15 December 2010

Finding out the answers to our questions

Today we realised good questions lead to more questions! A was keen to read out the sign in our classroom saying, "Questions are the door into inquiry." We were excited to discover our pots of water outside had frozen overnight. We were interested though that the freezer pots had started freezing straight away, but not so the ones outside. That led to the question:
At what point does water freeze?
C thought he knew (and he was right), but we needed scientific proof. We got searching using the books in our classroom. The students at first couldn't find the answers, so this was the perfect time to look at how we use the contents page and index. We discovered:

"The state of the water - solid, liquid or gas - depends on the temperature. If the temperature falls to 0 degrees Centigrade or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water turns to ice."

We would now like to know:
Why was the ice in the freezer a different colour to the ice outside? 
One looked white, the other was more see through.

We know that books are not the only place we can look. There are also experts we can ask and sites on the internet selected by an adult. Check out these links Kathy sent us after reading this blog last night! You'll be able to see where it's snowing in Switzerland and how strong the fall is.
Map 1
Map 2
She also researched and found this information that connects with our question above:

What makes rain turn to snow?

When the temperature dips below 32 degrees(Fahrenheit),or 0 degrees Celsius, the water droplets in the clouds freeze, those droplets turn into snow.

Here's an answer to the question:
At what temperature does rain turn into snow?
Rain does not turn into snow. If rain freezes, it becomes sleet (or hail, depending upon the conditions and processes). Snow is formed by the coalescence of ice crystals, which themselves are crystallized directly from water vapor. These ice crystals exist when the temperature is 32 degrees (F) or below at the level where they exist.

If it is raining and the surface temperature drops, the rain can become mixed with, and then replaced by snow, but the temperature at which this happens can vary somewhat, depending upon the relative conditions in the upper levels.

Snow can fall in the form of wet flakes when the surface temperature is as warm as 40 degrees (F) or so. Likewise, if an upper layer is warm enough, liquid rain can fall when the surface temperature is below 32 degrees (F). When it does, it generally freezes upon contact with the surface, creating a coating of ice (i.e., freezing rain).

14 December 2010

The Scientists at Work

We've been 'getting to know' water in our classroom through the construction of a water cycle. Miss Slavka begun this last week with our bi-lingual diagram.

After finishing the labelling today, we conducted an experiment to demonstrate complex ideas such as condensation and evaporation. The experiment gave us the opportunity to see liquid water change to water vapour (a gas), then back to liquid water. The scientists recorded what they observed and then wrote about why this happened. We've been using our scientific skills as well as our communication skills by learning how to write experiment instructions.

As we had made rain, one student asked if we could design an experiment to make snow, but we were lucky that it was being demonstrated just outside our window today!

At the request of C, we've also set up an experiment to see if we can find conditions to change liquid water into a solid (or ice). We've had pots outside our classroom today and interestingly the water has just started freezing at the end of the day. We were surprised how quickly the water froze in the freezer.  Students are coming up with inquiries and we are finding ways to answer our questions.

We've also got lots more questions! Can you find some answers at home too?
  • What happens if you pour water onto snow?
  • Why does water fall as snow, but not turn into ice? In the freezer it does turn into a block of ice.
  • When the snow is on the ground, and it is raining, why is the snow melting?
  • Why are the stairs outside icy but we don't see ice?
Remember to check out our netvibes page water unit page for interesting websites and information.

12 December 2010

While you are away don't stop thinking about water!

We've launched into our new unit, so while you are on holiday collect snap shots of water. Find pictures that show it in its different forms and how it is used. Maybe you'll find examples of water being stored, advertised or evidence of too much or not enough. In fact anything to do with water. Bring your pictures back with you on Monday 10th January 2011!


06 December 2010

Unit Questions

Our questions today were:

Why is it raining today and not snowing?
Why was it snowing in the night, but not now?

The students have lots of theories connected to why this is happening. We talked about the temperature, how we measure the temperature, what degrees Centigrade and Fahrenheit are, the water cycle....... The water has definitely changed form. What do you think?

We also took advantage of the snow to carry out a science investigation. We posed the question:
How long does it take for snow to melt?

We collected lots of pots of snow and then brainstormed all the different places we could put them to find out if different conditions effect the melting time. We made predictions and then timed the melting point of each pot. There was a definite buzz of excitement as we kept checking each pot!

