Saturday, 20 October 2012

Lego Wedo

Yesterday was a Professional Development day for the entire province.   We are very lucky that we have the option of choosing to do some "self-directed" Pro-D, and that is what I did.  Myself and a colleague spent the day with our school collection of Lego robots.  We have 12 sets of Lego's Wedo collection, as well as 12 extension kits.  

I really wanted to explore these for their connections to the grade 4 curriculum.  I could see obvious values for developing visual spatial, team building, cooperation, etc.  My first thought was "these are amazing for grade 5 and simple machines outcomes!"  I needed a bit more to show me how they could be used to tie specifically into grade 4.

The introductory build...

I am happy to say I left the day with many grade 4 outcome tie ins....

Math: measure the area and perimeter, fractional parts, estimation

Language Arts: you can essentially write a story about anything, can't you?

Science: I think these will be a great "intro to science fair" and I am planning on using them to teach the scientific process.  The kits also offer many animal builds that can tie into my habitats unit.

Fine Arts: There is a few outcomes that refer to animation, leading me to....

Scratch!  This is a FREE! program developed by MIT.  It can be used on it's own, but also, is compatible with the Lego Robots.  The fish you see in this screen shot are being told to move around.  They can also speak to each other if they happen to bump, or change colours....  It can play music or your own recordings.  When a Lego Robot is connected, it can tell it what to do as well, with more options than the Wedo software.

My colleague and I challenged ourselves to build the Dancing Birds (that are in the photo above) and make them do more with the Scratch software.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Helping Students Master Basic Math Facts

Basic number sense is so important at any grade level.  The more I talk to other teachers, the more I hear about kids not having any number sense.  It seems that many have troubles memorizing basic facts, or have very inefficient strategies for solving those they don't know.  

I use the "All the .... facts you ever need to know" sheets from Trevor Calkins in my class.  There is some for subtraction, addition, multiplication and division.  Once a week, we will complete a sheet.  I give the class 6 minutes to complete, regardless of which facts they are working on.  I believe that if they are unable to finish in 6 minutes, the strategies they are using simply aren't efficient.  Everyone starts with addition and after completing the sheet with no errors twice they can move on to subtraction and so forth.  I make them get the entire sheet correct twice in a row to ensure consistency.  I also stress to the class that it's okay if you don't get it all.  Next time, your goal is to do the same or one better.
Here's some great ideas for teaching number sense I found on Pinterest:

There are so many ways to enforce number sense in the classroom.  Do you have any great strategies?  I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Class agreement

During my practicum, I was introduced to a series of three books.  They are "Practical Ideas to Start up the Year", "Spark Up" and "Wrap Up".  There is a few grade level versions.  They are quite expensive for small books, but very worth it.  I am lucky that my principal has a few copies in his office, so I just borrow them as needed.

Great series of books!  3 in the set.
One thing discussed in the "Start Up" book is a class agreement.  I know a lot of classrooms have rules (as they should), but I really liked the idea of building those with the class as a set of expectations.  I do this over the first week of school.

First, I read "David Goes to School" by David Shannon.  The kids think David is hilarious (as do I).  Although this picture book could be used with a kindergarten class, it is still quite enjoyable at the higher grades.  We talk about some of the things that David does that aren't the greatest of ideas.  I leave it at that for the first day.

The next day, I set up a "Looks Like, Sounds Like, Feels Like" chart on the Smartboard.  I ask "What do you want our classroom to look like, sound like, and feel like?"  The class first has table discussions and then we will in the whole class chart.

On day three, we re-evaluate the chart and add in anything else we may have forgotten the day before.  We then work to turn everything into full sentences.  I limit it to three sentences that include all of our ideas.  That means we start talking about the terms "responsible", "respectful", "safe".  These just happen to be part of our school motto. 

Day four I have the class agreement written on chart paper.  It starts with "We agree to be learners who..."  I give everyone one last chance to do some editing.  I feel that if they all have to agree to it for the entire year, I want the students to have a say in every step of the process.  When we all agree, everyone comes up to the front and signs it.

The finished chart paper now hangs up in the front of my class.   I refer to it as needed.  Because they signed their names it is very effective to remind them that they agreed to what it says.

Saturday, 6 October 2012


This one is modeled after a fellow classmate.
To start off the year, one of the things we talked about was work habits.  I have another amazing group of kids this year and most already have great work habits, but they do love to chat!!  I was hoping a little discussion about it and tying in our class agreement (more on that later) would help.
Their reward was a bit more stingy.  :)
The students brainstormed a list of work habits everyone should have first in small groups.  Then, we created a full class list.  From this, we all did a self assessment on which ones we did well, and those we could try to do better on.  Lastly, students paired up and created these super cute wanted posters that are now hanging on the wall as reminders.