Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Please Bring Your Anger to the Carpet

Monday June 2, 2014

“Please bring your ANGER to the carpet.”

Yes, I said that today. Some students giggled while others were serious, but they all came to the carpet carrying their anger.

Earlier, we read and discussed the book Anh’s Anger written by Gail Silver. We looked closely at the mixed-media collages by illustrator Christiane Kromer and came up with some success criteria that students would keep in mind while creating a representation of their own anger using wallpaper samples, fabric, glue, yarn makers and paint.

cover.JPG  success criteria.jpg

At the carpet, students presented their anger and asked for questions, comments and feedback. Here are some samples:

anger 6.JPG

Q - Why does it only have one eye?

A - I wanted it to look scary.

Comment: It’s also a fact that when people are angry it’s harder for them to see right or to think clear.
anger 5.JPG

Comment  - I like the sweater you weaved for your anger and the red in your background.

Response -  Thanks, I’m not finished yet.

Comment: My anger is hot and itchy too.
anger 9.JPG

Q - Why doesn’t your anger have a face?

A - It has one inside. It is tied up really tight right now in a blanket but then all of a sudden it explodes and breaks the string and freaks out.

Comment -  Maybe your anger should count to ten and fix the problem instead of exploding.

Response - Yeah, but it can’t talk very good when it is mad.

anger 4.JPG

Feedback: Maybe you could give it some arms.

Response: It doesn’t have arms so it can’t hit anyone. I gave it a big mouth and nose instead so it can breathe deep and count to ten instead of hitting.

It is so important to give learners of all ages the time and opportunity to create, to talk, to share, and to question. I keep reminding myself not to rush. Taking time gives us the chance to think more deeply about a topic, allows us to learn from and about each other,  and about ourselves. 

Next Steps: Continue to read, write,  talk, question and create as we explore other emotions and let students choose to write or record a collaborative text about one or more emotions (fiction or nonfiction).

Sunday, 13 April 2014

That Teacher

How many Tweets do you read that get you thinking? This morning I happened upon a #sunchat Tweet - I wasn't participating in the chat and didn't follow @LorraineKehler   but it was a RT of her Tweet that led me to read through #sunchat to think about characteristics of "THAT Teacher" and to put together this Storify. You'll see @LorraineKehler 's wise words at the end.

Saturday, 22 February 2014


Over the holidays, one of the books that I read was Focus by Daniel Goleman. I was looking forward to this because his book Emotional Intelligence was excellent.   I was also interested in Focus because of the classroom implications. 
Edutopia has a nice article and a video playlist of the key ideas from the book. This video, on Breathing Buddies really got me thinking about how I might be able to utilize this with my students.

I started sewing up these Breathing Buddies for students to use, and then I realized that it would be SO much better if students sewed their own. Afterall, sewing a button is a good skill for everyone to have----- plus students would probably be more engaged when creating their own buddies.

We started by learning how to thread a needle and sew ------ up and down, up and down ------ on a paper plate. 

Students then drew a circle, rectangle and triangle pattern on a paper plate and sewed around the perimeter of each shape (a math connection). Next, students chose their felt colour(s) and the buttons that would make the cutest, strangest or scariest face depending on student preference. After making choices, it was time to sew on the button eyes. Threading the needle and sewing on the paper plate had been great practice for students.

There was some frustration - and that was ok! We were discussing strategies that we could use when we get frustrated. We talked about how anger, sadness, frustration, fear and joy were all normal emotions. We also had discussions about how we don't always make the best decisions when we are angry or frustrated, so we all have to have strategies to help us calm down.

Here are some of the Breathing Buddies or Calming Creatures as some students named them. The idea is to put the buddy on your belly and take a slow breath that is big enough to inflate your belly like a balloon so the buddy rises up - then you slowly breathe out so the buddy doesn't fall off your belly. After your buddy rises and falls 5-10 times, we all decided that we felt more calm and relaxed.


apologies about the misalignment of the pictures....something is not working correctly :(

Reader's Theater Part 1

To introduce grade 2 students to Reader's Theater, we started with a Read Aloud of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieska and watched an example of how this book was performed as Reader's Theater.

After seeing the first Reader's Theatre example, we co-constructed success criteria. Despite my insistence that Reader's Theatre does not require masks, my students argued that without masks it would be very difficult for the audience to know which character was which. So we included masks. Here is the first iteration of our co-created success criteria. 

We then watched a second Reader's Theater version of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs & used our success criteria to evaluate it. Students were not impressed with the performance, but thought about new items to add to our Success Criteria List.

Next came our discussion about scripts. Everyone wanted to play the role of the Wolf, so we decided that we would do several different Reader's Theater plays, ensuring that everyone who wanted to play a wolf could do so. (They did not realize how happy I was to agree to this - more Reader's Theater = more excitement about reading, more willingness to practice at home, more discussion and more opportunity for students to see the pattern of stereotypical 'wolfness' in fairy tales.)
Knowing how important the masks were for my students, I did some searching and found this instructional video for creating a wolf mask.

Each student (even the reluctant writers) jotted down a materials list while watching the video and every student gave me specific feedback on how I could improve the sample mask that I made.

Here are a few pictures of our mask making in progress (you will also see some bird masks which are for the script is The Wolf and The Seven Birds).

Did you notice that the wolf in the middle is eating a bird? !!!!

Now that our masks are almost complete, students are rehearsing on their own and with their groups. Students playing the same part, but in a different group, have become Guided Reading groups (all Mother Birds in one group, etc.)
The student's Drama teacher was impressed with the masks and we've started discussing how we can work together to allow the students to move beyond Reader's Theatre by adding movement, props, etc.
I will post Part 2 when we have had some run-throughs. Hopefully I will get permission to post some video :)
***apologies for the picture formatting - something is not working correctly :(

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Everybody Can Improve

I watched this Dylan William video this morning called "Every Teacher Can Improve" and I sent out a Tweet with a link.

I thought that the video was awesome because 1) it made me feel like my struggles as a teacher were normal 2) it acknowledges that teaching is difficult but rewarding, and 3) it reminded me of Carol Dweck's work on Mindset

Within a few minutes I had two Direct Messages that didn't agree with my #awesome.

"Teachers shouldn't bash teachers, we get enough from the public" was one comment. Another one said "FYI, your Tweet seemed 'preachy'"

I appreciate the feedback because it helps me reflect and gives me the opportunity to explain myself.

I didn't mean it as a 'bash' or to be 'preachy', I shared it so that others might enjoy the same feelings that I did. For me it was confirmation that I don't have to know everything, that I don't have to be perfect. While I know these things logically, there are times when I can use a reminder :)

I know that I can improve as a teacher, a parent, a spouse, a friend, etc., etc.

I find joy improving in things that are important to me.

Everybody can improve in some aspect of their lives, whether it is personally or professionally.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Wheels of Fiction

When teaching the Elements of Fiction, I've usually started by discussing familiar stories with students and then randomly placing a jot note in a chart something like this (for Cinderella).

Long Ago

Her fairy godmother came

To go to the ball

In a faraway kingdom

She went to the ball, met the prince, got married and lived happily ever after

Her evil stepmother would not let her


A simple plot summary for Cinderella (using the SSSWBST formula) would be:

Long ago, in a faraway kingdom, Cinderella wanted to go to the ball BUT her evil stepmother wouldn't let her. SO, her fairy godmother appeared and helped her. THEN she went to the ball, met and married the prince, and lived happily ever after.

We would then complete the chart with elements from other shared stories, use a die to randomly select 1 item for each category and then write a new 'fractured' story summary. This would be followed-up with either a modeled or shared writing session.

