Art Class Would Be Awesome If…

Prior to an artistic response to a story yesterday, students shared their ideas for finishing the following sentences:

Art Class Would  Be Awesome If..., and,  A good art teacher…

Responses included:

-if we got to create whatever we wanted, got to choose our own materials, could hold the class in a museum, everyone pays attention and has fun, if we got to paint and draw stuff from our own mind, if we could paint a lot and do sculptures, if the teacher was helpful, if the teacher didn’t say bad stuff about your work, and, if the teacher let people bring their ideas to life!

We then read one of my favourite books to launch art activities, Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan. The teacher in the story goes through a transformation with the help of a student named Willow, who thinks outside the box. Initially, the teacher is very rigid in her ideas, everyone in the class having to replicate an art example at the front of the class. By the end, the teacher embraces creative thinking. Students were very engaged in the story and the activity to follow.

They were challenged to create two pieces of art: One they felt the ‘old’ Miss Hawthorne would have expected/approved of and one for the ‘new’/ transformed Miss Hawthorne.

                                                             I made the picture realistic with colours and shapes that are expected.

I made the picture unique and creative with colours other people might not use

Students agreed the second approach met their requirements of an awesome art class and a good art teacher.


Seating, Birthdays, and Mapping Our Class

To provide students with a chance to try out different work spots in our room and encourage them to work with different people, we had some ‘luck of the draw’ seating today. Students’ work spaces were determined by pulling a number from a bag. Once they found its match, they then used that number as a warm-up, showing as many representations as they could.

Stemming from the well known Fill Your Bucket stories, came the idea to fill an actual bucket for classmates celebrating a birthday. And this year, we already had our first birthday on the first day of school! Graciously, our birthday friend agreed to wait a few days (for his bucket), in order for everyone to get to know him a bit better. And today he was glad he waited. Students wrote messages to their classmate, telling of virtues they have seen him use, and then shared their messages in  a birthday circle. The first few circles of a year can often be pretty simplistic, but, 4B was impressive today. Their messages were thoughtful and genuine, and our classmate acknowledged how good it made him feel. And no matter how many circles I have participated in, I still got a tear in my eye!!

So, building off our Canada puzzle once again, we decided we are going to model our classroom after the Canadian map, using the ceiling tiles as grid lines. Students referred to atlases, as they tried to determine where the provinces and territories should go. They indicated their decisions on post its around the room.   



Sent Home Today: Your ‘fun’ information sheets to fill in!

Thank you to those who have sent in Kleenex. We’re still looking for a few more to last the year, so if you could, that would be great! Thank you. 


Showing Initiative and Mathematical Thinking – With a Puzzle

After listening to a few comments yesterday, students were asked to share their answers to the questions: What does math mean/look like to you? How do you know if someone is ‘good’ at math?

After discussing our thoughts, we then took a look at a situation/inquiry that arose during yesterday’s puzzle activity. With the puzzle complete, one of our classmates asked, ”I wonder if there really are 100 pieces?”   Upon counting and discovering there were actually 108 pieces, the group then went on to verify the information by counting the array and calculating the total. Again, 108. “Why would the box say 108? Maybe they were rounding. No, then it would have said 110.”

After the speculating had run its course, we discussed how our classmate showed an excellent example of initiative – Being curious, generating a strategy to answer their own question, and contemplating the meaning of that answer. A great example of mathematical thinking.

Students were then challenged to generate their own questions/wonders where math could help find an answer. This type of thinking clearly put many students outside their comfort zone, and they might have been relieved when we had to stop to go to French (our very first French class!!), but as our initial discussion revealed, sometimes you have to work hard/struggle/persevere to deepen our thinking. And that’s ok!   

First Day Collaborations

On our first day of school we focused on the ever important learning skill: Collaboration. Students rotated to a number of activities throughout the day, many of which involved the virtues of cooperation and respect.

The Grade 4 curriculum involves learning about Canada. Groups showed great teamwork as they worked to complete a puzzle of our country. We will be building upon this activity tomorrow.

Successful collaborations involve respecting the contributions of others. Students were provided a variety of art materials and asked to ‘create’. The only stipulation was that they were to respect the work of previous artists- add on, not cover up- so we would end up with a collaborative piece of art.

Reflecting on our work, our learning skills, our virtues, our thoughts and feelings will be something we emphasize this year-all part of demonstrating self regulation. Today, students selected a specially purchased notebook to make their first entry.   

Baking on the first day? Hey, why not?! (Well, maybe the no air conditioning could answer that, but we rolled with it!) Students worked really well together to read the recipe, measure ingredients, bake some muffins (zucchini chocolate chip), and clean up for the next group. It was interesting they didn’t ‘see’ the math they were using but it was pretty clear who was familiar with the kitchen tools!!:)

So, overall we had a successful, smooth start to the year!!

Happy New Year!!

Welcome to a new school year in Grade 4. I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable summer with family and friends, and are now ready to get back into the ‘swing of things’!

As the children have ‘wonders’ about their upcoming year, I’m sure you do as well! Below, I have provided information that I hope will answer some of your questions.

