Monday, 30 November 2015

Totally Random: Maya

In which I pull a name at random and ask: what do you want on the blog?
Maya wants you to enjoy 1D's song: Perfect.

Wii Math: Mean, Median, Mode, Range Practice

I heard about this lesson via Twitter many years ago (in 2010, to be exact) so to my mind this is an oldie (but a goodie).

Basically, we use the Wii game Mario Kart to generate data for analysis.

It's a fun way to get many data points fast.

We play 4 players for 10 (or more) games (so each student plays twice, approx.), tracking the ranking for each player.

Then we use the data for mean, median, mode, range practice...and analyze the data for any patterns or conclusion we might make about it.

Today, we played the game and generated our data points, which is the first step.

In the past, I've spoken quite a bit about the potential of video games for learning in the classroom. In 2011, I did a research project on using Mario Kart to promote student engagement in the classroom, for which I was interviewed by CBC Radio. I also used the Wii in a Social Skills program, which was published as a journal article.

Click here to learn more about my research project.

Click here to listen to the radio interview.

Click here to read the journal article.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Time to Pick A New Class Book! *Revised*

We have finished our class read aloud, a book I chose: Running to Extremes.

It is now time to pick another book, to start in January!

This time, students have provided reading suggestions. I've also provided a few. Here they are!

We are eventually going to vote via survey and analyze the data to determine our next class read. (We will create the survey together via google forms, to show how it is done...coming soon!)

Here are the choices! *drum roll please*

#1 Between Heaven and Earth 

DJ thinks of himself as a leader – always out in front, always in charge and able to accomplish anything.  So when he goes to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and scatter his grandfather’s ashes, he is sure it won’t be that difficult – how hard is a bit of hiking?  But DJ finds that it will take everything he’s got to make it to the top – and he’s going to need help.

#2 Animal Farm

It is about a group of animals who rebel against the humans from the farm they live on and run it themselves with hopes of being equal, free, and happy. In the end, however, the new rule becomes a cruel tyranny of its own led by the pigs. Written during World War II and published in 1945, it was not well received at first, but is widely accepted as a classic today. (from wikipedia)

#3 Pendragon: The Merchant of Death

Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby. He is going to save the world. - (From djmachale books)

#4 Coraline

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.
But there's another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wits and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life. (from Neil Gaiman's site)
#5 The Graveyard Book

After his family are killed, Bod is brought up in a graveyard by ghosts – an array of century-spanning characters who care for him, impart wisdom and even teach body-fading skills. But Bod sometimes goes beyond the graveyard into the world of the living – and here his life is under threat from the sinister man Jack, who has pursued him since he was a baby.

#6 Cinder

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future. from 

#7 Ungifted

Donovan is definitely skilled . . . at getting into trouble. And when one of his thoughtless pranks accidentally destroys the school gym during the Big Game, with the superintendent watching, he knows he's in for it. Suspension at best, maybe expulsion. Either way, a lawsuit and paying for damages. But through a strange chain of events, his name gets put on the list for the local school for gifted students: the Academy for Scholastic Distinction. Donovan knows he's not a genius, but he can't miss this chance to escape.
Now, he has to figure out a way to stay at ASD ― and fit in with the kids there. And who knows, maybe his real gift will come to light . . .
#8 Wonder

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. 

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.  from


Discovering 'Growth Mindset' Through Narratives

Every day we have 20 minutes of personal reading time. Students spend this time reading material of their own choosing (typically, a novel).

We then do an activity (either reading or writing focused) that they can apply to their personal reading.

Sometimes it's a CASI type question (ie: is it a good title? explain why or why not or what is the main idea/theme?).

And sometimes it's a CASI related question (ie: write the scene from an alternative point of view).

And sometimes it's writing related (ie: which writing trait is the author uses effectively or ineffectively? give an example).

One other area we are starting to explore within these narratives is the concept of Growth Mindset.

For example, we just completed our class read aloud: Running To Extremes.