I wanted to move away from the chart and die format and make something that we could spin. For a minute I thought about asking my husband to help me make me a big and real wheel - like the one on Wheel of Fortune, but, as much fun as that would be, where would I keep it? Then, I was using a timer app and I thought that something like this could be modified to fit my needs.

But I don't have a clue about how to develop my own app....yet, but I want to learn.

I couldn't find an online tool that was exactly what I wanted, so I spent some time on PowerPoint creating Wheels of Fiction. Maybe I'm impressed due to the "IKEA Effect", but I made something that actually SPINS! (and I think my grade 2's will like the spinning action and sound effects).

I'll use this with my grade 2's, but if I was still teaching middle school I would have students create their own spinners (while I was creating this, I realized how much math (probability, circumference, degrees in a circle, etc.), ethics/character ed (what might look random is NOT), and language was involved.

In any grade, this will help students articulate a clear and simple plot summary, generate story ideas (for those who need some help), and set the scene for writing collaboratively or independently.

PS - Best viewed as a PowerPoint slide show. The SPIN animation doesn't work on an iPad when you use SlideShark . Spin works in Office365 PowerPoint Web App, although there is still no sound.

I've filled in all of the slides so that you can get the idea of how it works, but the beauty in this PPT is that you can customize it to suit your needs. I would love to hear how you might use the Wheels of Fiction :)

Friday, 20 December 2013

Map Mystery

Social Studies, Visual Arts & Language – Mystery Map Activity in Grade 2

Our class has explored the local school community through neighbourhood walks, with Google Earth and with printed maps. Since many of my students enjoy hands-on experiences & needed some extra practice with understanding and using cardinal directions, we built our own neighbourhood using the Create a Town printables.

I printed the map in colour and assembled it at home and then the students put their designer touches on each building by colouring and constructing their own structure for the community. We looked at local buildings made of bricks, concrete or siding as well as roofing materials and how we could use line, shape, colour and texture to make them look realistic. Some students added chimneys to their homes as well.

Once all of the buildings were in place on the map, I asked students to compare it to the community around the school and to think about what was missing.  Students decided that we needed a Fire Station, a hockey rink, swimming pool, and high school. The class was divided into 4 groups and each group had to come up with the best place for 1 of the missing buildings and then explain to the rest of us why this was the best spot.

Next up was the Map Mystery which would give students the opportunity to practice using cardinal directions, listening, speaking and writing. I told a story about buried pirate treasure, then read my Map Mystery instructions (students could follow along on their own copy as well).  The instructions used co-ordinates and cardinal directions to provide directions from one place to another. Some students were able to visualize the steps, while others moved an eraser around to represent a person walking in our 3D community. When students arrived at the mystery destination, they lifted up the building to find a red cardboard X.

We co-created success criteria for a Map Mystery story and directions. Students assessed my story and directions and provided me with feedback on how I could have made my story more interesting and my directions more clearly.

Then it was their turn to create a Map Mystery and story. Many students wanted to make it difficult for their partner to solve but they didn’t realize that the more difficult the mystery, the more writing and practicing they would be doing, which was ok by me. Some students used an X and worked with a partner and/or sentence frames, while others worked individually to create a different paper prop to hide under the secret building for a unique mystery story (such as a lost dog, stolen money or a location giving away free video games). Students wrote directions themselves and others dictated their directions to me while I scribed for them. Finally, they read their story and directions to a peer who had to solve the mystery and find the item. If they didn’t find the correct building & solve the mystery, the pair of students worked together to fix up the directions OR discussed where they might have taken a wrong turn.

Our local community looks a lot like the Create a Town community. Next, we will be looking at different houses around the world and comparing them to ours. One resource that we will use is Wonderful Houses Around the World by Yoshio Komatsu. 

FYI, the new Social Studies curriculum document has a nice blurb about spatial literacy on page 24 and a Continuum of Map, Globe and Graphing Skills in Appendix C beginning on page 191.

I would definitely do the Map Mystery again. There were many opportunities to integrate technology, so I’m hoping it will be even better next year when we have school iPads.