We were surprised to see how efficient warm water is at melting snow, but also how H's hands also melt it rapidly. We were curious about the effect of wrapping paper around the pot to act as an insulator. We will be learning how to record our experiment tomorrow. 

02 December 2010

Inspired by the snow and our new unit!

Our new unit is from the Transdisciplinary Theme Sharing the Planet. The central idea we are exploring is:
Water is essential for life.

We were surrounded by water today, but in it's form as snow. We are starting to observe the different forms water can take.

Here's our 'instant' snow poetry after our return from Teuflibach today:

Snow, snow, snow.
The snow means winter is here.
The snow means it’s time to go sledding and skiing.
The snow reminds me of ‘Jingle Bells’.
The snow is bright white.
The snow makes it difficult to see where the path is.
The snow shines at night.
The snow is very cold when you touch it with bare hands.
The snow is freezing.
The snow is easy to slip on.
The snow looks like glitter and it is sparkling.
The snow is fluffy and light.
The snow looks like fluffy sugar.
The snow looks like ice cream.
The snow is good to slide on.
The snow is fun to play in.
You can make snowmen.
The snow is like a playground.
The snow is playful.
You slide, jump and slip.
When you walk you push the snow.
The snow taste scrumptious.
The snow makes me think of animals.
The snow makes me think of polar bears.
You feel like you are at the North Pole.
The snow makes me feel as if I’m solidified.
I see snowflakes falling out of the sky.
The snow makes the air feel fresh but raw.
The snow reflects light into the sky.
I see the snow topple down from the sky.
I see the snow tumble.
The snow makes me feel winter.
The snow makes me feel that my birthday is near.
The snow makes me feel Christmassy.
The snow makes me feel excited and happy.
The snow makes me feel blissful and full of joy.
The snow makes Santa come!
Snow, snow, snow.

By The Middle Primary Class

A view from our classroom

Learning Log for Mathematics

I would like you to think about how you actually use PLACE VALUE in your everyday life. When is it important to know and/or use the value of digits? Think of times when you need to read or understand a number or when you write numbers for a purpose.

Create a learning log to share your discoveries.

This log is all about using mathematics in the real world, as that's why we learn about it!


  • When I deliver a birthday invitation to my friend's house at number 65, I need to know how to read the house number so I don't post the invitation to number 66.
  • When I'm at the supermarket and I need to pay 30 chf for my shopping, I need to know the difference between 30 and 300 so I give the correct money. It's important to understand the position of the zeros.

Due date: Monday 13th December

image: richardwiseman.wordpress.com

01 December 2010

Investigating Place Value

Key Understanding 6: Place value helps us to think of the same number in different ways and this can be useful.

How can I use base 10 blocks to build numbers?
How can I split numbers into parts (partitioning)?
What happens to the tens place value when I count in tens?
What happens to the hundreds place value when I count in hundreds?
How can I use patterns to build numbers?
What is a prediction?
What is a pattern?

Today in our classroom we were exploring the different ways you can build numbers using the place value blocks. 

We found out 13 could be built using 13 ones or using 1 ten and 3 ones. 25 could be built using 25 ones, 1 ten and 15 ones or 2 tens and 5 ones. 

As we continued building numbers with blocks we wondered if there was a pattern or a system to the number of combinations you can make. We found ourselves using the word pattern and so we talked about what a pattern is.

Then that special moment happened when the students took charge and decided they wanted to investigate some more. You could feel the energy in the room as they worked out their own systems and rules to build numbers with the blocks. It was fascinating to watch the students work it out for themselves. They made predictions and tested their ideas. It got to the point where they didn't need the blocks as they had understood the system for building the number combinations.

We are thinking the number of ways always depends on how many tens there are in the number plus one other way. More to be discussed tomorrow.........

29 November 2010

Counting Down to the Winter Holidays

Tonight, please work on your special card for your 'secret card recipient'. Think about the things that are special about that person. The picture you draw could be connected to that person's interests too. Remember to address and close the card correctly. Please hand it to me in a named envelope without letting the student in school know by Wednesday morning!


Dear ---------------,

I think................You are......... I remember........... I always................