In this biography Ray Zahab, a Canadian ultra-marathon runner, explains how he got into the sport, and also the many many challenges (mental and physical) he faced while racing in the Yukon, Sahara and the Amazon (and elsewhere).

There are numerous times when he wanted to give up...but didn't. Or made mistakes...which he then adapted to or changed for the better next time around.

The concept of Growth Mindset is all through out this book!

Of course, a narrative doesn't need to be about ultra marathon racing to illustrate the growth mindset.

Many narrative plots involve an obstacle that needs to be overcome...Characters often face challenges and conflicts that require a shift in perspective and self-understanding... This is true in novels (written narratives) and film (visual narratives). (And we will continue to study both).

Looking at main characters and plots through the lens of 'growth mindset' is a great way to connect personally to the concept.

We will continue to look at how Growth Mindset effects the characters in narratives and in that way, develop our own understanding of how this method of thinking might impact our own lives.

PS. For more about Canadian ultra-marathon runner Ray Zahab, click here

Friday, 27 November 2015

Totally Random: Mady

In which I pull a name at random and ask: what do you want on the blog?
Mady wants to remind you that hockey is awesome!

Travel Ad for a Fictional Setting

The theme for our current media maker cycle project is 'travel'.

I decided, given all of our work on narratives, that we would pick a famous fictional setting as our 'exotic locale'.

Some students need to finish this project at home.

We studied a few travel commercials to determine what exactly comprises a travel ad.

Based on that, we came up with this task:
  • create a short, minimum 30 second travel commercial for a famous FICTION setting that includes
    • images
    • text or voice over that gives 3 reasons to travel there
    • a slogan
    • a (fake) www site 'for more information'
    • music and or sound effects, as the program/app allows

Those of you that need to complete this at home, please email me your imovies:

Reminder: due date December 3.

Several completed ads are currently available for your viewing pleasure on our class youtube page!

They are also starting to be posted on individual student blogs so their Learning Hubs can see them and comment. More to be added soon!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Anti-Bullying Message/Slam Poetry

Mrs. Czarnota, our teacher-librarian, showed this video to our class on Tuesday.

I thought I would post it on our class blog. I believe it affected many students. I'm also going to put in the side bar links so we can reference it at any time.

Mrs. Czarnota says she will be revisiting slam poetry later in the year. :)

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Guest Teacher: Mrs. Boate Helps Us Get Creative in Math!

Mrs. Boate is the Innovation Resource Teacher for Numeracy K-8 with the SCDSB.

I invited her to join our class so she might demonstrate a creative and inquisitive approach to math concepts.

Math is typically an area that is seen as procedural, methodical and 'by the book'.

When most people think of math class in school, they think of following a set of pre-ordained steps, finding out the answer, and practicing questions over and over.

And yet...that does not have to be the case!

Our topic today was an introduction to graphing and data management.

To get our 'minds on' this new topic, and to access previous knowledge, Mrs. Boate posted a bar graph that had just bars and asked: what could this be about? Student brainstormed ideas, recalling previous graphs and survey subjects.

Then she asked: what is missing? Students remembered that graphs needs labels and scales and titles.

We then checked out this awesome site: Graphing Stories 

We looked at the Costa Rica swing video--but not past the point where we saw the swing portrayed as a graph because we wanted the students to try graphing it themselves.

Students had to creatively interpret the real life scenario into a mathematical (graphical) representation of their own devising.

This brought forth some interesting discussion on estimation of height, the shape the graph might take, marking the time for lowest point & highest point, etc.

We then compared student graphs to the graph in the video.

We will definitely be using this site again to explore graphing scenarios!

Mrs. Boate will be joining out class again in December for more graphing fun.

Thank you for visiting our class, Mrs. Boate!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Writing Assignment: Fiction Writing

Good readers create good writers, and vice versa. 

In our reading practice, we have focused predominately on narratives, studying such things as main ideas (an overall moral or message) and character traits. We’ve also looked at how the creators of narratives add depth and complexity to their work through the use of an emotional arc and a particular point of view or perspective.