LocationOur classroom (one of the nicest in the school:) is on the second floor (Room 209) 

AgendasAgendas will be a daily part of our learning and a way for students to demonstrate responsibility. In addition to keeping you advised of class activities, messages are used to incorporate language and math challenges, as well as a chance to ‘slip in’ some cursive writing. Agendas are also an ideal way to communicate with me, and ensure you receive school notes safely. Students will also be asked to carry them to French. Please check and initial the agenda regularly. (Agendas will be kept in a classroom bin during the day, restricting the space/size. Agendas will not be able to be stored in binders) 

Timetable- We will be inserting a copy of our timetable in our agenda on the first day. Whenever you see CORE – that means they will be with with me (Ms. Urfey) working on math, language, art, science or social studies. Music is with Mr. Dumont, Phys. Ed. with Ms. Marion, and French with Mme. DiPelino.

French- Students will be travelling to another classroom for French and will be asked to bring a binder (2-3″), a pencil, and their agenda. If reorganization takes place, the location may change (to our own classroom) but for September, this is the plan! 

SuppliesOther than the materials mentioned for French and a box of Kleenex (PLEASE), students do NOT need individual supplies at this time. Most of our seating is at tables, so we do not have storage for pencil cases, binders etc. which can create a chaotic work space. We will designate a shelf for French binders and there are communal baskets of writing tools at each work space. If students wish to use any supplies they have purchased during art activities, they will be welcome to retrieve them from their lockers or bags. If we find a need for anything in the future, we’ll let you know:)    

HomeworkAs always, students are always encouraged to read on a regular basis. Also, reading our blog, is a good way to launch discussions and look for ways to connect class learning to home experiences. Researching and discussing topics outside the classroom, help deepen students’ understanding, strengthens their ability to contribute to class discussions, and encourages initiative. As I get to know the students through September, I will be able to assess whether homework needs to go beyond that.  

I look forward to sharing our learning journey with you this year and wish you luck with all the paper work that comes with starting new year!!

City Hall Thoughts

After their City Hall experience on Monday, students wrote an entry in their Reflection Books. I thought I would share a few of the comments that I found honest, humorous, and perceptive.

“A lot of the presenters were really confusing, except for ours. I found that they listened to us more than the adults.”

“I had a great time because we got to take pictures in the Hamilton sign.”

“Awesome. That’s what it was, awesome!

“I really was amazed that two of the councilors were not even paying attention to any of the presenters. They were just talking to each other and they were on their phones. How did they even get a job?”

“During the meeting, some parts were interesting and I think we did influence most of the people,  but, I think that some of the councilors were not listening to us and didn’t care.”

“I was timid during the practice run but once we were back in the chamber, I was pretty confident. My favourite part was how we could dress up.

If I had the opportunity to go back to City Hall, I would take it in a heartbeat!”

“I was scared at first, but then we did a run through and then it was fine. When I was reading my part in the actual City Hall presentation, I said to myself, in my head – Are those butterflies? Nope, I’m just hungry. So, I got a doughnut after it!”

6B at City Hall

Today, interested students from our class traveled to City Hall to address councilors at a Board of Health meeting in the City Chambers. Presenting as a cohesive group in their shirts and ties, the students impressed the crowd with their poise. Follow the link below to our school website for more a photo and video link.

In the end, the vote was in favour of moving the motion forward to be ratified. (The motion includes limiting sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks, and eliminating the sale of bottled water in favour of municipal water at city run facilities). I received an email from Councillor Johnson’s office thanking us for our contribution. “The students were seriously impressive. A beautifully choreographed and articulate presentation.”

Thank you to all the parents who were able to drive today.

Greenleaf Goes to City Hall


Getting the Message Out

In addition to our slide show presentation at the Earth Day assembly, we created a display for the showcase in the front foyer featuring one of our slogans – Don’t Let Water Down. Sorry, picture is not great- kept getting a reflection. (I’m sure there is some way to avoid that, but when in a hurry, no time for a photography lesson!). We are working on creating the audio for our slide show, so we can put it online, but it’s tough getting a quiet time in the lab to record. It’s a happening place!!

And lastly, we also got our letter to the editor published in the Flamborough Review and are preparing ourselves in case the letter gets any kind of feedback from other readers 🙂 

Student Activism at Work

Call to City Hall

In response to a project I was involved with last year at Ancaster Meadow, I received a call from the office of City Councillor Aidan Johnson. They offered me an opportunity to bring the students to City Hall to speak on behalf of the environmental impact of water bottles. I explained I am no longer at Ancaster Meadow but could probably round up some interested students.

Several students from our class expressed interest and took home a note last week. On Friday I reminded them to please get back to me ASAP (regarding transportation), so I can  confirm numbers. We will be collaborating with a few of my last year students for a short presentation on May 14th. What a great opportunity!

G7 Summit

On Friday, we took the opportunity to send an email to a government site looking for feedback on issues discussed at this year’s G7 Summit in Quebec. After our research on plastic pollution, we felt we wanted to express our support for talks and action on environmental issues.

Tomorrow, we will be sharing our work through a slide show presentation at the school’s Earth Day Assembly. 

Happy Earth Day!