Expressing Ourselves – Multiple Means and Methods

After French this morning, we spent some time reading Homeless Bird. One group was able to finish the book and proposed a number of ideas for expressing their thoughts and feelings in response to the book, including writing a letter to the author and writing an alternate ending. Students will also be working on a visual plot diagram to document the main events in the story, changes in the character, symbols included by the author, and themes developed.

Once again today, we went to the CAC to refine our performances for tomorrow’s Arts Festival. Getting on and off stage like professionals takes practice.

After recess, we had an opportunity to venture over to MS4 to see Grade 10 students share their design projects. Their challenge was to create a functional pieces of furniture, which were designed and crafted with community needs in mind.

While we expected it to be a great learning experience, we didn’t realize just how much it would tie into and support our current inquiry into how we express ourselves and our central ideas: Industries are impacted by creativity.

When we returned to the classroom, we debriefed our experience and had a great discussion about the term “industries.” Several students used multiples sources to help define the word and gain better understanding of what industries are and how creativity impacts them. We realized even the furniture industry is impacted by creativity.

Multiple Sources


This afternoon, we continued work on our poster consolidating our understanding of the relationship between fractions, angles, and division.

Comparing, Contrasting and… Collecting.

This week, we have had the opportunity to get into others students’ classroom to observe, using a See. Think. Wonder. visible thinking routine. As part of our research in preparation for I Love to Read and Write Week, we want to see what kinds of structures other classrooms have in place. Since teachers have allowed us into their learning spaces, we thought it might be a good idea to express our gratitude through the writing of a letter. Before doing that, though, we needed to know how letters are structured and how they compare to other forms of writing like essays and poems. As part of our inquiry into letter writing, teaching teams used used multiple sources and a triple Venn diagram structure to identify similarities and differences between the three genres of writing.

Some teaching teams expanded their inquiry to include other genres of writing like emails and stories, which required them to alter their Venn structure.

After a wonderful session during which thinking and research skills were stretched, it was icing on the cake to see self and social management skills applied during clean up! Thank you, gentlemen, for taking action and working together.

In library this afternoon, Ms. Kraft helped us think about read aloud book selection for the upcoming I Love to Read and Write Week. She shared with us a variety of books and highlighted some of the features that made them engaging and appropriate for various levels of readers.

We then had time to select some books and practice reading them outloud in our teaching teams. Holding and reading books aloud is easier said than done.

Finally, to end our day, we revisited our simile of how a poem is like a puzzle and explored the second stanza.

This puzzle’s pieced together

With meaning, shape, and sound in mind.

Each word is chosen carefully,

Search. The perfect one you’ll find.

With a focus on word choice, we examined the words brainstormed yesterday and narrowed our list down to one word we wanted to explore more deeply. Using a Frayer model structure, we considered and collected:

    1. related words (affixes).
    2. synonyms (and antonyms).
    3. adjectives.
    4. rhyming (or similar sounds)

This resource will be valuable as we set out to compose our poem in the days ahead. Again, this will be a lesson that we share to other readers and writers during I Love to Read and Write Week.

Pressing on in Pajamas

On this, the last day of January, we were able to finish off the month with some fun. Thanks to STUCO for planning this special spirit day!

Despite being in our pajamas, our day was anything but sleepy. Drawing on our own poetry-writing experience, we used our Writer’s Express book as a resource for researching special aspect of poetry and considering a plan for presentation. We worked together to plug in the pieces to our schedule. Sequencing of the lessons was a critical component of the structure that needed careful consideration.

As we continued our pursuit of parts, we were presented with a set of perplexing problems… how to find the whole when given a part as a fraction.

How would you solve the question: If 2 fifths pieces are 1/3 of the whole, then what is the whole?   Tricky!

To end our day, we were treated to an assembly hosted by Grade 2. They shared with us their learning about endangered animals and invited the audience to get involved. They were very knowledgeable.

From Paragraph to Poem

After reading a portion of Varsha Bajaj‘s book T is for Taj Mahal yesterday, we began our day, using this text as a mentor, to inquire further about structure The book, through a combination of prose and verse, highlight important people, places, and elements of India and its culture. After reviewing ideas on the W portion of their KWHLAQ charts, each student identified a topic of interest and used a variety of informational / nonfiction texts to gather facts. Using the facts gathered, researchers began to freewrite in paragraph form.

