Mme G.C. -Work in Progress

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Great lessons

Mentor Text with What Neat Feet

This is a lesson shared with my team by Emily Calhoun. She used Hana Machotka’s What Neat Feet as a mentor text to help students write a descriptive text called Fascinating Faces Familiar Faces.

what neat 1.PNGWhat neat 2.PNGWhat neat 3.PNGwhat neat 4.PNGwhat neat final.PNG


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I originally posted this anchor chart for English classrooms. I was so happy to see this posted in a French Immersion classroom I recently visited. I particularly liked the way the teacher linked it to “faire les liens” thus incorporating comprehension strategies. Thank you NS for sharing!!


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!!

GRR otherwise known as Gradual Release of Responsibility

In my role as coach and as a facilitator I have spent a lot of time explaining and more importantly modeling the Gradual Release of Responsibility. The beliefs this theory reflect are essential to creating independent, thinking, questioning students. I think it is core to who I am as a teacher but also as a parent.

Today the reality of GRR  bit me in the but, challenging everything I believe in. Am I wrong? Are the teachers who tell me they can’t do it right? Are fill-in-the-blank worksheets and silent kids really the better way?

What led me to this questioning today?

I saw my daughter off at the airport as she left with her high school travel club, to Thailand. We have raised her well. She is an intelligent, independent mature young lady, full of life and wanting to spread her wings and have some adventures of her own. She is excited to share her adventures with her peers. But she has a peanut allergy and I am terrified of letting her go.

We starting out doing everything for her, making our way together through showing her and letting her try, to letting her become more and more independent giving her both voice and choice, telling her we trusted her and believed in her.

Looking at GRR in this light makes me re-think. It would have been much easier to not let her go. To refuse to help her (cheaper too) and far less worry and stress. Keeping her at home and insisting she do as we ask would have been less stressful, for a while… but when would she start to rebel, hate home, never want to come back to such a controlled environment?

So I return to my GRR beliefs and I have calmed the wild dog. I do believe classrooms must have great models, guidance with  voice and choice, a belief  in student ability to learn with and from each other, allow for practice time and prepare them for a future we will not be a part of and cannot possibly imagine.

Today I have to trust that my daughter will use what she has learned, and that she will adapt that knowledge, learn more, grow and have adventures far beyond my imagination. She will return home with stories and photos and begin teaching me. Now that is exciting and that is the way it should be.

to the beach

Brain Research Anchor Chart the P.W.I.M we spend a lot of time reinforcing the why of every phase of the model. Children need to understand why they are doing what they are doing. It is important to share ideas about how the brain works. A simple way to do that with younger children, is by building this anchor chart with them. (I found the pictures on clip art if you are artistic draw them!) I start with just the title and as we work through talking about things our brain likes and needs-patterns, puzzles, and exercise …We sort objects, classify words,look at attributes of many things as we work through the chart. I attach the pictures and the words as we work through it. We talk a lot about dendrites and why we need to keep “growing” more and to get smarter. I need the students to make connections to what we are talking about. I make it as technical as I think my students can handle. As the year moves on we become more technical. I then refer to this anchor chart all year long.It also works well in all the other content areas! I keep the anchor chart up up all year, but I never make it at home ahead of time.

Arctic Children PWIM Cycle, Grade One

I worked with my grade one teacher on this PWIM cycle. We were trying this photo out to see how it went. The kids really liked the photo and it blended well with our curricular goals. Thanks Mr. S for sharing your beautiful kids 🙂


After studying the picture for several days, doing multiple read alouds , asking questions, and co-creating an anchor chart of who /what/ where/when, we had each child give us a word which we added to the word chart. The anchor chart requires a great deal of conversation and looking in books. For example the word Inuit came from a read aloud. Once each child has their own word we added some verbs in red. Each child has their name written in pencil under their word. Older children don’t like having their name on the photo but younger children are proud to say “That’s my word.” We created an anchor chart with the students for any questions they had  about the picture.

We worked really hard on our phonics and high frequency words. I used the sticky notes to show how changing the initial consonant makes a new word that rhymes. face –race-lace,  house -louse-mouse, kid, hid,lid,did…Your photograph should be a living document-not wall paper.

We analyzed the words on the following chart so that we could decide which word properties to work on.