In our writing practice, we have also examined narratives, noting how published authors use the main writing traits (ideas, organization, word choice, voice, sentence fluency and conventions) effectively (or not, however the case may be).

Now students can apply what they've learned to their own fiction writing!

We always have time in class to practice different types of writing forms, and to play in a creative writing 'sandbox' (a session I call Free Write) but this is a specific writing assignment: short narrative writing.

Lately in class we have been practicing the 'planning' phase for story writing.

Stories are made up of 3 essential ingredients: character, setting and plot.

It doesn't really matter where you start: a character idea will lead to a corresponding setting and plot, a setting idea will naturally lead to a character and a plot...and so on. 

We have played around with this creation process, creating characters with inner and outer traits and generating plot and setting ideas that 'fit' with them. We have taken a proposed setting and generated a plot idea and a character. We have taken a general plot outline, such as
  • ·      A battle is fought and won
  • ·      A lost treasure or relic or object is found.
  • ·      True love is searched for and found.
  • ·      A difficult ordeal is survived.
and created a character and setting to match...and from that developed a more complex plot line.

Students have now received a planning package in which they can use the planning process to develop a strong outline for their proposed piece of fiction.

Students will work both in class and at home to complete the short story (emphasis on SHORT. Max 4 typed or 6 hand written, no chapter books please!)

First draft tentatively set for Dec 4. 
Final draft due Dec. 11

Crafting a narrative is a complex art. 

It is one of the most challenging writing forms (when we do persuasive essays in the new year, they are gong to seem like a breeze!) but I think everyone is up for it, particularly after all of our study on narratives. 

I can't wait to see what students come up with!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

MOVIE CASI (aka using short films to enhance reading comprehension)

In SCDSB, some Gr. 4-8 teachers will administer a reading comprehension assessment called a CASI.

This includes a short piece (non fiction or fiction) to read, and then a series of questions.

For fiction, these questions include:
  • summary
  • main idea
  • narrative traits (such as plot, setting, character)
  • character traits
  • evaluation of title
  • connection to text (text to self, text to world and/or text to text)
  • evaluation of perspective or point of view

Students completed their first CASI in September.

From that, I can determine which areas need support.

For example, several students confused summary with main idea, or did not provide enough evidence to support their conclusion, or made fairly superficial inferences when discussing a connection, etc.

We can use that as our starting point, to learn how to be more specific, to provide proof, to go deeper into the text, to develop our ideas more thoroughly and with more conviction.

A great way to practice this is to use short films. They are narratives, and thus allow for the same discussion points as the CASI. Being so short, they allow for repetition. We can tackle main idea x 5 in a fairly short amount of time, while still analyzing stories that have depth and complexity. (Also, they are a lot of FUN).

In class, we watched:

And for each we discussed the various CASI questions.

We also looked at emotional arcs as a subtext: in addition to the obvious plot there is a not so obvious emotional journey. Therein lies the substance for our more complex inferences, the deeper meaning and connections.

To consolidate these skills, I have given students an at home assignment, their own version of a Movie CASI. They can choose any movie they want, or they can choose a new short film I've provided (The Butterfly Circus).

Due date is Wed. Nov. 25th.

Please let me know if you have any questions!
Mrs. J

PS We will be applying these skills to short stories December/January and the next 'official' CASI will likely take place mid to late January.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Totally Random: Chloe

In which I pull a name at random and ask: what do you want on the blog?
Chloe wanted to share these comics from the web.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Guest Blogger! Carina

As an extension to learning, each student will have a chance to write a short blog post for this class blog! Here is Carina's contribution!

One Direction's new album called Made In The A.M. is coming out on November 13th. 

Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson make up the greatest band of the last 10 years! They are all from Europe, and they came together as a band after performing on the X-Factor. They perform pop music and they have made 4 other albums. 

They have been working hard in the studio to make this new album and if you liked their other albums you should definitely invest in this one.

First off, as many of you know the band announced in August that they would be taking a break. They've already lost one member and many of their diehard fans think that this will be their last album. If you were to invest in it now, you would own a collectors item. 

