Tuesday, March 24, 2015

tuning into perimeter

To help students tune into measurement, our student teacher and I challenged the kids in math class to do this:
Find an object in the classroom and figure out the distance around the outside of it.
Document the strategies you used.

That's it. Now go...

Here's what happened:
students chose how to organize information

accurate use of measurement tools

noticing how understanding fractions on a number line helps when measuring (!!!)

using prior knowledge

attending to precision

interest piqued!



misconceptions uncovered

From here, we did a bunch of talking and sharing. Next, we'll be able to define perimeter, model and teach formulaic equations, and practice precise measurement techniques. It was a great way to get the kids focused on math in a hands-on way and engaging in math conversations with little intervention. For us as teachers, it was a great little check-in to see what the kids know and how much, and where we'll need to step in to improve conceptual understanding.

Friday, March 20, 2015

what have you learned most recently as a...

This is a question I posed to my class a few days ago.
It sits among evidence of our inquiry learning about Connections to the Natural World, with emphasis on energy sources and human impact on the earth.
The kids had some really interesting responses, ranging from reflections on themselves as researchers to specific content they've learned to generalizations about research itself.
For example:
I learned that the internet can be really frustrating.
There's lots of ways to research.
I learned that solar energy uses turbines, too, not just hydro.
Print resources are sometimes easier to find information in.

The great thing is that this can be adapted in so many ways!
What have you learned most recently ...
as a mathematician?
as a friend?
as a writer?
as a scientist?
at home?
from someone else?

Using this question frame, we've started examining our reading habits and interests, reflecting on what we've learned most recently as readers.
I'll post more on that soon, as there have been some really rich conversations in our room lately.

Friday, March 13, 2015

welcoming a student teacher

On Monday we have a student teacher joining our class for six weeks. The kids are pretty excited to have a second teacher (not too sure how to feel about that!) and were busily preparing some important things today to help her settle in!

Earlier in the week I asked what they think a new teacher to ISM might need. They had so many responses:

Each student signed up for a creation task.
And then they...
created a large map of the most important places she'll need to find while she's here
set up a tour to take her around
decided on some getting-to-know-you activities for Monday morning
tidied up a large desk area in the room for her, complete with a desk plate and pencil holder!
collected email addresses/phone numbers of teachers so she can get in touch with people while she's here
wrote a welcome note
made a large poster
made a brochure of all the places she should go while she's in the Philippines
wrote a list to fill her in on the learning we're knee deep in right now
created a special calendar and daily schedule so she can stay organized
collaborated to complete it all.

Looking forward to this teaching and learning journey!

Friday, March 6, 2015


These sandwiches have been my favourite dinner lately. I think we've had them about once a week.

This is absolutely beautiful.

I am most definitely a victim of this

A friend of ours gave Mara a pair of adorable little leather moccasins that her son had outgrown - so cute! I'll be looking out for this local company to get her the next size for sure.

This is the next book up. It's come highly recommended so I'm looking forward to it! Yes, that means I've finished the last one - I have to say it ended up ending the way I eventually expected. It got to a point where I said to myself, this has to be the reason they break up. In the meantime I'm rereading The Namesake because I started it again in Japan and still really like it. With 86% it might even be worth watching the movie!

I'm thinking this and this will look really cute when we move into our new place in May and our baby will have her own room. But hopefully not in a predator-prey sort of way.

I haven't been feeling well this week, and I have to say that my favourite home remedy for upset stomach is to have a beer. (Thanks to Mara's papa for that one!) It beats out ginger tea, ginger ale, apple juice, and all the Tums every time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

let the text inspire you

In class we've been talking about what we can do as readers - what ideas we're making.
One girl decided to make her own book (in Google Docs) after one from her Raz-Kids bookshelf  about immigration really resonated with her.
Two others are in their own "book club" - they borrowed the same book from the library and get together to read and discuss, sometimes even at recess.
I shared these simple projects with the class in the hopes that others will find inspiration and act on that.

This is a quote shared by Kathy Collins during our week of PD. Click to download from TpT.

Friday, February 20, 2015

why we broke up: part 2

I can't wait to understand why they broke up. I'm about halfway through and it's all sort of... theoretical? Although she ends each part (pretty much) with "and that's why we broke up," there's nothing tangible. I can't figure it out; I don't get it yet.

There has to be something that happens, is done, but there's no reference yet. I read a review that says page 335 was heart-wrenching. I'll have to wait for it?

I love young adult literature. Everything is so weighty and important and I find that hilarious and real at the same time. In a "we've all been there" sort of way. Plus, it's hard to help someone else make sense of all our thoughts, so maybe that's a big part (?) of my confusion about it all.

The art is really cool.

yokohama, japan

Along with some great PD with some like-minded schools (Collaboration for Growth), I was able to do some sightseeing in and around Yokohama - in to Tokyo and out to Kamakura. It was more than chilly, but I love Japan. The order, the cleanliness, the culture. Jeff and I are even thinking of going back again in our next October break! We've been together just one other time, a short time, also, and there's just so much to see in this tiny country.

so many flowers in frigid february

yokohama chinatown: the largest one outside of china

pre-dinner dumplings

lunar new year decorations

shinto shrine near kamakura


mt. fuji

all the sashimi!!!

residential yokohama

Thursday, February 19, 2015

close reading: why we broke up

Today in a PD session with Kathy Collins (I don't know how to link her, really? Her Twitter feed sort of ends in August last year... I know that doesn't sound great, but I've been inspired the whole time she's been at our school.), we were asked to do a little "close reading" of Daniel Handler's Why We Broke Up.
Kathy shared with us the first chapter:

She said something like, "Talk about it. What do you notice?" 
So a colleague and I did that - we analyzed, we made inferences, we drew conclusions... based only on those few paragraphs. It was getting intense - we were digging. We were on fire.

