Monday, 24 September 2012

Exciting Writing!

Recently, I asked students for a 'writing baseline'. I asked students to write me 'about a life event of your choosing.' I did not give any further criteria than that at this time because I like to see in this first piece what is their natural inclination.

For instance, if asked to write, what do they do? Do they naturally brainstorm before beginning? Do they naturally break their work into paragraphs or do they write a solid block of text? Do they add specific details, proper capitals and punctuation, sentence variety, interesting words, etc?

From their sample, I can then see what is the area of need for each student and also what are the most predominate needs of the class. This then creates the criteria of my expectation for their next writing pieces. 

The next writing task will have very specific criteria laid out as I guide students towards improvement in their written communication.

I have started reading over these samples and am very excited to be working with these young writers. There is so much potential in this room for funny, clever, detailed, interesting pieces!

I look forward to returning their samples and getting to work on the revision process. I am using this form to assess where they are at in September and as you can see, it provides quite specific feedback on where they need to take their writing next.

You'll also notice that these feedback points are adaptable to a wide variety of writing forms...both non-fiction forms and fiction forms. We will likely thus be working on these writing skills all year long. 

We will also be looking at the Gr. 7 writing exemplars to see what a typical Level 1 through 4 looks like by year end.

To quote a cool T shirt I once saw: WRITE ON!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Oral Language: Improv Everywhere!

Continuing our oral language study, we watched another interesting TED TALK, this time a presentation given by Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere.

As with the previous TED TALK, we will return to this presentation at a later date to examine both the method of the presentation and the structure of its content (as a form of persuasive argument)...but for now, we are just wanting to practise recording key words and then crafting a really, really good, concise, specific main idea sentence based on those words.

Here is the link to the Improv Everywhere TED TALK.

I told students I would link to  examples of other Improv Everywhere activities which are on the Improv Everywhere youtube page, such as:

Star Wars on the Subway
Spontaneous Musical (Food Court)
Spontaneous Musical (Grocery Store)
Frozen in Grand Central Station

More On Line Math Games

As in my previous post, here is a list of some fun on line math games. These games focus on comparing fractions.


..Gr. 7 Compare & Order Fraction On line Quiz , Compare Fractions Word Problems Online Dolphin Game (locate highest value), .plus check out this comparing fractions link!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

On Line Math Games

Currently we are reviewing material on fractions.


Here is a list of online games/sites that promote practise in making fractions equivalent (equivalent being just a fancy math term for 'of the same value').

For example, 1/2 is of the same value as 4/ has just been divided into smaller pieces (eighths instead of halves).

If I cut you 1/2 of the cake and 4/8 of the cake, you will still get the same size cake!

Knowing how to convert fractions into equivalent counterparts is essential when it comes to comparing fractions and adding and subtracting they need to find a common denominator in order to make it easier to compare, add or subtract.

I've suggested students give these sites a try at home as an extension to classroom review.

Go on, give them a try!

Gr. 7 Equiv. Fraction Quiz Online,  Fraction Target GameMatching Fractions GameFinding the Lowest Terms

More games to come as we ease back into comparing fractions...and eventually, comparing decimals, etc. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Oral Language: Continuing with the Main Idea!

We continue to work on explaining the main idea in oral texts. Today we watched Kevin Alloca's oral presentation on "Why Videos Go Viral" from TED TALKS.

This is a great presentation...and we will be turning to it again, particularly when we start creating full persuasive essays, as he provides an excellent model of a persuasive essay format (you'll notice he provides an argument, supports that argument with 3 key points which are in turn supported by clear evidence/proof and then thoroughly explained...but that is something we will explore later in more depth!)

The focus of today was to again note down a speaker's key words and then look over those words to determine what is MOST IMPORTANT. What is MOST IMPORTANT typically leads to the overall main idea. When writing about the main idea, it helps to use those KEY WORDS in our explanation because that keeps it very SPECIFIC. One of our goals in explaining our understanding of an oral text is to be very specific to the text and also to be very CONCISE and to try to explain ourselves in one sentence.

I like to combine oral language and media studies because typically when giving an oral presentation people use media as well (such as a powerpoint or prezi) to clarify their ideas. In this talk, he puts key words on screen. Students, this is a clear indication that they are important! Not only is he saying them, he is showing them as well. He is emphasizing them.

Student will eventually be giving presentations of their own. It is helpful to see a model of a good presentation.

Also, the work we are doing now in crafting specific and concise main idea sentences will impact later study in literacy--for when we start explaining the main ideas in our readings, for example (also known as 'themes' in works of fictions), or when we start developing introductions to persuasive essays. The skill of being specific and concise is one that is needed time and again in the process of communication--whether we are speaking or writing. This is our first foothold in the development of that skill!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

New: Math Page!

