Despite kicking off the 2014 school year with two snow days, it's been a full, productive month in the Grade 3 class! To save my fingers from typing and your eyes from reading, I'll make this as brief as I can!
Reading Passages That Build Comprehension: Main Idea and Details. I love this book. Each page has a short text and three multiple choice questions (What's the main idea?, What's a supporting detail from the text? and What would the best title be?) I project it on the Smartboard using my document camera (every class should have one of those). Kids come to the carpet with their set of cards that say A, B and C. I read the passage aloud, and when I ask the questions, kids hold up a letter in response. I can keep a checklist of the number of errors they make, and taking the decoding part out of it really isolates the skill of determining main idea and supporting details. Plus, they feel like they're playing a game! As the year goes on, I get them to do more of the reading themselves.
We did a lot of letter-writing this month. First, post-Christmas thank you letters (to parents, Santa, etc.), and then letters to Canadian peacekeepers. (See here for information.) From the list of current operations, we chose "Proteus" in Jerusalem, connecting it to the history of Christianity, and how they are carrying on the work there that Jesus did 2000 years ago.We're hoping we receive some replies! As with almost all writing tasks, we used the laptops, and kids participated in peer and self assessment before submitting their work.
Ripped-paper Penguins - yep, as seen on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/175288610470523710/
Hannah Beach "I Can Dance": these are interpretive dance picture books and CDs. I would read each book, then play the CD as the kids danced around the room in whatever way they wanted to express each idea (e.g. elephant, fire, angry, pink, smooth, spaghetti). They did written reflections at the end (their thoughts are perfect to include in report card comments for extra personalization). I always ask them to come up with their own book idea, and one child suggested "I Can Dance Jesus, because he is everywhere and in our hearts and he is our Lord." Aww!
If you teach in Ontario, you have to check out http://education.milk.org/
Regional Dairy Educators make FREE visits to schools, with a choice of topics (nutrition, from farm to table, etc.) I like that there's the option of a presentation all about Early Farming compared to Modern Farming - a perfect complement to the Grade 3 Social Studies unit on Early Settlers
It's that time of the year again for the Family Life/Health unit, which in Grade 3 goes as far as egg cells and sperm cells. (I can talk openly with 8 year olds, yet I am blushing as I type this.) Of course, someone asked "But how do the egg and sperm get together?", a question I referred back to their parents. (You're welcome.) For this unit, the kids also bring in photos of themselves as babies and learn what they weighed, if they were early or late, etc., which they love to share.
We finished up Data Management (the kids - and I - always love doing surveys, collecting data and creating graphs). Now we're starting measurement, which includes time. Elapsed time is a particularly difficult concept for many of them, so I make up a sheet with our start and end times for every subject and recess. Kids draw the hands on the blank clocks and figure out how much time we spend on each segment of the day.
Our Student Government group led a used children's book drive initiative, which was an overwhelming success. We collected over 1200 books (board, picture, early reader and chapter). The books were delivered to our local Ontario Early Years Centre, where they are available free of charge for any families who need them.
There's a lot of research to show that the number of books a child has at home is related to their reading skills, and many families just can't afford to stock their kids' libraries, so this was a way we could help. Because the kids at our school come from a variety of economic backgrounds too, we're also trying to make sure that some of our social justice initiatives don't cost the kids a thing - all they had to do in this case was bring in items that they don't need anymore, which was free and painless, but could still provide them with the feeling that comes from helping others. And let's be honest - I'll do anything to get people organized and de-cluttered!
On the topic of books, I send home the Scholastic Book Orders every month, and I love how it earns us free resources for the classroom. For Christmas, I gave the kids each a $5 Scholastic gift certificate so that they could all have a chance to order a book, and most of them took advantage on the January order.
As a final note for the month, just so you know what kind of class I am blessed with, I wanted to share this note left by a supply teacher one day when I was out for a meeting: "Thank you for having me in today. Your class is so well behaved and very helpful. They were very good at staying on track, and knew exactly what to do when they finished activities early. I couldn't have asked for the day to be any better."
This earned the kids a period of free computer time on the class laptops!
Hope your January has been as worthwhile and exciting! With Spirit Week and Valentine's Day ahead in February, 2014 shows no signs of slowing down!