Word Study









sled     pelt


 kid   Inuit   sitting


 son boat    rope      snow  dogs


 fur    hunting

words to support   letters students struggling with in abc

  d    (daughter/blood, dogs,standing) variety of student names  (days)w   (snow ,wood) white winter


blends blood
digraphs(sh,ch,   wh, th)
y   as vowel
r   vowels
word   families  face –race-lace,house -louse-mouse,                         kid, hid,lid,did…
plurals dogs     houses    huskies
silent   letters  rope
hard   soft c
hard,   soft g
ou,   ow house    houses
other vowel patterns(oo, ui, all,aw,ew, au) boot, blood, wood

We worked hard at studying words-through the photograph as well as see say spell and word games. Below is a word-picture match. It is important for the children to see the words in a slightly different context. The word baby means a baby no matter where you read it. We also worked on word to word matching. Finally we gave the students sticky notes and asked them to notice any of their PWIM words or word families in their reading.

We created an anchor chart called What we notice where the students talked about what they noticed in words. They were still noticing mostly number of letters and initial consonants so we tried to model other ideas for them. One example was son and dog. Both are have 3 letters. Both are one syllable. Both have a vowel in the middle. Both have the letter o.

We created a dictionary where the students practiced their printing and illustrated each word.

We worked on building sentences with sentence blocks by rolling the blocks and composing sentences. Sometimes they made sense -sometimes they didn’t . The laughter and self-correcting led to better comprehension. Students then wrote their favourite sentences into their notebooks. This activity also improves fluency and comprehension. Students then illustrated their sentences. Stronger students worked on paragraph writing by rolling multiple sentences and illustrating the sentences.


After  most of the students knew most of the words we moved  on to sentences.  We read a lot of books to see how real authors started sentences so that not all of our sentence would start with THE.

We worked a lot  on titles. Titles are a good lead into main idea and determining importance. We studied different titles of published books. I brought in stacks of books and students had to compare and figure out inductively what kind of title the stack represented. We looked at one word titles, question titles.titles that start with the, repeating titles and titles with alliteration. We used the sentences to help us write class and individual paragraphs.

We learned that the huskies must stay close to the town or be attacked by the caribou. We learned how the Inuit people survived  by hunting the caribou and compared it to how the Plains People survived by hunting the buffalo. We worked hard to incorporate all aspects of the curriculum.

   Subject     Outcomes
Science curriculum connections
Needs and Characteristics of living Things
LT1.1 Differentiate between living things according to observable characteristics, including appearance and behaviour. [CP, SI]
 Health  curriculum connections The Seven Teachings Buffalo-respect

A minimum of one inquiry and/or interdisciplinary unit per year is recommended. Any multi-genre thematic or author/genre study unit can become an inquiry unit.

Treaty Kit The Buffalo-compare and contrast with Northern People Page 30 treaty kit
Social Studies curriculum connections Comparing Cultures Families past to present  

We used a variety of books about arctic animals ,the buffalo, families around the world and the needs of living things to help us with the cycle. Our teacher librarian was really helpful at ordering books for us to use both at the children’s level and at higher levels for us to use for read alouds. We also used the internet and magazines to learn about Inuit clothing, and food.

L’aigle -The Eagle MIMI or PWIM en francais!!

I have been working on a PWIM cycle in a French Immersion grade two classroom. Special thanks to Mme B for all her hard work and sharing her classroom with me 🙂

The photograph we chose was fabulous. The children were engaged and enthusiastic for the entire cycle. It was great for tying in First Nation Content through the Eagle we learned about the 7 sacred teachings and the importance of the Eagle.

Mandatory Photo Credit : Flying With Eagles    
Louise Crandal, Courtesy of the Banff Photo Center 

Before choosing the words for the picture we read books about Eagles, birds of prey and parachuting in French. We spent a lot of time talking about the photograph and learning new French vocabulary before the children each chose a word.

The Children asked many questions! This is just one anchor chart of the many they had over the cycle.

It is important to have the children  notice attributes of  the words and learn to do daily word study inductively. Here we began to list what the children had noticed (Je vois) about the words they chose from the photograph. This list should continue to grow as students classify and work on their word study.

During the cycle, titles should be added. (titres) They don’t have to be added all at once. Paying attention to published books and actual titles is helpful. The students noticed titles with L’, ! , ?, one word , starting with Dans, and J’ai. Further work on other types of titles could continue in other cycles.

