Category Archives: Writing

Writing & Speeches

Both the grade fours and fives are working on writing pieces that will become their speeches.  Grade fours are doing informational writing and the grade fives are doing persuasive writing.

Here is our timeline for both classes.

Outline complete                                                      Jan. 17

Rough draft complete                                            Jan. 24

Good Copy & cue cards complete                      Jan. 30

In class presentations                                             Feb.  6 & 7

School competition                                                Feb. 11

Grade 4 – Informational Report

The grade fours have all chosen a topic and we have begun the planning process.  Yesterday we brainstormed together on the topic of Gym.  The students all wrote down something to do with the gym on a stick note and stuck it on our brainstorming chart.


Next, we looked at the ideas and tried to categorize them by similarity.  We decided on three main ideas:  Activities in the the gym, uses for the gym and equipment in the gym.


Next, we looked at our graphic organizer and started putting the ideas onto it.  This is the outline for our writing.

Gym Graphic Organizer

Our goal is to have this outline complete by Friday.

Grade Fives – Persuasive

The grade fives are writing persuasive pieces.  They are trying to convince their audience of an opinion.

First we discussed different reasons to persuade and types of persuasive texts (including advertisements).


We talked about strategies that authors use in their writing to persuade people.

Pathos:  Using emotions to persuade, trying to get your audience to feel angry, sad, happy,guilty…. about an issue.  For example, if you want someone to donate to the cause of pet shelters you might paint a sad picture of animals lives to convince your audience to help.

  • Research:  People are often convinced by research and data.  Graphs can be very persuasive.  This will tie into math later when we study data management.  It’s important to know how data can be manipulated to further a cause.
  • Experts/Celebrities:  Using the names and opinions of famous people or “experts” can be very convincing.  Quotes are often used in persuasive writing.
  • Ethos:  Convincing your audience that you are sincere and believable builds trust and confidence in the author and is persuasive.
  • Kairos:  A sense of urgency.  If you don’t act now, something bad will happen or you will lose and opportunity.  This strategy is often used for sales and by telemarketers.

Here is an overview of the graphic organizer for he grade fives.  I re-created it onto several pages so they have more room to write.

persuasive graphic o

I will change it slightly to have a separate paragraph for the counter-argument and rebuttal.


We looked at a mentor persuasive texts about uniforms in schools.  We analyzed the text, finding the reasons and then the details that support the reasons.   



We also analyzed the text for the use of persuasive strategies.  

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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Persuasive, Uncategorized, Writing


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Writer’s Craft & Social Justice

As we read and write in our class we are always discussing writer’s craft.


I sometimes pause while reading to point out techniques author’s use to make their writing more engaging.   We examined foreshadowing the other day as I read aloud to the grade fives.

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I am reading “Hana’s Suitcase” by Karen Levine to the grade fives.  It is the true story of Hana Brady, a Jewish girl living in Czechoslovakia, who was sent to Auschwitz during World War Two.  The story is told as a teacher in Japan searches for information about children of the Holocaust and ended up receiving Hana’s suitcase.  

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We read of New Year’s Eve 1938/39, there were rumours of what was to come but life was still good for the Brady family.  


Despite bad times, the Bradys were determined to celebrate the coming of 1939.  On New Year’s Eve, after a feast of Turkey, sausage, salami and pudding, the children got ready to play the traditional game of predicting the future.  Hana, George, and their young cousins from nearby towns were given half a walnut into which they each wedged a small candle.  A large basin of water was dragged into the middle of the room.  Each child launched a little walnut boat into it.  Eleven-year-old George’s boat wobbled in the water, turned round and round, and finally came to a stop, lopsided.  Eight-year-old Hana launched hers and, for a moment, it glided along without a quiver.  Then it shook, tuned on its side, and the candle hit the water and went out.


I asked the class to make some predictions base on the final sentence.  Using our background knowledge about the war and the Nazi’s and what happened during the Holocaust, we were able to use this example of foreshadowing to predict that Hana would probably die in a concentration camp.  


Today I read more of the book which led to a discussion about anti-Semitism.  One student pointed out that the way the Jews were treated was like racism and I took the opportunity to teach them what anti-Semitism means.  We talked about how some people decide to hate others based on fear and difference.  I told them about the book I am reading at home now, “A Midwife in Venice”, which is about a Jewish midwife and her husband who lived in Venice in the 1500s and anti-Semitism was rife then also.  We discussed how it dates back to the days of the Pharoah’s in Ancient Egypt.  


The students are really interested in social justice issues and fairness.  The writer’s craft analysis  comes from their interest in the content of the text.    

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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Social Justice, Writer's Craft, Writing


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Elements of a Short Story

The grade 5s are studying the elements of a short story (or any narrative).  The 4s will begin this soon also.  We started by watching this short rap video on YouTube:

After watching the rap we made this anchor chart, there will be more anchor charts to follow on each element.