But really, none of what we had said had any significance at all, anymore, when another colleague who had left the room in the meantime, came back without a clue and sat down to read it over in thirty seconds, turned to us to say, "She committed suicide. Couldn't the 'thunk' be her having jumped from the roof?" Conversation went cold. Shivers. It got the attention of others at the table. We were all convinced, because it made perfect sense, in the most chilling way - a way we hadn't considered.

And so I had to read it; running out to the bookstore after the PD to buy it. I haven't had this desire, really, to read a book for fun in a long time. I need to know: what is the thunk?! 

More to come.

Monday, February 16, 2015

are non-fiction texts still important?

Early last week, I posed the question to the class, “What is a story?” This led to some really interesting discussion and wonderings. After some whole-class talk, one of my girls stopped everyone when she asked, “Are non-fiction books still important since we have the Internet now?” The room was abuzz as they all started talking at once about their opinions, which set up a lovely inquiry for the remainder of the lesson.
Students chose a side and started completing a persuasive writing graphic organizer to get their arguments and reasoning in order. (This had been introduced the week prior, so it was fresh in their minds.)
photo 2 (15)      photo 3 (13)
The next day, students were introduced to the persuasive essay format, complete with well-written paragraphs and transition words. Pairs then used their graphic organizer to inform their essays, and these are beautifully written pieces!
photo 5 (4)         photo 1 (18)
Our next step will for students to present their arguments to the class or in small groups - we haven't figured that one out yet.
This was such a great way for my kids to practice communicating, reasoning with logic, writing supporting details, and focusing on persuasion. I never mind when my "plans" get derailed by a student comment or question - that's the beauty of inquiry to me!

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Fury. Woah.

I'm loving this song. Yes, it's from Boyhood, and no, I still haven't seen it.

This has got to be my favourite restaurant in Manila. We went for lunch on the weekend and it was just as busy as it usually is in the evening.

Hoping to make these for the next set of snacks for the week.

And this for a dessert sometime, but I can't figure out when avocados are in season here?

Daddy and Mara are napping the afternoon away so I've had some me-time with a cup of tea. Did you know Twinings makes hand-sewn tea bags? Isn't that crazy? That's a tea-fanatic sort of thing, is it?

I've been shopping up a storm during sale time here (the only time there's any value in shopping), and even though it isn't on sale, I'm thinking this might be going in the cart. I just found that my swimsuit cover has a bunch of tiny holes in it, so it's justified, too, right?

And some cute rugs for Mara's eventual room. I have a bag made by this local company, too, and I love the eco-ethicalness. They almost always sell out their collections.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


This is going to be a great movie: While We're Young.

And this is going to be a really great movie: Inside Out. Plus, it looks a great link with our Physical Well-being unit, which is a super bonus AND it's Pixar.

Have you seen this one? It was one I watched on a plane and it's pretty cute.

Also, In A World is hilarious! Best 99 cents we've ever spent on iTunes.

I'm happy to report that Boyhood has a big ole 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. After I got psyched about it and showed the trailer to a friend of mine in the summer, he literally said, "maybe i under-appreciated it, but your 'boyhood' idea is that it is a movie filmed slowly over a long period of time so the same actors can play the same characters during different ages.  Is there more to it than that?  cause if that is it (and maybe its not) then I think fantastic might be a bit of an overstatement." And yes, I searched way back in my email for that - an actual quote. I think I win this one. (Maybe I should watch it first before I really cast judgement?)

Moving on...

This is a great post and a perspective I need to adopt - all the rosehip seed oil in the world isn't going to fill my smile lines!

In a couple weeks I'm heading to Japan with some colleagues for a PD weekend with Yokohama International School. This is extra exciting because I've only been to Japan one other time, on a quick three-day weekend. Had to buy yet another winter jacket as it's going to be a major temperature drop from Manila's 25+! and get out the leather boots...

On footwear: my most recent can-wear-to-work sandal purchase here. Seriously, Renegade Folk has the absolute b.e.s.t. customer service policy - a virtually nonexistent concept in Manila. I also have this pair.

Our baby is skipping crawling and moving on to walking! Nine months is a pretty crazy time of change... Wish us luck!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

tuning in to r.j. palacio's wonder

For our new read aloud, the students were already excited about Wonder.

As a tuning in activity, we linked our knowledge of making inferences and identifying character traits. I scanned the first thirty pages or so of the book, and picked out a few strong examples of voice from August Pullman's narrative. I typed these up and the kids started reading, discussing character traits based on the excerpt, and justifying their inferences.

(Big problems uploading photos of student learning, so these are a few of the speech bubbles they read.)

This took about 20 minutes to prepare, and the kids were really excited to read more about August! This was even before I read the dust-cover teaser, too. We've probably read those first thirty pages together now, and my third graders are completely hooked.