“S” is for Sammy

We are missing our good friend Sammy.

I used to teach grade 5/6, but during the summer holidays I moved downstairs where I am now teaching kindergarten/grade one. When I began settling into my new classroom downstairs, in August just before school started, I started to think about how it would probably be easier away from last year’s classroom, upstairs, where I had a great time with a group of energetic intermediate students for whom this blogging adventure began. We grew very close and although the year unfolded in a typical fashion, we all did a lot of worrying about one classmate who had a malignant brain tumour. Our class proudly took on the Coins for Cancer fundraising in preparation for the Cops for Cancer, Tour de Rock in September 2010.

Sammy was a special young man who had a great impact on his school community as well as on our local community. He was a cheerful and positive student even as he faced cancer, radiation and chemotherapy. He participated as fully as he could in many activities, but he also liked to stay inside to keep warm and help me with classroom tasks or read his books as he built his skills learning a new language. As I ironed each Earth Day grocery bag to set the fabric paint, Sammy would very carefully and meticulously fold each bag. He could tell you which bag belonged to which student just by the art work. He was an energetic “server” of pizza on Wednesdays when our class distributed pizza as a hot lunch. On the “one” occasion when I became exasperated at the smart board, it was Sammy who found his way up behind me to make goofy faces that got us all to lighten our perspective on the task at hand. That truly does make a difference in the life of a classroom and that was Sammy’s nature – to simply lighten our daily burdens.

Then summer came and we all parted ways. Sammy got sick very early in the holidays and spent some time in our local hospital prior to his stay at Canuck Place in Vancouver. Mid August came and Sammy became very weak and he passed away. We all lost a very dear friend this past August.

It was Sammy’s illness that allowed us to come together as a school and got us appreciating the community that we have. Our wish was simple. It was just to please let Sammy be well and get healthy. His family is a very connected and loving family who simply enjoyed just spending time together. Sammy was a well-liked student with a positive outlook on life. He will certainly be remembered for being a boy who demonstrated a joy in living and learning and spending time with friends and family.

As this September unfolded and I began to learn along side a new group of students away from my old classroom, my mind still shifted to thoughts of Sammy. I sometimes thought that going up those stairs would bring back all those memories. I thought it would be good to be downstairs and here my mind could settle on things like paint, play and puppets. It was not until I started teaching the letter sounds that I knew that the memories of Sammy were more than likely to make me smile and remember his light-hearted nature and terrific sense of humour. As my new class started “sssss-ing” together to show our understanding that “S” says sssss we also started offering “S is for sandwich, sun, or summer.” I agreed that those were fine choices of “s words” and it was then that I realized that for me, “S” will always be for Sammy.


A Change in Grades and A Change in Blogs

I had a great  2010-2011 (Sept – June) school year teaching grade five/six and now I have moved on to a new grade. I am very excited to be teaching kindergarten/grade one, but I am very sad to be leaving THE SPACE BETWEEN blog in a resting state. I am definitely not abandoning it and one student, Zoe, might continue with her blog.

We made so many blogging friends locally and globally and really developed some fine  blogging skills along the way thanks to the patience and support of a local blogger, Jan Smith. I was just going to write, “I will miss our blogging friends that we connected with last year,” but I won’t stop visiting the blogs that we connected with and perhaps my new class can still connect in some way through Skype or Twitter.

My new blog is THE BIRD NEST and I am not too sure which direction my class and I will take with this blog as we are just about to meet one another. We will see what unfolds.

Uncovering The Relationship Between Area And Perimeter

We have been working on understanding the relationship between perimeter and area.

Here are some views of our class working together during mathematics. In groups, students had the task of building storyboards for four different “measuring” situations. If, in situation one, the measurement was the one component of the storyboard given, then students had to determine a plausible real-world situation or “story” that matched this measurement, provide any equations that were used to draw conclusions and also include sketches or diagrams. So, all hands were needed on deck for students to provide a story, generate equations, diagrams and computations for four different and separate situations involving perimeter and area.

For each situation, the information  that was provided differed so students had to either build understanding from a story or complete the task by ending with their own real-world story that would be plausible given the measurements and diagrams. The goal was for students to uncover relationships between perimeter and area and to determine or create their own formulas to find these measurements.

Earth Day In Our Classroom

Try to make every day Earth Day was our view of April 22nd, 2011

Love_your_motherHow do you protect the Earth from possible harm? At our school, we try to reduce the amount of energy we consume by not leaving lights on in an empty room and turning lights off when we can in occupied rooms. We turn computer monitors off so they don’t consume unnecessary energy. We recycle paper, try to use Google Docs and our blogs for a lot of our writing and we bring sweaters to school to stay warm rather than turning our heat way up. We are so lucky to be a school that does not require buses to transport students to school. So when a teacher is on duty in the morning, she or he gets to visit with and greet all our students and families who walk from all directions to school.

We know there are many more ways we can contribute as citizens to keeping the Earth healthy. We can become more aware of what we bring to school for lunches and how much of our packaging needs to go into a recycling bin instead of being reused daily. If we use reusable containers, we don’t add unnecessarily to the large blue bin in our room. Juice and water brought in containers that are reused daily after washing at home are the way to go.