Image: samundi.de

23 November 2010

Mathematics: Place Value Continued

Our exploration into place value continues. This unit is so important as without this, you really are missing a crucial concept for all areas of number.
KU 5: There are patterns in the way we write whole numbers that help us to remember their order.
Does the order of the digits make a difference to the number?
What does the place of a digit tell us?
What is the role of zero in a number?
What is the multiplicative relationship in numbers?

We are using calculators, a variety of games, board work and manipulatives to focus on place value in depth.  
  • Students have been surprised that saying numbers becomes easier when you learn the system. 
  • Matching place value blocks with numbers helps some students visualise the value of each digit in a number.
  • We have discussed that the number 10 is very important in our base 10 number system.
  • A student made the connection 1100 is also 11 hundreds. 
  • We've learned that commas placed correctly help us write numbers e.g. 56,780 is written as fifty six thousand, seven hundred and eighty. 
  • Miss Slavka has been exploring patterns on the hundred chart and making counting patterns.
  • We have been deconstructing numbers. For example:
       0     0 x 1              0 ones
     60     6 x 10            6 tens
   700     7 x 100         7 hundreds
 5000     5 x 1000       5 thousands
This also becomes clearer when you say 'x' as 'lots of'.

Today we learned a great game called Dice Rolls that you can play at home too. 
To play:
  1. Take it in turns to throw a die.
  2. Record results in a row on squared paper, which is five squares wide.
  3. Players choose which square to enter each digit in order to make the largest possible number.
  4. Say the numbers out loud to compare.
Please keep playing the place value games and looking out for numbers around you. You could even begin to think about decimal numbers in money. What does that point mean?

22 November 2010

Learning Logs: Mouth Stories

Morgan's visit the other day got me thinking. She suggested that students go home, have an adult tell them a short story and then come to class to retell the story. This is a great way of continuing the oral tradition of handing down stories. It is also a good way to practice using the story framework of an orientation, series of events and a resolution. Students should also add a sprinkling of adverbs and adjectives for good measure!

So that's what we are going to do for our next Learning Log to round off our unit of inquiry. It might be interesting to talk with a grandparent or another relative if that can be arranged. You can retell a favourite story or create a new one.

In addition:
Individual learning tasks where applicable
Maths place value games

Due date: Monday 29th November
Image: kstoolkit.org

18 November 2010

Story Telling

``Every great story deserves a great story telling.``B.B.C. advert

Morgan's visit to our classroom certainly proved this to be true and provided us with a very entertaining morning. She asked the children if they told or listened to 'mouth stories' and proceded to tell us a spooky tale involving a hairy toe(!) and a local tale of Mount Pilatus. I hope the students have passed the stories on to you. 

Morgan told us her inspiration for stories came from listening to other stories and reading a wide range of books. The event reminded us how humans have a shared love of listening to a good story.

In connection with our unit the students have been using 'story mountains' to plan out puppet stories with a partner. Every story has an orientation, a series of events and a resolution. Students have also developed criteria for a successful performance which they will use to assess their performances. Our first show happened in the Celebration of Learning today. It really was funny! Thank you D.B. and H.

One of our unit questions has been: Which stories do you like and why? Students have been sharing their learning logs to help answer this. So far we've found out that C likes books that have jokes and make you laugh, G likes books that have good memories, H likes having a good problem to solve, N likes humour that's a bit gruesome and D.Z. enjoys books about his favourite things. As each student presents we collect the main interests each student has. We've also been finding out some great new adjectives. 'Knee slapping' and 'gut busting' certainly got us talking! More logs next week.

We have been exploring vowels this week too. We used a Brain Pop movie to revise short vowels and then moved on to long vowels. We are collecting rules and finding out what happens to a silent e word when we add a suffix. You can check out some games and movies by clicking the new Spelling Masters blog.

Finally, we wanted to share our wonderful puppets with you. We went through the process of filming with Kathy. We viewed the first take and discussed where we needed to re-shoot. Watch the final film and see our creativity in action!

Puppet Parade from ISOCS on Vimeo.

11 November 2010

ICT Thursday

Today was a fabulous day spent getting to know some new computer applications. ICT can be an amazing creative tool when you know what is out there. Our first task was to learn how to take a screen shot so we could save all our artwork in a new folder.

Last week we wrote beautiful autumn poetry inspired by our walk back from Teuflibach. To reinforce our grammar focus we selected some of the nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs we had used, to create word art using Wordle. These 'illustrations' are now alongside our poems in the classroom.

