August 20, 2018

Back to School Giveaway!!

It's that time of year again, and to help you get ready for September, Sidney McKay and I have a giveaway opportunity for you!  We have teamed up our TPT stores (Teaching is a Gift and Coach's Corner) to offer $40 in products from our stores.  The winning entrant will receive $20 in products for his/herself, and another $20 to give to his/her teaching bestie.  Check out the rafflecopter below to enter!

Good Luck!

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December 2, 2017

Elapsed Time Using an Open Number Line

Elapsed Time Using an Open Number Line

Determining elapsed time can be a huge issue for many students for several reasons:

It often involves the conversion of units.  For example, hours to minutes, minutes to seconds, etc.

Students are often confused as to whether they should more forward (from the earlier time to the later time) or backwards as they start to determine elapsed time.

When given the elapsed time and either a starting OR ending time, and asked to determine the missing piece of information (starting or ending time), students often want to simply add (or subtract) the given elapsed time as a total.  For example, if a question involved an activity that started at 9:50 and lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes, students often simply add 950 + 115= 1065, and record that the final time was 10:65.

Open Number Line to the Rescue!

Once I feel that my Grade 5/6 students have a good understanding of the unit conversions (ie. 60 seconds= 1 minute, 60 minutes = 1 hour, etc.) and are ready to work with elapsed time situations, we use an open number line.  Because my students do "number talks" every day to strengthen their mental math skills, they are already familiar with closed and open number lines.  

Sample question:  It is now 9:45 and our recess bill rings at 11:10.  Determine how much time will pass before the bell rings.

Students begin by drawing a straight line across their desks. (Yes, I have them write directly on their desks with whiteboard markers.  It saves a TON of paper, and it's a snap to clean up with a dampened old sock, piece of felt, or other material.)

They then record the beginning time (9:45) at the start of their line, and the finishing time (11:10) at the end of their line.  

Then students work in "chunks" of time, usually working from the left to right, to determine the elapsed time.  There are an infinite number of ways to chunk, depending upon the particular comfort level of your students. 

Grade 5 Elapsed Time Using an Open Number Line

This Grade 5 student is most comfortable starting with smaller units and working up to the nearest hour.  She jumps by 5 minutes to 9:50, and then by 10 minutes to 10:00.  From there she was able to continue on to add an hour from 10:00 to 11:00, and then add 10 minutes on to reach the ending time of 11:10.  She then added the minutes together (5+10+10=25) and attached them to the hour, reaching the correct time of 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Grade 6 Elapsed Time Using an Open Number Line
Meanwhile, this Grade 6 student approached the situation a bit differently, first adding a full hour from 9:45 to 10:45, and then chunking by 15 minutes to reach 11:00 and then another 10 minutes to reach the ending time.  This method makes it very easy for this student to determine the elapsed time (1 hour plus 15 minutes plus 10 minutes = 1 hour & 25 minutes.

The joy of this open number line strategy is that students can use it working either forwards OR backwards, depending on each student's comfort level.  This was particularly important in my split-grade classroom last year, which contained a very wide range of ability levels.  Everyone met with success, with each student deciding on how best to "chunk" measurement units and whether to work forwards or backwards.  

While this is not the only strategy for determining elapsed time, it is the one that has met with the greatest success in my classes.  What have YOU found to be helpful in approaching this challenging concept?


November 26, 2017

The Great Canadian Cyber Monday Giveaway!!

Do you have your TPT shopping cart loaded?  Is your wish list exploding?  Take a moment out of your busy day and enter before midnight tonight (Sunday) for a chance to win ONE of THREE $50 TPT gift cards.  The lucky winners will have their cards just in time to take advantage of TPT's 2-day Cyber Sale this Monday and Tuesday.  Best of luck to everyone!

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October 11, 2017

Ontario Grade 5/6 Science: Life Systems Culminating Projects

When planning any unit I love to use "backwards design", meaning that I go through the following process:
1.  Determine the big ideas I want students to understand by the end of the unit.
2.  Design a culminating task that allows students to demonstrate their understanding of those big ideas.
3.  Planning lessons that allow students to explore those big ideas, so that they will meet with success upon reaching the culminating task.

Step 1:  Determine the Big Ideas

When dealing with a split grade (which I almost always am!), those big ideas are even more important!  I don't want to be running two completely separate programs.  When I approached the Understanding Life Systems strand for my Grade 5/6 class, I considered the big ideas for both strands:
Grade 5:  Human Organ Systems
Grade 6:  Biodiversity

Basically, I wanted students to understand that parts of a life system work together to keep the whole system healthy, and that human actions can affect these systems, both positively and negatively.  

