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Snow Globe Writing

*I noticed this was a draft post since January.  Ooops!*

Have you seen all the pins on Pinterest about being trapped in a snow globe?  The craftivity is seriously cute!  This inspired my friend Crystal and I to create a SMART lesson with an end task of writing about what this would be like.  I started this lesson on the return to school after Christmas break, and we are just wrapping up now.

First, we had a talk about the parts of a writer.  I encouraged my class to think about how each of their body parts helps them being descriptive writers.  This was tricky at first, but soon they were telling me things like "you need your brain for imaginative thoughts" and "your nose helps you smell; and smells add description to your writing".

On the second day, gave the class three clues.  At the end they had to use these to make a prediction about the story I'd be reading.  I started with a mystery box item.  We play 20 questions with the mystery box, so questions they ask have to be answered with "yes" or "no".  I was so impressed! After knowing that the item was smooth, not light and made of glass a student guessed it was a snow globe.  The class gave him a round of applause.  Cute!

Clue two was three excerpts of text from the picture book.  They were written on chart paper. Students were broken into groups and travelled around the room adding their ideas to the papers.  They wrote titles of stories they thought it might be, or characters they thought the words referred to, drew pictures the words made them visualize, wrote settings etc.

Clue three was a picture from the story.  It was a big face peering into a window looking at a family.

Are you curious what book we read?  

It was "The Snow Globe Family" by Jane O'Conner.

 Students had to wait until day 3 to hear the story.  That was torturous!  When we read the story, I split it into chunks.  Students had some discussion at each spot, made further predictions, asked questions etc.  We also did one of my favourite SMART strategies: "Radio Read".  In this, parts of text are typed out for students.  Everyone had their own copy.  First, the teacher reads aloud from the picture book.  Then, students are given a copy and they follow along while the teacher reads again.  Third, students and teacher read.  From there you can do all sorts of fun things like boys vs. girls competitions, use funny voices.... We read like the teeny tiny people in the snow globe.  What a fun voice that was!

Day 4 involved a planning sheet for their stories.  Students visualized, drew, talked, wrote down sensory words they might want to include, set goals for their writing....

I wrote up 5 samples for students to sort and rank.  On Day 5 I read them and projected each under the document camera.  As a class we debated whether they were a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 and why.  I mentally kept track of their reasons, as these all became criteria for the marking rubric we used.

By the 6th day we were able to start writing.  My class cheered!  It was a thrilling moment for me.  The silently wrote for 25 minutes three days in a row.  We did a lot of sharing, small groups, whole class, teachers in the hallway.  Whoever would listen, we shared to them.

As students wrapped up their stories, they filled out a pre-conference sheet from Writing 44.  I liked that they had to self-assess and reflect on what they wanted me to focus on when I read.  I gave them some advice, they adjusted their work, and completed a good copy.

I don't take work to publishing stage very often.  This is the second piece I've done this way all year.  I don't want them to hate the revising processes, which I think a lot of this group already does.

Light Lapbook

The entire unit has been tested by my class.  They really enjoyed every step of it!  When we first built our lapbooks, they were really enthusiastic about doing so.  They loved colouring it and taking some ownership.  

I usually give a study sheet to go home before each test, but I told them that their lapbook would be their study sheet this time around.  I feel like that really increased their buy-in.
So,  what do you get in this file? Here's the table of contents:


You'll see that there are 2 non-fiction reads included, as well as links to YouTube videos, instructions for experiments/demos and lots and lots of blacklines for foldables. You get everything you need from start to finish, including a show what you know poster activity and a unit test.  This unit took me about 4 weeks to teach. 

The pieces are easy to assemble and kids love doing it!

Click on any of the pictures, or right here, to go to get yourself a copy

Check out my Light and Sound board on Pinterest for more ideas.