Our next project was to continue our art doodling as inspiration. We had great fun experimenting with a variety of programs to create imaginative abstract pictures. Now the students know how to do this they can use the programs to inspire or illustrate their writing.

Finally, we learned how to use our web cam to take a shot. This time we made portraits of our puppets and the creator. We then made changes to the portraits using an art program. This activity continued the portrait theme we began earlier in the year.

Try out the programs at home by clicking on the link to the right, under "SPECIAL LIST FOR IT ARTS DAY".

Next Thursday: We are going to look at typing skills programs with Kathy. Here's a link to the BBC program we recommend. Check this page for other software and websites that teach keyboarding skills.

09 November 2010

Place Value Websites

Our next maths focus connected to number and place value is looking at the following key understanding and questions:

KU 4: The whole numbers are in a particular order and there are patterns in the way that we say them which help us to remember the order.
What is place value?
Do numbers have an order?
How do we know what comes next or what came before?
What are whole numbers?
What are digits?
What is a system?
What is a pattern?

Here are some websites for you to use at home to practice your maths skills over the next few weeks. They are connected to our classroom focus on place value.
Image: knitwareblog.com

05 November 2010

What's been happening in mathematics?

Our latest mathematics focus is all about number and place value. I begun this unit by asking the students to do a wide range of tasks which you will see in the portfolio to help me ascertain their understanding about partitioning and place value. We have been looking at the following big ideas and asking questions to help us investigate:

Key Understanding 1: We can count a collection to find out how many are in it.
Question: How does counting work?
Ms. Slavka asked children to prove why 27 was bigger than 26. Sounds easy but it is not enough to say it just is! Students were also given a large collection of lolly sticks and asked to find the quantity. It turned out to be 1000.

Key Understanding 2: We can often see how many are in a collection just by looking and also by thinking of it in parts.
Question: How do we know how ‘many there are’?
Here we looked at random patterns of dots to determine how many there were. We talked about the groupings we used to help us calculate as the number of dots increased. This is know as partitioning numbers into parts. Children began to explain their strategies and learnt that we can see things in different ways. When we put the dots into grids it started to become simpler as we could group numbers more easily. That's the connection to the dot game I sent home. This is also great practice for number bonds. 

Key Understanding 3: We can use numbers in ways that do not refer to quantity.
Question: What are ordinal numbers?
Here we discovered numbers are not just used for counting but identifying a thing's place in a series. We labelled items from 1st to 12th discussing the correct language. One student noticed that st, nd, rd and th matched the end of the word e.g. first. That really helps us when we say much larger numbers. Using ordinal numbers we discussed how in a race each runner has a place. We worked out how to say and write the ordinal number for the 121st runner and beyond. A and G did a fabulous job of explaining all of this in our celebration of learning this week too. This all leads us into the next Key Understanding where we will be investigating the language of place value and the ordering of numbers.

Be on the lookout for numbers all around you. Talk about how they are being used.
Next week I'll be sending links for on line maths games to practice place value at home.

04 November 2010

A story, a story, let it come, let it go........

Kathy and I were looking through our school netvibes site and rediscovered a wonderful on line source of stories. Today in class we listened to the story of Stellaluna. Click here to find more. You'll also find more story sites on our netvibes school home page.

We have also been listening to folktales from Africa. These have inspired our own stories in class too. Click here to go to our unit netvibes site for more Anansi tales.

As you listen to the stories listen out for the structure. Is there an orientation, series of events and a resolution? Keep an ear open for interesting adjectives too.

Image: classdisplays.co.uk

02 November 2010

Your Library - Learning Log

Everybody has a 'library' of their own. Books that have been read to you, books you've shared and then the books you've enjoyed quietly on your own. You'd probably be surprised how big your library is! Think about the discussion we had in class today and the short podcast we listened to.

Next think of five fiction books that really stand out in your library because their memory has stayed with you.

Think of a way to present this library to the class.

We will need to know:
1) The titles of your five books
2) The authors of the books
3) Any reasons for the book being special
4) What makes the story plot itself special and interesting

Use great adjectives to describe these stories.

Be ready to present starting Thursday 11th November.
Image: whangarei-libraries.com

Doodle Art

The latest release from ISOCS Studios!

