Saturday, April 25, 2015

Writing Workshops : Autobiography Product Swap + a GIVEAWAY!

Three weeks ago, Jungle Learners suggested doing a product swap, and I thought the idea was brilliant!  I was paired up with Kovescence of the Mind, and got to pick a product from her store to use in my classroom. I'm also hosting a giveaway and giving away the product I chose for FREE!

In my classroom, I do Writing Workshops, in which students are working on, well, writing! This occurs every Wednesday afternoon.  When I took a peek in Sarah's store, I knew I had to pick her Writing Your Autobiography product, as I figured it'd be a perfect fit for my Writing Workshops.

When I introduced the idea to my students, they were enthralled. We talked about the various chapters their autobiography would entail and how they could go about creating it. I even brought my cricut machine to work so they can use it to scrapbook!

I've turned this into a HUGE project, so my students haven't gotten super far into it yet, but they're all starting to plan out their autobiography and gathering pictures and information from the 8 chapters included in the product.

It's tough to grab pictures of my students using this product in action, as I don't want any personal information or pictures of my students on my blog!  So I took this pic before she got started to avoid any issues.

Sarah did a great job in dividing this project into 8 different chapters, making a huge task seem less daunting for my students (especially grades 5/6). Instead of thinking about all the information I needed them to gather and write, they were thinking on how to present and create their autobiography! Students are loving looking at old baby pictures and finding out information about their birth, such as their weight and height (and then comparing it to every single other baby they know!)

Now, I did have to change the grading scheme, as we can't grade with a point system, but this was fairly easy to do. I built the success criteria with my students anyway, so a rubric was easy to make after this exercise.

Want to win your own copy of Writing Your Autobiography? Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do you want to know what Kovescence of the Mind received in her swap?  Head on over to her blog by clicking her blog button at the top of this blog post to see which product she used and how much she loved it! She's giving it away for free too, so don't forget to head over there for your chance to win!

Want more?  There's more of these wonderful blog posts here :

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Evaluation by Observation

In Ontario, a document came out a couple of years ago, Growing Success, that encourages teachers to evaluate by 3 means : Observations, Productions and Conversations. 

In my classroom, I like putting the emphasis on observations, because everything we do is important and is used to determine their grade.  I do use conversations and productions, but I still love my observations.  It's easy, simple and when it comes to report card time, my comments are basically done! 

I start off with a class list.  At the top of the page, I have a place where I can add the learning goal of the lesson, as well as the date.  Afterwards, my page is divided into three columns : student name, a box for "acquired, being acquired and not acquired" and comments.

Acquired, Being Acquired and Not Acquired

For every learning goal, most of my students fall in the Not Acquired or Being Acquired category at the beginning.   Writing where they're at on my class list allows me to see quickly the improvement that they're making and hopefully after a couple of lessons, they are well on their way to the status of Acquired. 

Loosely translated, not acquired is equal to a level 1, being acquired is a level 2 and acquired is a level 3.  Sometimes, the speed at which they acquire the skills, or the ability to apply their knowledge will give them their level 4.  Obviously, professional development does play a huge part in this, as students all work at different levels all the time.

I use the short form (A, BA or NA), since it makes it a lot easier and allows me to have more room for my comments.


I don't always write comments for every student, every day, every lesson.  This would require a lot of work!  What I do write in the comments is information that stood out or struck me as important to note.  If a student needed extra help, I will write that down.  If a student has it for the most part but made a simple mistake, I'll write down the mistake to see if it disappears next time.  If I notice or talk to the student about a specific next step for them to take, I will write this down as well.  

I will also make sure I make a comment for every student at least once throughout a specific learning goal.  Even if it's a simple "Understands without my help" or "easy for student to accomplish", at least I've written it down.

I also make sure everything is short and quick to write.  If I notice that I'm always making the same comments, I'll create a short version of this comment.  

Basically, I'm writing my report card comment right here.  Sometimes it'll be what they've learned, sometimes it'll be their next step, but it's always personal and anecdotal, which is one of the keys of Growing Success.  

How to Get Started

To get started, you can download a FREE copy of my class list.  It is editable, allowing you to insert your own student names and adjust how many rows you need (since I have 25 students, my version has 25 rows).  In the image above, I used KG Behind These Hazel Eyes font but since I wanted the file to be editable, I changed it to Arial Black.  For your own personal use, you can download the font I use and install it on your computer.

I print around 20-25 copies to start in 4 different colours.  This year, I placed each colour in a different duotang, representing different subjects.  You can also place them in one large binder, using dividers to separate the subjects.  

Every time your students are working, you simply grab a sheet, write the learning goal and date at the top and start observing and commenting! It's THAT easy!

This blog post was a part of my monthly newsletter, filled with other goodies as well.  If you'd like to receive my newsletter, hover on over to the right side, enter your e-mail address and enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

5 Tips on Teaching Fractions

Fractions is one of those math concepts that students tend to cringe when they hear that oh-so-scary word. Taught the right way, fractions are easy to master and your students will start loving them (ok, maybe not, but it's worth a try!)

The thing with pizza is that everyone loves it and understands it.  Students know that pizza comes cut in slices and this makes it a perfect tool to start introducing fractions

Drawing a pizza on the board is an easy way to start working with and introducing common fractions (1/2, 1/4, 3/4).  Cutting the pizza in fourths, students are quick to understand that dad eats two slices, mom eats one, leaving only one slice left!  

Using the pizza example idea, start "eating" slices of pizza and writing out the fraction, explaining how you got the numerator and denominator.  

In this pizza, there are 4 slices, of which 2 are eaten, giving a fraction of 2/4.  

Give lots and lots of examples, using various denominators, until all students are comfortable writing fractions.  

Have students draw, draw and draw!  Give students a fraction (for example, 1/10) and have them represent it through a drawing.  

Drawing pizzas is still completely acceptable, but they might also want to start expanding and simply using rectangles and dividing them. 

It's also the perfect time to start introducing equivalent fractions (and simplifying fractions).  

By drawing, students can start seeing how 1/10 (pictured in the first drawing) is equal to 2/20 (pictured above). 

There are many various ways to play with manipulatives, but one of my favourites is to give my students this puzzle.  I take two puzzles, cut them into pieces and mix them up.  Students then have to form two rectangles, using these fractions.  The fractions each represent a part of the rectangle to which they belong.

So far, you might be spending a lot of time working on fractions in your classroom, but that's ok!  Practice really does make perfect, and considering how important understanding this concept, it's worth the time you put into it.

I have created a Fraction Bundle to help you teach this concept in your classroom.  Two of these are games (and what better way to learn and consolidate their knowledge on fractions by playing games) and one is a set of 90 task cards. 

Here's to a wonderful fractions unit this year!