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Minecraft Math

 This project is all over Pinterest!  We had a day where many students were gone to a rural hockey tournament and I thought this would be a fun, but still educational thing for us to do while they were gone.
I cut squares of construction paper.  I mean, A LOT of squares.  It was probably about an hour of cutting.  I made 2 cm squares.  I did this because 1 seemed just too small, and I liked the challenge of each square being 2 cm.  If I did this again, I would do 5 cm squares.  This took a long time to prep and do.  But, oh man, they are so hilarious!  

You can't see well (I'm not sure why I didn't do any close up shots), but students found the perimeter of their person and the area.  There are pencil markings of math all over their background.  They really liked this.  Minecraft is so huge at my school!  I'm sure it is at yours too.  

Area and perimeter names

I have been teaching my students perimeter and area.  At the end of the unit, as a bit of a "show what you know" task, we created our names in block letters and found the area and perimeter of each letter.  (Don't mind the disastrous class library underneath, this was just after quiet reading - probably should have straightened that out before picture taking!)

Fatty Legs

The grade 4 Social Studies curriculum in B.C. mentions the effect of explorers coming to Canada and their interactions with aboriginal cultures.  We are very lucky to have an excellent resource on this topic created locally! Several years ago, Christy Jordan-Fenton encouraged her mother in law Margaret Pokiak-Fenton to tell her story of life in a residential school.  This book is so very powerful.  Here is what the publisher, Annick press has to say:

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.
At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.
In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.
Complemented by archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s collection and striking artworks from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl’s determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers.

Each day that I read this story my students were so engaged.  With each chapter, we did a specific task.  On one day, I asked the students to fill out a SMARTLearning Four Quadrants sheet.  I snapped a quick picture of two student's drawings of the most important part of the chapter.  Though both students picked the same moment, they show it very differently.

In this scene, Oolemaun is being "welcomed" to the school by a nun.  Her family is outside and Oolemaun is scared.  The nun says something to the effect of "We can teach her things you can not".  
I wrote about the sequel book, "A Stranger at Home", here last year.   We have just wrapped up reading this book as well.  My class loved the first so much, I just had to read both!

Haikus about Home

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month?  It is!  My grade 4s have been very busy learning about different types of poetry and loving it.  When we got to Haiku's I, of course, had to use my lesson based on this book:
 "Combining evocative haiku, informative text and luminous illustrations, The West Is Calling is a celebration, for our youngest readers, of one hundred and fifty years of British Columbia's history. Each detail-rich illustration depicts a particular moment in the province's dynamic saga, from pre-contact Haida culture, to the natural resources-fueled economic boom in the 1960s and beyond, to Expo 86, to the opening up of the North and the growing appreciation of First Nations' traditions."
~Good Reads

My kids really surprised me with some thoughtful and insightful poetry.  They are excellent writers, and I knew that, but this lesson reminded me how powerful poetry can be for young writers.  Even my reluctant writers came up with some beautiful poems.

 You can find this lesson on TPT by clicking the photo below. The task is to create a Haiku about your home – students may choose a narrow topic, such as their actual home, or go wider to town, or province. They are provided with a criteria sheet, brainstorming sheet and two choices for a good copy sheet. A marking rubric is also included as well as samples from grade 4 students. 

Regional Science Fair

http://nbcrsf.wordpress.com/My district does some pretty great things.  And I'm really proud to be a part of this one.   The Regional Science Fair committee consists of 16 of us.  We start planning in September for this day in April.  This year, I had two positions on the committee - Activities Coordinator (1 of 3) and Ethics Coordinator (just me).  The ethics position was a new one for me.  I really enjoyed it and can't wait to take it further next year. 

 Each year we have a logo design contest.  The winner gets their design on the shirt for the year.  This was designed digitally by a grade 10 student!  She won a $250 gift card to Staples.  I just love this logo!  Super cool!

Each school is allowed to bring a percentage of their eligible students to the fair.  For my school, that was 12 students.  Three students came from my class.  Here they are with their boards:
Kayli did her project on erosion.  It was called "Breaking Down the Earth".  My oh my this girl is such a great presenter!  She was so confident and really knew her stuff.  The most exciting part was when she was given the "Top Grade 4" award at the end of the fair.  So proud for her!

Lucas' family are farmers.  He told me he wants to be an excellent farmer just like his dad when he grows up.  What better time than now to start preparing?  He did research on a variety of grains his family would grow on their farm.  Though his hypothesis was correct, he learned a lot about proper seeding techniques.  Not to mention data analysis and graphing.  What a great job he did!

I just happened to have two photos for this next student.  I think this is a great example of all the hard work and learning that goes into a science fair project.  If you are a teacher who disagrees or doesn't see the benefits of science fair, well I ask you to email me now.  I will gladly tell you!   The first picture is of Hunter and his board at our school fair.  The second is of the board he took to Regionals.  What a massive improvement he made!  Don't get me wrong, his first board was amazing.  But the initiative, determination and drive to improve is really impressive.

What do you do when at the fair?  That's where my activities role comes in.  
Between judgings the students are super busy!  Here's just a little bit of what they did:

Dale is a teacher in our district.  He has brought a table of aboriginal items to the fair the past two years.  Students love to guess what each item is, who used it and why they used it.  For me, this is a great tie in to the grade 4 curriculum and I encourage my students to go visit him.  But his passion and knowledge for the topic makes him really interesting to listen to!  You see a lot of parents at this table as well.
The favourite part of the fair for many, including myself, is Rick's science show.  Each year he does it with a different theme.  This years theme was electricity.  His show was called "Snap, Crackle, and SHOCK!".  So fun!  

Showing how static electricity can control the flow of water.
Mr. Van de Graaff is messy!

In the afternoon we had a huge challenge!  In teams of no more than 4 students had to make a card tower using only 2 decks of cards, scissors and a scooter board as the base.  It had to be stable enough to wheel to the judging circle.  The tallest tower was over 18 inches!

Don't forget about the medals.  We give out a tonne of awards!

Are you preparing for a science fair?  If so, check out these items:


Take a look at my Science Fair Pinterest board for more inspiration!


Okay, I know I'm about a month behind here.  But, you'll be all inspired up for next year now.  Before I go any further - this is not my idea!  I got the directions for these cute dudes from What the Teacher Wants.  Thanks to them for the original inspiration!  Please click the link to find out exactly what you need to make them. 

This is the second time I've had a class do this project.  Both times I've left it for a TOC.  It does require some prep, cutting all the bits up ahead of time.  It's really not a grade 4 level task, but they are so so so cute and I just can't help but make the exception!

They are all so different with huge personality.  I can totally tell who made each one!  People like to stop and laugh at them and admire all the funny freckles, beards and moustaches.  Just beware!  This year I had a nose-poker so kept squishing in noses.  I am still not sure who was doing that.  After about 4 times of poking the noses back out they decided it was no fun any more.

A belated Happy St. Patrick's Day!   Hope you found your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

A Fun Activity To Teach Positive Mindset

In this post, back in January, I mentioned working on a Growth Mindset project with some colleagues.  I created a bulletin board to help our 3 classes keep the growth mindset at the forefront whenever they walked by.  On the left, are fixed mindset sayings such as "I can't" and "This is too hard!". 

On the right, there are growth mindset sayings like "I'll have this thing done soon" and my favourite, "Just keep swimming".  My class wrote in red for fixed, or green for growth, but the older kids are part of the wireless writing project and all typed their out.  I like that these statements came from them and are therefore likely things they have thought.  I have noticed a great change in my students after this series of lessons.  They are more encouraging to one another. 

Are you interested in even more bulletin board ideas? Do you want to save time by finding them all in one place? Follow the image or button below to grab your copy of my free bulletin board inspiration guide. 

Take me to the guide!

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