Step 2:  Create a Culminating Task

After determining that I wanted students to demonstrate their understanding of how life systems worked, I decided that they could show their learning by creating a complete system.  Grade 5s would create human body systems, and Grade 6s would create ecosystems.  With 25 students (9 Grade 5s and 16 Grade 6s), I assigned each student a system. (Due to the particular needs of my small Grade 5 group, I decided to assign only five types of human body stems, knowing that we would be visiting other systems in our health classes.)

Here are the systems I chose:  
Students would need to:

1.  Use a variety of materials to create a three-dimensional complete system.
2.  Identify the different parts of the system.  Grade 5s labeled each part and included a glossary, while Grade 6s identified features such as the different types of producers and consumers in their systems.
3.  Display their finished systems and explain them to the Grade 2/3 and Grade 4/5 classes in our school, and answer any questions that may arise.

Step 3:  Plan Enabling Lessons

Once I knew what I wanted my students to be able to demonstrate at the end of our unit, I set about planning a series of lessons that would help students meet with success.  We explored:

  • Parts of a System (we initially looked at items such as bicycles and pulley systems)
  • Classifications (looking at how parts of a system may be sorted by their function)
  • Food Chains
  • Trophic Pyramids
  • Interdependence
  • Human Actions - both positive and negative (We looked at the issue of microbeads, exploring how these beads could affect both human body systems and ecosytems.)
The science centres from Teaching is a Gift were crucial for my students in exploring the big ideas of this unit, and their `hands-on`nature meant my students were always engaged.

Step 4:  The Projects!!!

I allowed my students plenty of time to work on their final projects in class, but also let them work on them at home as well.  I made it clear that they would be assessed on their learning, not on the actual physical object itself.  As students knew their assignments from the very beginning of the unit, they had ample time to gather any materials they wanted to use, and they were very enthusiastic about putting together projects that would show what they had been exploring in class.  We invited students from other classes to come in to see the projects and to ask students "hard questions" (a task the younger students took very seriously).  I walked about the room during these periods, listening in to my students' explanations, and asking my own probing questions.  I waited for a peaceful period after school to examine both the projects and my anecdotal notes to arrive at a final assessment for this project, and shared my thoughts with students on a one-on-one basis over the next few days.  

Teaching in a split-grade classroom can be challenging, but I find that staying focused on the big ideas always helps keep me and my students on the right track with the curriculum!

September 19, 2017

Creating Reading Engagement in the Junior Classroom!

Scrolling through my Facebook page this September, I see many Junior Division educators looking for suggestions to get their students engaged in reading.  They face classes filled with children who seem unwilling to contemplate reading anything that doesn't appear on their phones and tablets, creating anxiety among those of us charged with teaching students to "read and demonstrate an understanding of a variety of literary, graphic, and informational texts, using a range of strategies to construct meaning" (Ontario Language Curriculum).  

Clearly, this is a daunting task, but two activities that I introduce early in the school year appear to help my students become invested in our classroom library AND able to see themselves on a journey as a reader.

The Student-Created Classroom Library

Over the years I've come to appreciate the importance of students taking on the responsibility of sorting, organizing, and labeling our classroom library.  In my early years as a Junior level teacher, the students would arrive on the first day of school to find a beautiful reading nook, with books already organized by genre, author, and series.  This was before the arrival of Pinterest, with its wealth of class library images to inspire me; I made my own colour-coded, laminated labels and neatly affixed them to the appropriate (also colour-coded) book bins.  It was pretty...but the kids took no ownership of this library, because they had no input into its creation.

So I decided to hand the creation of the class library over to them....and it was amazing.  It still is, every single year!  One day in September I tell my students that they will be sorting, organizing, and labeling all the books that are randomly on our shelves, and they immediately begin throwing out ideas as to how this should be done.  Generally, the process goes something like this:

1.  Students brainstorm book categories.  For example, they may start simply with "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction", and then move into sub-categories.  For example, fiction could be sorted by genre (mystery, historical, adventure....) while non-fiction could be organized by topic (sports, space, trivia...).  I record their ideas on chart paper, and the class finally votes on their final classification system.
2.  Students create labels for the many, many bins I gathered over the years.  Usually just index-card size labels are fine, but I do have some old pre-made labels floating around, and I let students use those if they wish.  Once a label is made, it is hole-punched twice (once in each corner) and attached to the bins with dollar-store zip-ties.
Labeled bins are placed on student desks.
3.  Students work in pairs, taking a handful of books from the shelves and deciding where each book should go.  (We have already discussed using the information at the back and inside front covers of books to help determine genres.)  Books are placed neatly in the appropriate bins.
4.  Bins are placed on the shelves, according to whatever criteria that year's class has decided upon.
This may not result in the prettiest classroom library I've ever seen, BUT all my students understand exactly where and why books are located in particular locations in the classroom.  They can easily find a particular book, and return it to its proper location.  Some years students also place numbers on the bins, and then use pencil to record the bin number on the inside of each book.