I have added a math page to this class blog. If you look along the top row of my blog above, you will see the MATH tab. The link is also HERE.

Please take a moment to check out this page.

I have included many links that explain the new direction of math teaching that I will be taking. This direction is one that emphasizes math thinking (aka the 'math processes), creative problem solving and math communication in many forms (talking, writing, reading, drawing about math).

This approach takes math beyond the textbook and beyond the simple right answer/wrong answer or right solution/wrong solution. My role is to act as a guide or facilitator to assist students in exploring math concepts and methodology with an emphasis on math's BIG IDEAS.

To learn more about this approach, please check out my math page links.

On my Math page you will also find a list of our math goals which will be updated monthly.

I also list our plans for each math class. This is primarily to organize myself in class (I use this blog every day in class as a daily agenda and as a form of communication. It takes the place of chart paper and blackboard). However, you are also welcome to read up on what we are doing daily, keeping in mind that this is a rather fluid process.

I love the class blog as a means of communicating daily class practise. I am a big believer in making the classroom transparent...what goes on here should not be shrouded in mystery!

No longer can your child say 'nothing' if you every ask your child what they did in school today...because all the details are on the blog if they need to refresh their memory!

Friday, 7 September 2012


Spelling is one of those things students (and adults like me) find boring and tedious...but it MUST BE DONE! 

First: as a MATTER OF PRIDE. Your ideas are important and deserve the respect of being properly presented.

Secondly: because you don't want to IRRITATE YOUR READER. If you spell words wrong (especially common words) your reader will notice the errors and it will irritate them--especially if it is so poorly spelled, they get confused as to your meaning.

Writers want to entice readers to keep reading their writing. They don't want to annoy or frustrate them so they toss the writing aside and yell in aggravation: "I'M NOT READING THIS! THE SPELLING IS SO TERRIBLE I CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT! I GIVE UP!"

It is an expected part of the grade 7 curriculum that students are able to spell common words correctly. In this class we will be looking at the 200 most commonly mis-spelled words in the English Language as our starting point.

I myself am guilty of mis-spelling these words on occasion (though I am a novelist in my spare time, and I love writing, spelling is not my strong suit. I must work hard at this like most other people do).

These are the words that we use again and again and that readers will notice when we get them wrong.

So let's get them right! Together, we are going to ace these words!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

How School is Like A Video Game...

As you will see in the side bar, I like to list the current focus for each month so everyone knows what we are doing and what we are  planning to do in the near future. September to me is all about establishing where students are at vis a vis the various curriculum areas and setting goals from there.

Once I know where students are at, I can give feedback to guide them in obtaining the skills that they need to progress. I presented this idea to the class this week in a cute little analogy that compares Video Games & School. Students were also asked to write down what they thought was the main idea of my presentation (thus, providing me with data on their ability to demonstrate an understanding on an oral text--a key component of the oral language curriculum!)

A Screenshot of a Gamer Profile: Zelda:
This is the prezi I gave on comparing the effective feedback in video games to the effective feedback in schools.

A Screenshot of a Student Profile: Literacy
The point of this activity, as I mentioned above, was two fold.

First, to discuss the idea of 'effective feedback'. What is it in video games? (tool inventory, health meters, maps, rankings, etc).

What is it in schools? (report cards, comments, conversations, notes from the teacher, regarding various subject areas & skill sets, etc).

And, in both cases, what is the purpose? To inform your next steps, to grow in 'gamer points & skills' or student ability and skills so that you can proceed to the next level.

Your 'gamer/student profile' should be different from the start of the year to the end in the various areas. As in the video game, we expect you to grow..but instead of growing in health hearts, we want growth in curriculum areas. Teachers also need to take base line data (samples of reading, writing, oral language, spelling, math ability at the start of the year so we can determine your profile 'starting point'. This provides a point of comparison so you can see your progress over time!

Secondly, to see if students could aptly explain the main idea of my oral text!

Most students were able to explain afterward in writing that my talk was a comparison between school and a video game, or they noted that both were about progressing...but it was clear from these student samples that they could grow in this ability. Most students in this class need to work on these skills when answering a comprehension question about an oral text:

-restating the question (the main idea is...)
-being more specific ('games and school are the same in many ways'...should include more specific details other than just saying 'many ways'!)
-being more concise! (some students were repetitive, and wrote their response over many sentences. The main idea should fit into one sentence! It can be tightened up!)

Students have now set personal goals based on my feedback.

I realize I have gone into a fair bit of detail here about baselines and this first baseline sample but I want to demonstrate how the process of obtaining a baseline sample and providing feedback based on clear criteria helps students know which skill area to focus on next so that they improve in those abilities.

Just as a map on the Zelda game screen tells you where to go next, so too do I, as your teacher, tell you where you need to go next so that you may progress!