Doodle Art from ISOCS on Vimeo.

The Middle Primary Class at ISOCS doodles

20 October 2010

Getting Creative with Puppetry

We are going to start making a puppet library to help inspire our writing! For this Learning Log I would like you to start by watching the Jim Henson video about puppet making. It's on our Create and Express blog. Then think about the type of puppet or puppets that you think would be useful to have in a class collection so we can create as many different stories as possible. Finally collect together the materials you will need and make your puppet/s. Please bring them in as soon as you've made them.

Check out H's recommendation for a puppet website. There are lots of ideas for step by step puppet making.

Final date due: Thursday 29th October

Please also start collecting interesting pictures that could be used to inspire writing. Magazines and newspapers are a good place to look. I'd like us to build up a big collection to help us get writing. Bring them in as soon as you find something interesting.

06 October 2010


Welcome to our new unit of inquiry!

This unit falls under the transdisciplinary theme of 'How we express ourselves'. We are going to be exploring where all those story writing ideas come from. Is it from our imagination? Is it from experience? Or is it maybe a bit of both? Our aim is to use the world of literature, art and music to find inspiration for our writing. Sometimes getting started can seem like the most difficult part, but not if you have an idea to hand.

We will be exploring how illustrations have a vital part to play in writing, particularly exploring the work of Eric Carle. If you have books at home with stunning illustrations we would like to see them. If you find interesting pictures in magazines please send them in.

We will also be filling our writer's tool box with story writing planners, frameworks and language features like adjectives in order to have the communication skills to share our writing.

We started the unit by asking:
Who likes writing?
What do you like to write about?
Then we used art to show what our current writing ideas look like. Using these art creations as inspiration, the students wrote independently. We set up the Author's Chair and listened to all the stories. Our writing samples will also go in our portfolios.

Have a listen to the link in the Using ICT @ ISOCS blog entitled 'Engage Through Storytelling'.

27 September 2010

Personal Connections (Homework): Voicethreads

Here's the task for Wednesday.

1. Go to the Voicethreads on Ms Baxter's Class Site at ZIS.
2. View the Threads.

3. Then view the following Voicethread in detail:
H: Voicethread 2
G: Voicethread 3
A: Voicethread 4
C: Voicethread 5
DZ: Voicethread 6
DB: Voicethread 7
N: Voicethread 8
T: Voicethread 9
3. Draft a short response to the system shown in your Thread. Your response can include what you think of the idea and why, ideas we've had like it and/or how you could use/adapt this system in our class. Be thoughtful in your response.

4. Bring in your draft for Wednesday. We will log on and add your comments in school. We have password access in school- that's why you can't see what we've written about Voicethread 1.

5. Continue to read for an average of 10 minutes per night.

6. Please start collecting and bringing in interesting pictures that could be used as writing ideas. Also bring in magazines that we can use to cut out. We'll be using these after the break.

23 September 2010

All Systems Go!

There has been a lot happening connected to systems in our classroom. Today we completed our new home/school organisation systems. Each student will bring home their system tonight to try out. They should start using the system for tomorrow (Friday). Students have created flowcharts, lists, films, tables and pocket charts to help them remember all those essential things for school every day. Please encourage your child to pack independently for each day to really see if the system is useful. I helped them to varying degrees in the final stages but the ideas are all their own. The systems should be returned to school next Thursday when we'll review each system's effectiveness.

Another system we introduced this week is a way of helping students select books. It is called 'The Five Finger Test'. When a student selects a new book, they read a page and put a finger up for every word they don't know or don't understand. (I sent home a sheet with this procedure.) The scale is this:
  • 0 fingers: Easy to read, have fun but remember to try other books too.
  • 1-2:        Just right, enjoy!
  • 3:           Challenging but try it if you like it.
  • 4:           Very challenging, try reading with a partner or parent.
  • 5:           Too hard, save it for later or have someone read it to you.

The two Ds have been busy setting up a labelling system to identify different areas and resources in our classroom. Their signs are bright and clear. Well done for their action.