We discussed setting as being time and place and identified the settings of several well known stories and films such as The Wizard of Oz, The Hunger Games, and Cinderella.  Then we looked more closely at plot development:




and created our own plot mountain using the Cinderella.


plot mountain


The students then made their own plot mountains using the book Teammates.  We had some debate about whether the climax was when Jackie made the Dodgers team or when Pee Wee Reese walked over to Jackie and put his arm around him.


The grade 5 students are now beginning to plan for writing a narrative story.  We are in the pre-writing stage of brainstorming and story mapping.

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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Narrative, Reading, Writing


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Multiplication & Revising

The grade 5s have wrapped up their first multiplication unit.  The grade 4s are just beginning the journey.  Both began the same way so that is where I will start.

First I posed a multiplication problem to see how much the students understand about the concept of multiplication.  I asked them to model their answers as many ways as possible.

The grade 4s had a choice of two problems and all chose the gummy bear problem:


Here are some of the solutions:

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I was looking for the following concepts, Multiplication is:

Grouping numbers

Repeated Addition

Area (an array)

Part of Fact Families (with division)

Skip Counting (multiples)

The students presented their work to the class and now we are making multiplication posters showing the five different models for multiplying.  Some completed posters:



Next we will move into multiplying with double digit numbers as well as memorizing our multiplication/division fact families.  I will write another post about memorization strategies.

The grade fives started this way and moved onto different ways to model double and triple digit multiplication problems.  Their project was a mini-book in the math notebooks.

The traditional algorithm is great and works well but it’s difficult for students to understand how it works.  That is why I like to do it in tandem with the area model and break apart models which show the place value while multiplying.  Here is a photo of the area model and a video of the break apart model:


Here is an in depth look at the lattice method.

We still need lots of practice with mental math, not just the times tables, but mentally estimating and multiplying using strategies like rounding and breaking numbers apart.  More to come on this.


The grade 5s are revising their descriptive paragraph.  Revising is critical for good writing so we talked about using word choice and sentence fluency as we revise.  Can we replace boring words with vibrant words?  Can we combine two sentences into one?  Do most of our sentences start with different words?  Does our writing flow?

Here is the paragraph we revised together.  Today and tomorrow the students are revising their own paragraphs.  I’ve told them I want to see the messiness, all the marking up of their page.  That is how I will know they are learning to revise.  If they erase their work then I can’t tell.   Their final versions will be on their personal blogs so check for them in a few days.


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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in Descriptive, Math, Operations, Uncategorized, Writing


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More Descriptive Writing, Curriculum Expectations & Subtraction

The grade 5s are continuing with their descriptive writing.  Yesterday I reread the description of Mr. Twit’s dirty beard from The Twits by Roald Dahl.   We talked about how good descriptive writing allows the reader to create a vivid picture in their minds.  This is the reading strategy visualizing.  Good readers visualize what they read.  Good writers create vivid pictures for their readers.  In order to do that they use effective and specific verbs, adverbs, nouns and adjectives.  Here are some drawings of Mr. Twit’s dirty beard.  The students drew as I read the description:

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Today the class looked at the grade 5 expectations for writing from the Ontario Curriculum.  They highlighted the expectations that they thought applied to descriptive writing.  Tomorrow we will co-create success criteria for our descriptive writing.  Then we will look at the paragraph we wrote last week and we will revise it to match our success criteria.  Here are the students reading (there is some sophisticated vocabulary as it is written for teachers) the actual curriculum document and highlighting the expectations they will use.  I was very proud of their thought process today. 

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The grade 4s & 5s are working on subtraction right now.  I have given both classes problems to solve that involve subtraction.  I have told them that they can only use the subtraction algorithm (the procedure most of us learned in school) if they are able to explain it.  So far I have found that very few can explain the algorithm, they can explain the steps that they are taking, but they cannot explain the algorithm.  As a result, I have asked them to solve the problem in different ways.  Here is an example of students who solved it using expanded form.  This problem did not require regrouping (borrowing is the inaccurate term most of us learned).    Tomorrow I will post more student work and explanations of their strategies.  I will also post about how I am trying to get them to figure out what is going on when they have to subtract with regrouping. 


Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Descriptive, Math, Operations, Visualizing


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Descriptive Writing, Word Choice, Visualizing, Problem Solving & Adding

Today the grade 5s talked about how word choice improves descriptive writing.  We came up with some verbs and adjectives and then tried to find more interesting synonyms.  We looked at how to use thesauri to find synonyms (both a book and online) and how we need to look up definitions of new words in the dictionary to make sure we are not using a word that doesn’t fit.

The girl walked to the park.

walked – sauntered, strolled, strutted, marched.  Stalk would not be an appropriate choice, although is was listed as a synonyms on

The girl strutted angrily to the neighbourhood park to meet her soon to be ex-friend.

Adjectives can be boring too – like nice.  Very boring.

nice – cordial, amiable, kind, charming, considerate, courteous.

To illustrate how descriptive writing can be very vivid I read an excerpt from Rauld Dahl’s “The Twits”:

Mr Twit was one of these very hairy-faced men. The whole of his face except for his forehead, his eyes and nose, was covered with thick hair. The stuff even sprouted in revolting tufts out of his nostrils and ear-holes.

