Wordy Nerdery – Morphology & Etymology

I borrowed the titles of this post from a blog of the same title about word study using inquiry.

We are in the beginning stages of our inquiry, looking at prefixes, suffixes and base words.  I assign some words and the students try to figure out the base word and then find its etymology (history – which language it originates from).  The groups then find other words that share the same base and create a word matrix which clearly demarcates the different parts of the work.  My hope it to get to the level of word knowledge that we can do inquiry like the Wordy Nerdys do!


Here is some of our work so far.

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Another way to increase our vocabulary is to read daily.


and here we are reading!

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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Read to Self, Reading, Word Work


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Surface Area of Cylinders

Another 3 Act Math Lesson!

Act 1

I’m starting to make my own videos to match the grade 8 curriculum.

This is Act 2.  Ideally, I would have actually wrapped the Pringles can with paper but….sometimes time is a factor so I have an ongoing goal to keep adding videos when I have time.  🙂


Working on it:


We discovered all of this!

cylinder images surface area formula



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3 Act Math Investigations!

We are loving the 3 Act (or 4 Act) lesson investigations in math.  They start with a “trailer video” that the students watch first.  They generate a number of possible math questions that could go with the video.  This really gets them thinking about math in the real world and situation where they might use math.  It also activates prior knowledge they have.
Next we watch Act 2 which provides some more information and a problem to solve.  The students solve the problem, present their solutions and then we watch Act 3.
Here is the first one we did.  It was created by Kyle Pearce @mathletepearce at Tap Into Teen Minds
Cookie Cutter
Act 1
The students came up with many excellent questions including the questions we were going for:  How many more cookies can we make?
Act 2
Here is some video of two of my students sharing their solution.  I started to use the time-lapse feature on my iPhone and we found it is too fast.  I’ve downloaded an App now that I hope will be better for next time.
Finally, we watch Act 3
We had some discussion about why Kyle Pearce was able to get more cookies than we calculated.  What do you think?
I started blogging for this class on Evernote and but I found it didn’t have the features I need so I’m continuing on here.  If you want to see the first few lessons leading up to this check them out here.  They give some background on Pi, deriving the formula for the area of a circle and Mindset.
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in 3 Act Math, Math, Measurement


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Back in the Saddle

I haven’t posted at all this school year.  There are many reasons, but the biggest were time and lack of readership from my target audience.  However, I’m back.  I’ve had a big move into grade 8 and the high school and I’m feeling motivated to blog again.

Learning is messy.  Especially project-based & inquiry learning.  It’s hard to switch over from more traditional teaching and learning because we have less control as teachers and students have more control which they are not used to having.  It’s scary.

I’ve been following the blogs of many Canadian teachers for years.  I’ve met many of them at conferences and workshops. They continually inspire me to try new things.  Here are just a few examples:

Shelley Wright

Heidi Siwak  a teacher in Dundas, Ontario whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  Her work with integrative thinking is truly amazing.

Kristen Wideen – a primary teacher who does the most incredible stuff in her class.  Wow!

Danika Barker Tipping – a high school English teacher who has been an inspiration and great help to me.  We even fought zombies together on the Ontario Northlander train!

Kyle Pearce – Wow!  His site with 4 part math lessons based on Dan Meyer’s are unbelievable.  Talk about motivating!


These are just some of the incredible educator’s who inspire me.  I follow many more on Twitter and you can see my lists if you go to my Twitter page.



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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Blogging


Fractions!!!!! The Big Ideas!

Both classes have been working on fractions for the past few weeks (with some time off when some were swimming!).   The grade 5s have a test coming up on Monday, May 5th and the 4s will have on Wednesday, May 7th.   The grade 4s need to understand up to # 5 and the 5s need to understand all of the Big Ideas discussed below.

Fractions – Big Ideas

  1. A fraction has a numerator and a denominator.  The denominator tells how many equal parts the whole is divided into and the numerator tells how many parts there are.
  2. Fractions can mean different things and be modeled in different ways:  part of a set, part of a region, as a measure, division & as a ratio.

types of fractions 2types of fraction 1

3.  A fraction is not meaningful without knowing what the whole is (if you only see the numerals when comparing fractions you assume the whole is the same).