On a final note we have been discussing the individual's role as a member of our classroom community. We discussed our personal duty in thinking about the effect our actions may have on others. We read a book 'The Golden Rule' and liked the rule 'Do unto others only as you would have done unto you' or in our words 'Treat others in the way you would like to be treated'. As a follow up we have looked at our school system of consequences if an action is unsafe, excludes others or is disrespectful. There will be a new flowchart in our class to show the process. We also discussed the idea of making a good choice and a bad choice. We'll strive to make the right ones! Thank you to H's family for the donation of the book we read together.

 Hand image: burning-ver.com  Book cover  at amazon.ca

20 September 2010

Sun Dial Success

We have successfully made our school sundial! We made the most of the beautiful weather today. The only problem was the mist off the lake at 9am, so our clock works from 10 until 4. The question then emerged, what was moving the sun or the earth?

We are coming to the end of our Systems unit of inquiry, so that means we are putting together all the elements we have learned. In class we are designing a system to use at home. In order for us to become more independent and organised (self management skills have been a focus too), each student is designing a system to help them organise all the things they need each school day. The system will be tried out at home and each student will assess its success. Today we looked at our weekly timetable to see what we need everyday and looked at the task process using a flowchart. We have also been looking at 'Writing to Explain' and flowcharts are one example. We are hoping careful planning will lead to a successful system! 

Our unit of inquiry has been carefully organised learning with components from maths, language, personal and social education, IT, German intertwining. At the end of the day I am hoping for students to ultimately feel responsibility towards creating our classroom community. I hope we have developed the tools to do this actively. 

15 September 2010

Cham's Church Clock

Yesterday H showed us a video of the clock in Cham. He explained the different ring tones used to tell the time using a diagram and a video. We discovered that when the Cham church clock rings there is a system. One ring marks the quarter past hour, two rings the half past, three the quarter to and four the o'clock. The clock then rings the o'clock in one tone, then using a lower tone the number of hours. Then it rings the hours again. Why does it do this? Can someone listen at 7 o'clock in the morning? Does it do it twice then?

14 September 2010

Personal Connections (Homework)

Please read through this carefully.

General Tasks For Everyone
Part One:
Read for an average of 10 minutes per school night.

Part Two:
Visit the systems page on our online library. Revisit some of the films and activities we have viewed and try the ones we haven't.

Choice Time Telling Tasks
We are all at different stages of time telling, so choose the activity/activities below that are best for you.

Choose from:
Part Three:
Ask someone to help you practice telling the time using the online clock. Practice o'clocks, half pasts, quarter to and quarter past. Practice both reading and setting the time.

Part Four:
If you are ready to go further try five minute interval time telling. Practice both reading and setting the time.

Part Five:
Train Timetables
My train leaves Zurich at 14.15. It arrives in Lugano at 16.35. I wait for the next train to Milan. This leaves at 17.15. The journey takes 2 1/4 hours.

1. How long is the journey from Zurich to Lugano?
2. At what time do I arrive in Milan?
3. How long do I wait in Lugano for?
4. How long is my total travelling time?

Part Six:
Visit www.sbb.ch and try out some train journeys locally and around Switzerland. How long do they take?

Be ready to explain and share what you have been doing. You can demonstrate, write or explain. 

Due date: Thursday 23rd September

Clip Art: Originally published by Discovery.com, Inc. Clip art images Copyright © 1998 Mark A. Hicks

13 September 2010

Learning Logs

Our first learning logs about time and measurement certainly did not disappoint. T kicked off the year with telling us about how rings in a trunk record the age of a tree and all about lunar months. We remembered that N's calendar had the phases of the moon recorded too so we had a look. We found out how time was a very important factor when baking, followed by an opportunity to find out what perfectly timed cakes taste like! D instructed us in how to make a sundial which we are building when the weather cooperates! G shared his measurement movie with a very well chosen backing track. We are all looking forward to more tomorrow.


We are also busy discovering the artist within us all while focussing on portraiture. We spent a very pleasant afternoon sketching each other using the contour drawing technique. We learned that to make a contour drawing you use a continuous line without the pencil leaving the paper. There is no shading involved. We also discussed how important it was to use your eye to follow the contours of the face as you draw. I even had a go drawing G to demonstrate and discovered I really enjoyed the experience too. (It was the first time I had tried this technique.) We also discussed how we all start at the beginning when learning something new as some students had felt they wouldn't be able to do this and 'it wouldn't look any good'. However, I think they all surprised themselves.

Check out the contour line demonstration at: