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Five for Friday (Actually on a Friday!)

Five for Friday.... on a Friday!  Can you believe it?  Here's some highlights from my week!


I'm working on an Ignite presentation I will be giving in a few weeks.  The topic is "passion".  My speech has morphed into a "focus on what brings you energy" talk.  I'm really excited about this.

If you don't know what Ignite is, it is similar to a Ted Talk.  The differences are that it is 5 minutes long and you prepare 20 slides that automatically change every 15 seconds.  That part freaks me out a bit!  I'm going to really need to be on the ball!

On Thursday one of my students brought me surprise chai latte to say thanks for helping her with her science fair project.  The grade 4s in my district get 6 swimming lessons.  I got to drink the chai while watching them swim.  I was so proud of the new skills they are learning and got to sip this tasty drink while doing it.  Lovely start to the day.  


The student mentioned above is doing her science fair project on if chlorine really works.  Each day we go to the pool, she is taking samples and attempting to grow bacteria.  I'm happy to see that so far we aren't growing anything!  

I love that I am able to share my science knowledge with these kiddos.  So proud of this big project she has taken on also. 
Tonight my Facebook page rolled over from 99 to 100 likes!  How exciting!


I'm going to wrap this up with a little freebie for you all!  Enjoy.

Happy Friday! Thanks Doodlebugs Teaching for hosting the linky week after week.


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Science Fair in the Classroom

My favourite time of year once again, Science Fair time!  If you just moaned and groaned, I suggest you go read this post, and then this one, and hopefully you come back with a more positive attitude toward the fair.  

No negative opinions can get me down about this topic though, I am truly passionate about it!  I know that it can be overwhelming for some, so today I'm sharing with you some tips and tricks for easy management:

Start with a Demo

We started talking about science fair the very first day back after Christmas break.  For many, grade four is the first year to complete a project and it can be really overwhelming just to hear the task described.  I like to take a bit of the anxiety away with a fun demo.

Here, we are using the good old baking soda and vinegar demo with a twist.... as the two combine it creates carbon dioxide which fills the balloon.  Totally unexpected and they really love it!  We did this at every table group, all at once.  So fun to hear them all oohing and ahhing at it.

Run Student Experiments as Rotations

This leads into a week of selecting an appropriate topic that is truly an experiment, not a demo.  Most of my class has nailed that concept, so I am really excited.

We've been working our way through some research, our questions, hypothesis, permission slips (if using human participants), and materials.  For five of my students, they were able to do their testing on Friday.  We did a stations day where my class rotated from group to group sampling foods (does sight affect taste?, does scent affect taste?, does colour affect taste?), blowing up balloons (lung capacity and height), viewing optical illusions (do you have a blind spot?)

Create a Reference Wall for the Scientific Method

And, as you know, I like to spread my passion about the school.  So this weekend, Crystal and I created this awesome bulletin board!

We used my old lab coat from university, some rubber gloves, goggles, paper and cotton batting to create our mad scientist.  The white is oil pastel on black bulletin board paper.

The posters you see here are my Scientific Process poster set. I teach my class the scientific method with these projected in the classroom, and now the printed versions can serve as a visual reminder in the hallway.

If you like it, and want your own set, click here to get yourself a copy


Or, check out my Complete Resource Package.  You'll get the poster set above and so much more!  This 60+ resource has EVERYTHING you need to successfully teach and host a science fair.

I really do love talking about this topic, so if you're wondering about something for your classroom or school fair, please ask away either in the comments or via email!

Check out my Pinterest board for more Science Fair inspiration!

Looking to build your Science resources? Need a low-prep blackline for lab reports? Want a thorough way to assess student knowledge and skills? Get your copy of my two-page lab report and assessment rubric today. These resources will help to make your Science lessons a breeze from start to finish!


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!

Helping to inspire,
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Five for Fraturday


I'm taking a brain break from marking to write this post.  Thank you Doodlebugs Teaching because I can procrastinate from one thing, but check something off another list.  Ha!
Another week has flown by.  Some days I just feel like my head hits the pillow only seconds after I woke up.  Everything between is a blur.
 This week was exciting because my student teacher came for her first visit!  I can't wait for her to get teaching and begin her journey.

When I was younger, I have memories of Mom stopping off at the gas station and filling the car tank with a $20.  Those days are long gone... or so I thought.  We seem to be creeping lower and lower in the gas prices.  I think we may even be under $1.00 now.  Didn't think I would see that ever again!

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen this picture too. I shared several of a great art task we did.  My class used water colour pencil crayons for the first time on Thursday.  We used them to learn about the colour wheel and all the colour combinations within it.  Next week, we're going to use watercolour pencil crayons to create a piece of artwork, and now they will be ready to rock that out!

Science fair is in full swing in my classroom.  I have 6 students in my class who required human participants for their projects.  Five of these could be completed at school.  So yesterday we had testing stations.  Students rotated around to all 5.  This worked so great to get 5 projects completed!

This is a shot of one project.... she is wondering if you can tell the difference between name brand and no name chips!

Last weekend, I shared this picture on Instagram.  Today, I'm heading to school to put up something new!  You'll have to wait to see what that is though.

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How Old is Janie? - A Fractions Problem


Are you looking for an engaging, critical thinking, high level word problem to assess your students' understandings of fractions?  Well, then, look no further!  One of my favourite word problems to do for fractions involves someone named Janie, and their birthday cake.  This word problem has everything a good problem requires.... multiple ways of showing your thinking and multiple answers

So, what's the question you ask?  Here you go...

At Janie's birthday party, Janie blew out 3/4 of her candles on her cake, draw a picture that shows the birthday cake, and candles, also showing which candles were blown out. P.S. How old is Janie? Explain your reasoning.

This question is not mine - it comes from a Marilyn Burns book.  Marilyn Burns is one math rockstar, let me tell you.  Anything she writes is genius.

Getting Started

To complete this task, I broke my class into groups.  Each group was given a chart paper to show their thinking on.  Instantly, every group said that Janie was four.  It makes sense, 3/4... blows out 3 of a total of 4.  There's your basic answer #1.  So, I told everyone that Janie could be 4, but they must all find a different age Janie could be.  At this point, they were all really mad at me. I mean, seriously, really mad.  They had found an answer they liked, and not too many wanted to find another.  Perseverance - math trait #1 folks.

Needless to say, we needed a second day with this task.  I am a huge believer that processing time works wonders.  With a night to sleep on the problem, they were all ready to go on day 2.  After about 30 minutes, they were ready to present their thinking to the class.

Sample Answers

Here's a few possible solutions and strategies from my students:

Showing understanding of fractions using a 100 dot array.

 #1 - Janie is 100 years old.

I really liked this one because of the strategy used here.  These kids grabbed a 100 dot array to show their thinking on.  When they picked up the array, they really weren't sure what they wanted to do.  However, the array is divided into 4 spaces which sparked their thinking.  They knew that each quadrant contained 25 dots.  Three out of four quadrants is 75 dots.  Therefore, Janie is 100 and blew out 75 candles.

Using a picture to show fractions understanding.

#2 - Janie is 12 years old (or anything even).

These ladies are very neat in their work.  They asked to do a second copy to present to the class.  I kind of wish I had taken a picture of the rough copy, because of course, that's where the majority of the thinking is represented.  These girls knew that fractions could be part of a set, so they drew out a random number of candles (I think they started with 10) and did a guess and test until they found a set where 3/4 worked.  That's how they settled on 12. 
They also discovered that Janie has to be an even age, which isn't quite true (to be explained later on in the post), but was a good beginning!

Using parts of a set to show fractions understanding.

#3 - Janie is 12 again.

In this group, they decided Janie was 12 as well, but came across that answer in a totally different way.  They decided to draw a fraction circle to represent 3/4.  They too knew that fractions could be part of a set.  They decided to draw 3 fraction circles with 3/4 shaded in because the numerator was 3.  They then counted up the pieces and saw that Janie could be 12 and blow out 9 candles.

Using multiples to solve a fractions word problem

 #4 - Janie's age has to be a multiple of 4.

I was so THRILLED that a group came to this realization.  They noticed that Janie could be 12, 16, 20, 24 or anything as long as you are counting by 4's.  This was the outcome I wanted, but of course, I couldn't tell it to them!  This led to a wonderful discussion that tied in so many elements: patterning, multiplication, the thinking of classmates... it was excellent.

I love math experiences like these and hope that the positive energy rubs off as much on the students as it does on me!

I'd love to hear about any word problems you've presented to your class.


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Easy S.T.E.A.M. Activities to Try Right Now

This year, my Grade 4's are Big Buddies to a Grade 1/2 class.  We try to meet every couple weeks, usually on Friday afternoons.  We do the "traditional" Buddy meeting where we read to the "Littles" and vice versa, however, we are trying to mix it up with some S.T.E.M Challenges.  

If you are unfamiliar with the term, S.T.E.M stands for:
S - Science
T - Technology
E - Engineering
M - Mathematics

More recently, the acronym has been changed to S.T.E.A.M. in which the "A" refers to art.  Kids use a skill set in S.T.E.M/S.T.E.A.M Challenges that they don't necessarily get to use throughout the regular school day.  They can increase their teamwork skills, critical thinking and motivation.

We have completed two S.T.E.M. Challenges so far this year.  The first was Spaghetti and Marshmallow Towers.  In groups of two (one Big and one Little) students received a handful of spaghetti and 20 mini marshmallows.  They also had one scooter to use as their tower base.  The task was to build the tallest tower in 30 minutes that fit on the scooter base and was stable enough to move to a judging area.

The kids were really eager to get going on this task.  I was so impressed with how well they worked together.  We ask the kids to pick a new buddy each time.  I was also really impressed that no one ate any marshmallows as they worked!  I know that was pretty tempting for some.

Students who made a triangular or square base seemed to have the most success.  Also, those with cross-bracing did better too.  What I loved most about this challenge was that the grade 4's were equally as engaged and tested as the 1's and 2's.  

The second challenge we did was Gingerbread Men Traps.  We did this challenge on the last day of school before Christmas break.  It was the perfect alternative to a hectic class party.  We split the classes in half.  I took half to do the challenge first, while the other half decorated gingerbread men in the Little's classroom.  After about 45 minutes we switched.

We had asked the students to bring in a few recyclables ahead of time.  Some brought water bottles and boxes, others had tin cans and gum containers.  We also gave them access to Popsicle sticks, yarn, Dixie cups, straws, cotton balls and tape.

The final item we gave everyone was a gingerbread cut out.  We found it in this excellent free package from Smart Chick Teaching on TpT.

Before they could gather supplies and get going, every Buddy group had to sketch out a plan on a blank paper.  After they presented their plan to me, I gave them whatever they needed.

What I loved about this challenge was that every group had a completely different end result.  They are so creative! 

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