Mme G.C. -Work in Progress

Independent Consultant sharing my learning with others. Please scroll way down to follow me!!


May 2013

Take It Outside !!!



It has been a particularly long and  difficult winter for many of us. I started thinking about the many months we are cooped up inside classrooms with indoor recess, artificial light and stale air. Conversations with colleagues lead to how can we take the learning outside, yet still make very valuable minute of instruction count!! It is obviously a concern to more people than just those of us here in Saskatchewan, as I found the following links with ideas for getting outside.


Keep Them Reading All Summer Long


boy sitting on bean bag readingIt frightens me when I hear that young readers  can lose as much as four months progress over the summer holidays. This is especially true for children living in poverty. Does it really mean we are back to where they were at Easter  in September? What about all that great teaching? How will we ever catch up? What can we do to keep our students reading over the summer in the months we have no contact with them?

I have been doing some research to see what advice I can find, and if there are any answers to my questions.

Here are some links  to send home for parents

This blog has all kinds of suggestions from an experienced teacher.

Check out the TD Bank’s summer reading program!


Lost in Space with Inquiry

I am always excited when a teacher invites me to their classroom to share the excitement of learning. This week I had the great pleasure of being invited back to a grade one room I have visited several times before. Thanks so much to S.F. for trusting me enough to include me, inviting me to your classroom and for being willing to share your learning.

We spent some time searching for the perfect photograph to hit all the curricular areas she wanted to address. She had an idea of where she wanted to go curricular wise,knew what interested her kids and here are the results of this Space Inquiry.

The essential question was-

What attributes might aliens need to live on other planets?   How/why might these attributes be different from humans’ basic needs?


K-W-L charts   What We Know                            What We Want to Know charts

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Space Poetry

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Some of the word study taught through the vocabulary in the photo:

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Science outcomes covered-

Analyze different ways in which plants, animals, and humans interact with various natural and constructed environments to meet their basic needs. [CP, DM, SI]

This was taught by looking at what astronauts need in space, what I need on earth,what an alien would need to live on the planet…

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Students studied the planets, designed an alien life form and considered what its needs would be to live on their chosen planet. The class also worked with the teacher librarian to develop this work. This carried the inquiry into art as well. Art was incorporated through the design of an alien and research on planets.

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Many class discussion ensued and it was obvious that it was sometimes difficult for the children to understand the difference between wants and needs. The activity below was for teacher assessment.

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Some of the sentences the students “shook out” from their photograph for practicing fluency, practicing the commonly used words and categorizing for paragraph writing were:

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In Social Studies, an understanding of  maps and globes is a required concept.

Outcome: DR1.4

Recognize globes and maps as representations of the surface of the Earth, and distinguish land and water masses on globes and maps.

Looking at the earth from above in the space photograph was a great starting point. Students also studied maps of the classroom, school and where they live.

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The children had so much to tell me about their learning-they were bubbling with excitement. Here is part of their What We Learned chart !!!

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I can’t wait to see where they go next!!

Synthesizing Our Thinking or Faire la synthese

I was so excited to go and work in the classroom of a former student! I felt a bit like Grandma Moses at first but the kids were great and it was really fun. Thanks to C.B. for inviting me in 🙂
If you can’t read French I think the ideas still apply.

Synthesizing is a difficult comprehension strategy  for young students to name. They are able to do it quite naturally but the thinking process is not always apparent to them. In her book Reading with Meaning , Debbie Miller gave the following ideas for teaching to synthesizing:

Cover of
Cover of Reading with Meaning

In order to focus the students and give them a visual of what synthesizing might  look like, we talked about how some things spiral and get bigger and bigger as we add to them. We had a brainstorming session of what kinds of things they might be. Some suggestions the children gave were cinnamon buns,  noodles, screws, a snow ball as you roll it in the snow. As the children were making suggestions we would print the word on the board and draw a visual being sure to show how it could grow,. Some of their examples were better than others.

We started by reading a story together. Being read to Daily is essential for beginner readers to build vocabulary and fluency as well as comprehension. In French Immersion it is even more important that we read to children daily for them to develop the language. We read the story through once.  Le Cirque Charlie Chou by Marie Louise  Gay.

When we were done reading the story, the teacher and I  reviewed our brainstormed list of things that “synthesize”. Then we talked about how when we listen to a story our thinking can change and grow. We read the story again but this time we wrote the student comments in the spiral form . We stopped every few pages for a new thought which was added in a new colour.


At  the end of the story, the children had a spiral version of the story that added more and more information as we read. They discussed how their thinking about the story really had changed and grown as the story progressed and they added more information. We read another story to them (very slowly) and let them try to write their own spiral synthesis. The physical act was actually more difficult for  some of them than the thinking was. We had  many types of ” spiral” forms

Our next step was to talk about non-fiction reading. We said that when we learn about a topic, every time we read or view something new our thinking changes a little. One of the children pointed out that it was almost as if you can see the brain getting bigger-smarter as you learn more.

We read parts of two books about chimpanzees together.


We talked about the fact that it isn’t very easy to write in a spiral, and that an easier way to write out our thoughts is in a graphic organizer called a web.We modled putting some information into the graphic organizer. Then as a group decided what information we wanted to add to our understanding of chimpanzees.


We showed the children that we could then take that important information we had learned and put together –synthesized- into a paragraph.  We created a class paragraph together. We talked about how we synthesized all the information we had learned from our chimpanzee Read alouds and that information helped us learn about chimpanzees and then write about them. As we used information  in the large web, we checked it off.


Our next step was to choose another non-fiction text and see how the children were able to synthesize the information we were giving to them about snails.


We talked about the spiral writing and how that actually looked like a snail’s shell. They were very excited to try the spiral writing again. They knew that every new piece of information was to be written in a new colour. When we were done our snail read alouds, they would create their own synthesized snail writing. Here are a couple of samples and the class bulletin board.

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This is only the beginning of synthesizing. Students need to start being aware of when their thinking changes and new thinking comes in. Kind of like when we delete and re-write when we are typing. Synthesizing takes a lot of practice. Using webs and other graphic organizers to help keep track of thinking is beneficial

It is really important for students to remember the key thinking:

We are changing our thinking !

I used to think…but now I think…

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