We do lots of things to help our school show consideration for the Earth so we decided to help our families think about being green. Students came up with a plan for the design for the front of a fabric grocery bag. They used a piece of paper from a newspaper roll end to design the image, think of a message, and to think of the colour scheme using pencil crayons. Then each student was responsible for replicating this image on her or his bag with fabric paint. Painting on fabric was a fun experience for students.

Each student has a picture of her or his fabric grocery bag on the student blogs listed in the right side bar. Please take a look at the student blogs to see other ideas students have about Earth Day. Here is a slide show of us creating Earth Day grocery bags and what the completed bags look like.

Music on Animoto slide show is from Jamendo – Creative Commons: Tunguska Electronic Music Society (Eugene Kush – Winter Waltz)

Image Credit: “Love Your Mother” by Cayusa

This post was written for Challenge 7 of the March Student Blogging Challenge.

Writing Using Our Five Senses – A Lesson With Our CST Ms Palahicky

Our writing has come a long way! We have been working with our Curriculum Support Teacher, Ms Palahicky, to create writing that allows our readers to generate images as they read

During Writer’s Workshop, students worked on a piece of writing that described a favourite place. After the learning intention was shared, we began by listening to All the Places to Love, which was written by Patricia MacLachlan. all-the-places-to-loveMs Palahicky read this story and then I read Our Tree Named Steve, which was written by Alan Zwiebel. We were able to brainstorm and then share each of our favourite places. The range was vast. For example, some students had a favourite swimming hole they loved and others a community that was once their home. One student’s was a big city he had visited and an interesting one was an older brother’s apartment. All the reasons students shared about the specialness of these places related to how these place stimulated their senses. The learning intention was for students to create a piece of writing on a favourite place that generated images and stimulated one’s senses during reading.

The first day, students were able to begin to collect the senses they recalled from these favourite places. Here is a picture of the graphic organizer students used to begin a web or visual outline for their write. 5_sensesAt our second lesson, Ms Palahicky shared her writing on her favourite place. Students continued the task of completing an outline of their five senses.

Just before we began the rough draft, students co-created criteria for this writing with Ms Palahicky. This didn’t take long since it is always a part of our writing and familiar to students. Ms Palahicky challenged students to try the technique of having the conclusion reflect and connect to the introduction for a summarizing effect. Included in the criteria were the following expectations for writing: at least four similes, juicy words, all senses described, strong lead, clear conclusion, a variety of sentence lengths, and editing for punctuation.

We also worked on including a new editing technique called “Spider Legs” from Jennifer Jacobson’s book, No More “I’m Done!” so students could keep building their collection of editing choices. There was a clear focus on revision with this writing lesson and students began to see that rewording and reworking can have a positive effect on one’s writing. Here is a video of our writing sessions:
Writing with All Five Senses – With Ms Palahicky on PhotoPeach

Jacobson, Jennifer. (2010). No more “I’m done!”: Fostering independent writers in the primary grades. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

MacLachlan, Patricia. (1994). All the places to love. New York: HarperCollins.

Zweibel, Alan. (2005). Our tree named Steve. New York: GP Putnam’s Sons.

Welcome to Courtenay on Vancouver Island!

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall – Courtenay in British Columbia has something for all!

The first thing you need to know about coming to our community is knowing which continent we live on. We are in North America and we live in the country that is the furthest north.  Canada is the country and the specific location is Courtenay in the province of British Columbia (B.C.). We are on the western side of Canada and British Columbia borders along the Pacific Ocean. Another province, Alberta, is beside us on B.C.’s eastern border. The United States (U.S.) of America is along our southern border and also on our northwestern corner where Alaska, U.S. is situated. In addition to Alaska we are also bordered in the north by two of Canada’s territories, Yukon and Northwest Territories:

Comox Glacier

Comox Glacier

If you were to visit British Columbia, please make time to visit Vancouver Island for that is where Courtenay is located.Vancouver Island is right alongside the mainland of British Columbia.

Our community, Courtenay, is on the east coast of Vancouver Island. We do get a lot of storms but they aren’t as fierce as the storms that communities on the west coast get. The west coast of Canada is on the “Ring of Fire” and this is known as the areas along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Crispy Landing by Liam Higgins

Crispy Landing by Liam Higgins

If you were to visit Courtenay, you would most likely hear people speaking English. French is Canada’s other official language and we have French language courses in school as well as French Immersion programs. In the Comox Valley, the K’omoks First Nations’ traditional language is Kwak̓wala although this language was not the original language of people in the area.

If you like skiing, Mt. Washington is very popular during our winter – December to March (often with skiing starting prior to December and extending beyond March}.

We have great beaches in Comox and the other communities south and north of Courtenay. We have islands that you can visit with a short ferry trip. We have great hiking year round, swimming at lakes, and rivers to explore. Lots of students enjoy skateboarding and bike riding.

Please take my survey about what you would like to do if you could visit Courtenay.

This blog post is for Challenge 4

Image Credit: “Comox Glacier #676” by nemo’s great uncle; “Crispy Landing” by Liam Higgins