Once paragraphs were written, students reread their work and considered reSTRUCTuring by adding line breaks to create a poem. While somewhat challenging to rethink reading with poetic pauses, students worked through the process of transforming a paragraph into a poem. The final step involved revising with poetic elements like rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and figurative language in mind. This final step often requires rewriting, multiple attempts at lines and stanzas until the sound is satisfying.

This afternoon, during art with Ms. Rydah, we continued our work on our hands. Ms. Paula came by to admire the art.


Solving with STRUCTURE

Today, as INQUIRING readers, we set out to use WORD STRUCTURE to determine the meaning of new or tricky words. Affixes were on the agenda.

We began by thinking about a word with the root “touch” introduced in Gloria Whelan’s book In Andal’s House and in Kids Discover: Ancient India.

We then looked at how the word can be modified by adding PREfix before the root and SUFfixes after the root. We also learned a new secret agent code: PqRS. We then had the opportunity to explore the STRUCTURE of words found in one of our resources. Each scholars was challenged to:

  • Look through the Kids Discover magazine.
  • Identify a ROOT word.
  • ReSTRUCTURE the word by adding prefixes and suffixes.
  • Explain how the restructuring changes the meaning of the word.
  • Create a learning poster to make your thinking visible.
  • Seesaw your process. (We did not get to this today, but will try to Seesaw tomorrow.)

Multiple Sources

Ms. Chofi also suggested we try:

We also continued practicing PARTitioning rectangles and connecting our pictorial presentation to the more abstract PARTial products. Using these two strategies, we multiplied four-digit by one-digit factors.

To end the day, students began to access our prior knowledge about India. With STRUCTURE in mind, we began a KWHLAQ process. In small groups, students began to:

  • Ponder what they already KNOW about India.
  • Pick and prioritize things they WANT to know more about. 

As we worked through the remainder of this process, we will be able to narrow down and focus our inquiries.

Pens. “Protagonist.” Puzzle-making Provocation. Problem Solving. Pebbles.

As we settled back in to our scholarly routine today, we took time this morning to review a few changes to the schedule and to examine this week’s vocabulary words. “Antagonist,” “protagonist.” and the word part “struct-” seemed to be of greatest interest. Once personal and collective notes and noticings were made, a challenge was issued to be on the alert of clues and multiple sources related to this week’s words.

We then moved into an examination of our next transdisciplinary theme: How We Organize Ourselves. In small groups, students read and reread the title and description and highlighted and annotated words of interest or words that might help drive an inquiry. With their new multi-colored pens, students mused marvelously and considered critical connections and questions. As groups shared their thoughts, it was amazing to see similarities and exciting to see  differences that will lead to wide and wonderful investigations.

As part of the launch of our new unit, students participated in a puzzle-making provocation. As the picture was revealed and the pieces poured out on the carpet, students immediately began to share strategies for sorting. Patient, polite, yet purpose-filled leaders emerged from the crowd and calmly conducted the construction process. Throughout the entire process, students remained respectful, riveted, and ravenous for the challenge.

Taking a brief pause from the puzzle, students also inquired into problem solving processes related to the estimation of large numbers. Data related to food consumption was shared and questions posed. Students approached each question with a variety of strategies, which were shared, compared, and considered by others. Multi-step problems proved to be a tad challenging, but we will continue our work with this in the days ahead.

To end the day, Ben chose to share a portion of his rock collection. With great detail, he described each stone sample, making connections to our work with the rock cycle. We might just have a geologist in the making.

Multiple Sources


Fragments or Full? From Parts to Paragraphs.

During our word work time today, Mrs. Kovacs invited us to consider elements of an essay by analyzing and assembling colored strips containing parts of sentences. Working collaboratively, we pieced together sentences. As we explored options, we realized that some strips could be torn in two to create simple, complex, and compound sentences. One of the challenges we encountered was ensuring that the strips made complete sentences and not fragments. Once sentences were assembled, we pieced them together into a paragraph, which included a thesis and supporting details.

To extend our learning, we were presented with another set of sentence strips containing content about different types of rocks. Once again, we pieced together the information considering complete sentences and paragraph structure. When we were done, we captured our final paragraph on lined paper. These informational paragraphs were shared in a jigsaw format, so everyone had an opportunity to learn about the different types of rock.

Multiple Sources

Transforming Fact into Fiction

After focusing extensively on reading yesterday, today we focused on writing. One of the articles featured in yesterday’s reading task was from Teaching Kids News. The article by Nancy Miller entitled “Japan’s 2011 Tsunami Sends Balls 8,000 Kilometers to Alaska” explained how a soccer ball and volleyball that were swept out to sea ended up being reunited with their owners. Today’s challenge required students to step into the skin of either the soccer ball or volleyball and to write a fictional story about the journey experienced from its perspective. Using facts from the article, learning from their inquiry into movement, and understanding about strong story development, students began crafting creative tales. Prior to writing, students identified the following criteria for a scholarly story:

  • realistic details
  • voice
  • dialogue
  • word choice
  • sentence structure
  • punctuation
  • figurative language (onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, alliteration)

This prompt prompted a plethora of plot possibilities including:

  • meetings with sea creatures (ea urchin, beluga, krill, barnacles, birds / seagull).
    • sharks (bite, poke, nudge, slap, swallow).
  • deflation and sinking.
  • encounters with boats (ship, yacht, ferry, aircraft carrier, submarine, propeller).
  • being nabbed in a fisherman’s net.

Prior to beginning, students also considered the following options to hook their readers:

  • quote
  • dialogue
  • sound
  • action
  • question
  • description
  • small moment

After students got started, we paused to share some of our stories’ starts.

Multiple Sources

In an effort to dig more deeply into the idea of struggle and survival, we shared a read aloud of the book The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh by Frederick Lipp. Prior to reading, we paused to make predictions about the text, based on the title and Ronald Himler’s illustrations. To guide our predictions and our ponderings, we used a summary-style mneumonic device – SWBST-F (Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then, Finally). This graphic organizer will be used again on Wednesday when we revisit the text. Then, as we read, we paused after each page to peruse the pictures, ponder the plot, find figurative phrases, and consider connections to our compass point conversation.

Our discussions were deep and diverse, often diverting to delve into interesting individual incidences (here in Kinshasa, in our home countries, and from our travels around the world) that have influenced our ideas and impacted our lives. How will all these things intersect as we conduct our inquiry?

We also began to explore metric prefixes today. How could we incorporate these into our stories?

Of course, being a rainy day, we also had some fun with dominoes. It is interesting to see how problem solving, movement, and struggle and survival collide with these creations.

Diligence and Dancing

We had a fabulously focused morning of research, continuing our inquiry into essays. Students worked diligently to gathering information and piece it together into an instructional presentation. It was exciting to see all the pieces come together and to see how deeply we understood this new genre of writing.


In math, we used base ten blocks to explore decimals in concrete, pictorial, and abstract ways. Students use the manipulatives to represent a decimal, which their partner had to identify and explain. Most students were able to share their learning on Seesaw. As some prepared their Seesaw presentations, they made some minor mistakes, which were very valuable for learning. We love to celebrate mistakes because they provide us an opportunity to reflect and be open-minded.

Check out the following video from YouCubed (one of my favorite math and mindset resources).


How does this video connect to our central idea related to struggle and survival?

Here’s another one that celebrates the brain-growing power of mistakes.

  • What mistakes can you celebrate today?
  • How did your mistakes provide an opportunity for you to struggle?
  • How did your mistakes help your brain grow?

Challenge: Think of a metaphor or simile to illustrate the power of mistakes?


This afternoon, after P.E., we went to music to practice for Wednesday’s International Day performance. Ms. Paula and Ms. TaShawndra dropped in during the practice and were quite amazed at our voices.


Mr. Sheldrick and his kindergarten and first grade students shared their learning with us during their student-led assembly. We were able to make some connections to our compass point activities this past week.

After the assembly, we headed straight to Mrs. Fischer’s room for a top secret practice. I can’t say much more because… it’s top secret.

Here’s a link to the video, if you’re interested in practicing.

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