In this picture you will see that many books still remain on the shelves.  This was a "work in progress" over several days!!

My Life as a Reader

One thing that every student I have ever taught can tell you about me is that I LOVE books and reading.  My favourite part of each day is our read-aloud (you may see from the photo above that we were reading Holes early last year)!

I like to invite students to think about the reading experiences that have shaped their own lives, and ask them to create timelines of their lives as readers.  Of course, I model this first!

I use timelines for a variety of purposes throughout the school year, but this is one of my favourites!  I took time to "think aloud" about the reading experiences that resulted in change or growth over my life, and recorded these experiences sequentially on a line, noting:
  • my age
  • the book or experience
  • the significance of the experience
Then I ask students to do the same activity.  Most do it with pencil and paper, but many will use some type of technology to make things more organized and legible.  Sadly, I have lost the images of my students' work, so I have only included my own example.

I have found that this activity helps students to recognize that they have already experienced growth as a reader, and it also inspires them to discover new authors and genres in the year ahead.  

And...these timelines make a great display during Open Houses and Meet the Teacher nights!!


September 11, 2017

Ontario Teaching Resources - A Collaborative Effort!

During the years since I started my Teachers Pay Teachers Coach's Corner store, I have been fortunate to have made online friends with many other Canadian sellers, and also been able to meet many of them at TPT get-togethers and conferences.  I have learned much from these outstanding teachers, and some of us have begun collaborating in our TPT journey!

A Full Year of  Science and Social Studies

Sidney McKay of Teaching is a Gift and I have become particularly close friends over the past few years, encouraging each other as we face classroom, TPT, and personal challenges.  We recently collaborated on two "Super-Bundles" for Ontario Grade 5 and 6 teachers.  These bundles contain a full year's worth of my social studies and Sidney's science resources, at a fantastic discount from buying them separately.  You can check out the Grade 5 bundle in Sidney's store, and the Grade 6 bundle in my store.  We also hope to have a combined Grade 5/6 Super-Bundle available in our store at some point this term.

As Sidney and I have both worked as consultants for our school boards at some point in our careers (Sidney as Elementary Science Consultant for the TDSB and I as FDK - Grade 6 Program Consultant with the LKDSB), we bring a good understanding of the big ideas in science and social studies to our resources.  We have led workshops on our subjects, and worked one-one-one with teachers as they implemented the provincial curriculums.  Check out our Super-Bundles by clicking on the links below:

This Grade 5 Super Bundle includes the following:

Social Studies:

  • Canadian Government & Citizenship
  • First Nations & Europeans in New France and Early Canada
Science (Each unit also includes a Word Wall Resource)!:
  • Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms
  • Properties of and Changes in Matter
  • Human Organ Systems
  • Conservation of Energy

The Grade 6 Super Bundle includes these great units:

Social Studies:
  • Communities in Canada, Past & Present
  • Canada's Interactions in the Global Community
Science (again with Word Walls):
  • Biodiversity
  • Electricity
  • Space
  • Flight

Ontario Teaching Resources

If you're looking to find educational resources for your classroom that meet the Ontario curriculum expectations, check out this site with links for myself and 8 other top TPT sellers.  Most of our resources are aligned with provincial curriculums, and you can trust that we ensure that our products are both engaging for students and reliable for educators.  Click HERE to learn more about us!

You have a great bunch of teacher-authors here to support you as you make a difference in the lives of your students!

August 20, 2017

Back to School Giveaway!

It's that time of year again - time to sharpen those pencils and label...everything in sight!!  I've always found it easier to get my room put together when I have a friend to bounce ideas off of, and I bet you do too.

Sidney McKay from Teaching is a Gift and I are blogging and TPT buddies, and we've decided to join forces to help another pair of teaching besties get the year off to a great start with two $25 TPT gift cards!!

One winner will be drawn before the TPT Bonus Sale on Tuesday, August 22nd.  We will email the lucky winner one of the gift cards; once he or she has sent us the name of his/her teaching bestie's name and email address, we will send the second gift card.

Use the rafflecopter below to enter. It's as easy as that!

We hope you take a moment to check out the following great products!

From Coach's Corner:  Are you reading Wonder this year in anticipation of the movie coming out this fall?  Take a look at this unit, which integrates learning across various curriculum strands.
Then get ready to kick off your Canadian government unit with this freebie:  Canadian Government Chat Stations.  This gets your students up and moving as they discuss various posters related to issues of government and citizenship!

And from Teaching is a Gift:

Sidney has you covered with this bundle of practical, engaging back to school resources!

Teaching science this year?  Teaching is a Gift has both single grade & combined grade science unit for Grades 2-6. I've used these centres in my own classroom, and the students and I all loved them.  Easy planning and engaged kids!

We hope you are the lucky remember to enter the draw using the Rafflecopter!

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