Category Archives: Descriptive

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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Show – Don’t Tell & Area of Polygons

Today in English we talked more about entertaining the reader.  It’s the author’s job to keep the reader interested.  When we tell it’s kind of boring, if we show, then the reader has to infer a bit and it’s more entertaining.

We started by talking about character’s emotions versus traits.  Emotions change frequently, often many times during one day.  For example, I may wake up late and my little sister is in the bathroom and I really need to have  a shower fast or I’ll miss the bus.  I might feel frustrated and angry at my sister.  Then at school I’m happy to see my friends and play during recess.  I’m even happier during math because it’s so fun….  ;0.  My emotions have changed.  My traits don’t change much, or if they do, it happens over time.  For example, my daughters are both really creative and love to draw.  This is true no matter what they are feeling. 

Here is an example of telling about an emotion:

This sentence is very boring.  It tells me that Bill is boring but it doesn’t show me.  This one is much better:

 After we looked a several examples of an author showing emotions we did a little drama activity.  The students were gieven a scerario and they had to act it out, showing the emotions of the character they were playing.  I tried to post all the videos about 10 times and something wacky was happening with the blog, it posted the same one over and over so I will try again tomorrow. If you want to watch them over on my channel on YouTube here is the link to my channel.

Tomorrow we will write desriptive paragraphs that show, don’t tell a character’s emotions.

And the it was math….

We are still working on Area & Perimeter.  The grade fives solved problems in their text books using the area of a rectangle:

The grade 6s had a problem that required them to figure out how to find the area of a square:

Then they cut the square into two congruent triangles and figured out the area of those (we did not give them the formula as they had to problem solve to get the formula themselves):

Most of the students did figure the area out using l x w / 2 = A

 Mr. B consolidated the learning at the end by showing the 6s the standard notations for the formula:


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