For example, in class one day I asked the students if they would rather have half of a chocolate bar or one fourth of a chocolate bar.  Most students said half but a few knew I was up to something.

The fourth came from this type of chocolate bar:


and the half from this:


4.  If fractions have the same denominator, the one with the greater numerator is greater.  The denominator tells the total number of equal parts in the whole, and the numerator tells the number of parts accounted for.  Since both pies are cut into 8ths all the pieces are the same size.  Therefore 5 pieces or 5/8 is more than 3/8:

like denominators

4.  If fractions have the same numerator, the one with the greater denominator is less.  The denominator tells the total number of equal parts that the whole is divided into, and the numerator tells the number of parts accounted for.  The larger the denominator, the smaller the parts are:

unlike denominators

6.  There are proper fractions, improper fractions or mixed numbers.  The numerator is larger than the denominator in improper fractions.  The mixed number has a whole number and a fraction.  See below.


..and the grade 5s discovered an algorithm to convert a mixed number to an improper fraction!  The whole number x the denominator + the numerator.   2 x 4 + 1 = 9

They also figured out how to go from improper fraction to mixed number.  Divide the numerator by the denominator (fractions are another way of expressing division after all!).  9 / 4 = 2 1/4

7.  Fraction can have different names, these are called equivalent fractions:


equivalent fractions

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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Fractions, Math


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Asking Questions about Child Activists

Both classes are learning about the reading strategy Asking Questions.  As we are about to start writing reports, it is a good introduction to doing research.  Without questions we have nothing to find out!


We talked about thin & thick questions.  The students hypothesized that thin questions were simple and had straightforward answers, the meaning of a word would be a thin question, or the location of an event.  Thin questions are often answered in the text or with simple, quick research.


Thick questions have more complicated answers and sometimes can’t be answered at all.  Thick questions require inferring and complex research and analysis.


We started with a read aloud from the book Our Rights:  How Kids are Changing the World by Janet Wilson.

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The grade fours learned about Shannen Koostachin, a First Nations girl from Attiwapiskat who took a stand about her town’s lack of a proper school.   Shannen had to leave her family to go to high school right here at TDSS.  Tragically, she was killed in a car accident.

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Here are some of the questions the grade fours had after listening to Shannen’s story.    We will research some answers to their questions next week.


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The grade fives read about a girl in India named Anita Khuswaha.  Anita was born to a lower caste family so her future was marrying young and shepherding goats and having lots of children.  Anita stood up to her parents and her culture and decided to become a bee keeper.

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The grade fives have already researched their questions and will present their findings to the class next week.  I will post their findings here.


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Rockin’ Grade 4 Work!

We’ve been busy in grade 4 lately and have lots of work to show for it.

Here are some of our Dodecahedron book reports. They look marvelous! This was a really fun project and I think most of the class really enjoyed it.

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Yesterday we played Scoot which is a fast moving game using task cards. These task cards involve spelling words with the “tricky y” rule, what to do when you have to add a suffix like -ing, -ee, – est, -ful, -ness to a root word. Each desk has a task card and each student has an answer sheet where they write the word. When I say “Scoot” they move to the next desk, play continues until each student has finished each task card.

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Here is a completed answer sheet.











In math we are working on our nines times tables – did you know there are some pretty amazing patterns in the nines?


If you look at the nines times table you might notice that the tens digit in the product is one less than the second            factor.  For example, in 9 x 3 = 27 , 2 is one less than 3.  You might also notice that the digits in the product add up        to 9. Eg:   2 + 7 = 9

So, if I haven’t memorized the times tables yet and I see 9 x 7 in front of me I think:  6 is one less than 7 so the                answer is 60 something.  6 + 3 = 9 for the product is 63.  Look, it works for all of them up to 9 x 10 and if you look at the product of 9 x 11 you will see that 9 + 9 = 18 and 1 + 8 = 9!

There is also the famous finger trick:

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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Uncategorized