wants us to be kind and creative.

I have enjoyed my classroom because it feels like home.

With a positive first week under our belt. I look forward to our learning journey ahead!! (More about the caterpillar next week:)