Secondly, being part of the fandom I have been able to preview some of the songs on the album and I would say that you are in for a big surprise, they sound awesome! 

Pre-order it now, you won't be disappointed!!


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Totally Random: Mollie

In which I pull a name at random and ask: what do you want on the blog?
Mollie wanted to share a photo from her trip to Japan.

Next Class Read Aloud

Currently, we are 2/3 the way through Running To Extremes, a 'creative autobiography' of Ray, an ultra marathon runner.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Using QR Codes for a 'Museum' Simulation

On Friday afternoon, I put together what I called a 'museum' simulation.

I wanted to incorporate that feeling of being in a museum, of being reflective while walking around touring exhibits.

I did this by asking students to bring in their devices and earbuds (I had school iPads and headsets on hand for those who did not have or forgot).

They also needed a free QR reader app so that they could read QR codes. I had three sets of QR codes posted about the room (as the 'stations' or 'exhibits' to visit).

Using a QR code generator, I linked the QR codes to various youtube & website videos about Canadian history (in particular, those to do with Native history around the time of Confederation, such as the Indian Act and Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion).

Using their device, and their headsets, students were to visit each station and, using the QR code reader app, view the linked videos.

Students were also given a 'passport' to fill out (essentially, a question to be answered at each station).

Also, at each station was a large poster sized piece of paper subdivided into sections with each students name on it. In their assigned section they were asked to write a thoughtful comment on what they had just viewed (sort of like signing a guest book).

In this way, student's 'toured' the classroom, engaging on an individual level with the material.

As always when viewing media, I'm interested in hearing student's evaluation of it's effectiveness. (For example, if the material is portrayed as a song is it engaging? Or is too distracting and gets in the way of understanding? Students had different view points on the matter.)

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Totally Random: Matt

In which I pull a name at random and ask: what do you want on the blog?
Matt wanted to share his photoshop creations.

Students: Reminder About Tomorrow!

Reminder...tomorrow for history class you will need:

  • ear phones or ear buds
  • a QR Code reader app like this one for your device

I have the school ipads booked and also some extra ear phones BUT not enough to go around so PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come prepared with these items.

Many thanks,
Mrs. J

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Totally Random: Tyra

In which I draw a name at random and ask: what do you want on the blog?
Tyra wanted to share a picture from her trip to NYC.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Maker Cycle #3: Create a travel commercial about a famous fictional setting

Our upcoming maker cycle #3 is due in December and we will be working on it through November.

The topic for this cycle is 'travel' and I have decided that this task will be a bit more teacher directed.

I'm going to give this a specific fictional spin...and also, a more substantial media component.

For this cycle, students will need to create a commercial for a famous fictional setting.

Consider these posters for famous Star Wars locales:

Of course, there are other famous fictional settings beyond the Star Wars universe and we will brainstorm these in class.

The posters give an idea of how you can turn a fiction setting into a travel destination.

Students will need to create a commercial rather than a poster. For that, we will take a look a 'real life' travel commercials and determine the criteria and purpose of a travel ad.

Here are some to look at:

As to media creation, you can create in imovie, prezi, Haiku Deck, etc. 

These will be posted on your student blogs along with your other maker cycle project for your learning hub members to view in December. 

COMING SOON! Student Guest Blog Posts & 'Totally Random'!

As an extension to learning, each student will have a chance to write a short blog post for this class blog!

It can be on any subject they want (tho of course must be appropriate for a school setting).

We will be brainstorming some potential topics.

Students are to work on it outside of class and email me their proposed posting. It can include pictures and/or video.

We will be working through the class list on a weekly basis.

Stay tuned for the first guest blog post coming soon!

ALSO: I'll be asking students at random: what do you want me to put on the blog? So expect some totally random stuff too. Just for fun.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Class Blog is Back!


This blog is back up and running! As before, I will be posting here on the main page about classroom events and reflecting on classroom activities.

Day plans, math day plans and current learning goals will also be activated again! Check out those pages to see what we are doing daily/monthly in the classroom!

Any questions, please let me know!

Mrs. J