Mr Twit felt that this hairiness made him look terrifically wise and grand. But in truth he was neither of these things. Mr Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.

The hair on Mr Twit’s face didn’t grow smooth and matted as it does on most hairy-faced men. It grew in spikes that stuck out straight like the bristles of a nailbrush.

And how often did Mr Twit wash this bristly nailbrushy face of his?

The answer is NEVER, not even on Sundays.

He hadn’t washed it for years.

Dirty Beards

As you know, an ordinary unhairy face like yours or mine simply gets a bit smudgy if it is not washed often enough, and there’s nothing so awful about that.

But a hairy face is a very different matter. Things cling to hairs, especially food. Things like gravy go right in among the hairs and stay there. You and I can wipe our smooth faces with a flannel and we quickly look more or less all right again, but the hairy man cannot do that.

We can also, if we are careful, eat our meals without spreading food all over our faces. But not so the hairy man. Watch carefully next time you see a hairy man eating his lunch and you will notice that even if he opens his mouth very wide, it is impossible for him to get a spoonful of beef-stew or ice-cream and chocolate sauce into it without leaving some of it on the hairs.

Mr Twit didn’t even bother to open his mouth wide when he ate. As a result (and because he never washed) there were always hundreds of bits of old breakfasts and lunches and suppers sticking to the hairs around his face. They weren’t big bits, mind you, because he used to wipe those off with the back of his hand or on his sleeve while he was eating. But if you looked closely (not that you’d ever want to) you would see tiny little specks of dried-up scrambled eggs stuck to the hairs, and spinach and tomato ketchup and fish fingers and minced chicken livers and all the other disgusting things Mr Twit liked to eat.

If you looked closer still (hold your noses ladies and gentlemen), if you peered deep into the moustachy bristles sticking over his upper lip, you would probably see much larger objects that had escaped the wipe of his hand, things that had been there for months and months, like a piece of maggoty green cheese or a mouldy old cornflake or even the slimy tail of a tinned sardine.

Because of all this, Mr Twit never went really hungry. By sticking out his tongue and curling it sideways to explore the hairy jungle around his mouth, he was always able to find a tasty morsel here and there to nibble on.

What I am trying to tell you is that Mr Twit was a foul and smelly old man.

He was also an extremely horrid old man, as you will find out in a moment.

This passage never fails to disgust people.  Why?  Because the reader (or listener) can vividly visualize Mr. Twit’s disgusting beard.  Yuck.  This is an excellent example of how important word choice and descriptive writing are to becoming a good writer.

After all this the grade 5s applied this to their weekly paragraph.  They had to write about a favourite present so they used a graphic organizer to brainstorm interesting, active verbs;  descriptive adjectives; and specific nouns.

In math the grade 4s and the grade 5s we worked on a problem to highlight different strategies for solving a problem.  The problems were fairly simple addition problems.  I wanted the focus to be on the problem solving process as well as using more than one strategy to solve the same problem.  I also wanted to see if they would choose to use the standard algorithm (the procedure we learned to add – carry the one, etc.).  I wasn’t surprised to see that many of them did use the standard algorithm, here’s the kicker, they had to explain it to use it.  Some could explain why they carried (I prefer the word regroup because it’s more accurate) a digit to the top but many could not explain it.  Here is an example of using the algorithm with an explanation:

standard adding

It needs to be completed by adding up the tens so get a sum of 67.  I will only allow students to use this if they really understand what they are doing.  If they don’t understand, then it is only useful for very simple problems.

Tomorrow we will share all our strategies and create a book of adding strategies.  I saw some really good thinking and strategies which will be posted tomorrow or Friday.  In the meantime, here are photos of the grade 5s working (grade 4s photos tomorrow).

math1 math2


Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Descriptive, Six Traits, Writing


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We Walk 4 Water – Water Campaign Launch

After a lot of fun and a lot of work we are ready to launch our water campaign.  

The grade 5/6 students have been working with Mme Moar’s class to create a campaign to raise awareness about the water crisis.  The students learned together about how difficult it is to access clean water in some developing countries.  We also learned about how buying disposable water bottles here at home has many negative impacts on the environment.  Even in Canada, the land of water, we need to conserve. 

On Thursday, May 16th we will be walking to the Lake to collect water.  We will carry large jugs to fill up and carry back to emulate the conditions for women and girls in developing countries.  Except our walk is shorter and our load will be lighter.  We are hoping the radio will play our ad and the local paper will turn up.  Our walk is on the same day that Spencer West’s walk ends.  He has been walking from Edmonton to Calgary to raise money for Free the Children’s campaign for clean water.  His walk is called We Walk 4 Water and can be found here.  Spencer is very inspiring and our classes watched his talk from We Day last year. 

For the next few days I will be posting the students work.  Some photos of poster, some videos, a radio ad, GLOGS and stop-motion animation.