We have the students store their word cards and subsequent

 sentence cards in laminated envelopes. We are able to record their thinking during our conversations-that way we can push their thinking further each time .

Each child shakes out a sentence. They have sentences to manipulate and classify which are kept in their envelopes, a copy of  the sentences on an anchor chart to read together and this set is also  reduced into a running record so that the teacher can test their fluency during the cycle. It is a great way to ensure that  high frequency words are being learned during a cycle. Student names should be at the end of the sentence to remind students of ownership-the introduction to plagiarism. They are numbered for ease of classification and teacher modeling. The more children practice the sentences the more they have the opportunity to develop the rhythm of the language as well as comprehension skills. This running record is great evidence for report cards and interviews as well.

Students working on classifying their sentences into ideas for paragraphs.   Possible categories with sentence numbers brainstormed by the class.

After working on sentences and reading a variety of materials we reallized the ent ending was a challenge for many of the children. We spent some time studying picture books, looking at when and where to use the  ent ending and created a class book. These are some pages from the book. So much more relevant than memorising verbs!!!

We spent a lot of time discussing good sentence starters. We looked at books and how published  authors started their sentences. We brainstormed ideas and students practiced writing sentences. We built sentence cubes for the students to practice building sentences in the proper order.

We used the sentences to help us build paragraphs together.

Model anchor chart of class paragraph. A well used document about paragraph structure, vocabulary and correcting errors

Students used graphic organizers to help them write compare and contrast paragraphs about Eagles and other birds.

To further develop vocabulary we do Mystery Box (boite mystere) once a week. The students have to figure out which vocabulary item is in the box. They have to figure it out by asking questions that can only be answered by YES or NO.  Students discover details about the item’s location,use and other attributes. Once enough attributes are given students write a descriptive paragraph. We did a few together first. After group paragraphs students begin to write their own paragraphs. Here is one example


In order to include social studies in the photo study, we used the community in the photograph as our starting point to study communities.

The PWIM is an exciting way to teach. The key-understanding the process and moving away from worksheets and into inquiry!!

Mystery Box Writing

MYSTERY BOX (Directions)

This activity leads students to ask better,higher  level questions. I use it with PWIM /Inquiry. I have a box that I have decorated that says MYSTERY BOX on it. I have a photograph posted on the wall and I put an item in the box that is similar to the photograph. For example I have a winter photograph with Inuit people, husky dogs, a sled and fur. Once a week I choose an item, hide it in the box and have the children figure out what it is. For the husky dogs I used a beanie baby. For a winter coat I used a photo from the catalog. The children write in their writing notebooks. We call it Mystery Box Monday.

  • Not a guessing game.
  • Use a word that they can see in the photograph
  • Use process of elimination (not guessing) by using attributes like spatial, function, descriptive and temporal clues. (teach your students these terms)
  • Must have 12 correct responses before even attempting to name object.
  • Once students think they can name the object they must try to describe it more specifically.
  • Write down clues under yes or no section.
  • After the object has been identified turn clues into sentences.
  • Use sentences to create a descriptive paragraph about the object.
  • Try comparing mystery object to object in picture.
  • Always model your paragraph.  (I write mine while they are writing theirs using the same clues)

Below is how I make  the Anchor chart to work through with class. They then use the information to construct a descriptive or compare contrast paragraph. The first few times we write the paragraph as a class. Once they are comfortable with this process they write their paragraphs in pairs or individually.




Example: husky dog-as the students ask question,s I can only say yes or no.  I write the answers on the chart  to help with the writing later. When they reach number 12,I ask them what they think it is and to explain why. Often they are pretty sure by number 6. I do not let them guess. I tell them if they think they know, they need to ask questions that will describe it to see if they are right or if their thinking has changed. I then pulled the beanie baby dog out of the box and we talk about what is the same or different. It is a great time to use a Venn diagram.




  1. it is soft
  2. has fur
  3.  black
  4. pulls things
  5. you can pet it
  6. it is strong
  7. has a tail
  8. eats food
  9. can lick with its tongue
  10. runs fast
  11. has sharp teeth
  12. alive
  1. can’t eat it
  2. isn’t made of wood
  3. not red
  4. not blue
  5. not bloody
  6. not dead

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