31 March 2011

A Week of Action

It’s that time of the term when we’re fast coming to the end of one unit of inquiry and starting to think ahead to the next. We will be finishing off our ‘Rights and Responsibilities’ unit with us showing our ‘ability to respond’ to the situation we have discovered about water. We think everyone has the right to clean and safe water but we have discovered that’s not the case for every child.

An important part of the Primary Years Programme is that children are encouraged to take action in response to their learning. This is in fact part to the Five Essential Elements (concepts, knowledge, skills, attitudes and action) that develop the Learner Profile. Action can be on an everyday scale, for example when a child realises they have to take responsibility for putting their pencil away, to offering to take care of a new member in the class, to discovering a practical way to use their knowledge of addition when out shopping to the bigger scale action that we are taking. We are taking action as a response to one student asking what could we do after learning about the consequences for children who don’t have clean water.  As a teacher I really want children to know that they can make a difference.

I hope you have received our persuasive letter this evening and that we can persuade you to support our campaign! Students were split into groups to draft each paragraph. We then refined the letter together. The emphasis is on the students thinking of other children who they will probably never meet, but feeling that they want to help. Please spend some time over the weekend discussing what responsibility your child could take for payment. Maybe there’s a cupboard that needs cleaning out, a job around the garden or help with the shopping. The rate of pay is at your discretion! I have given the example of 1chf a job. We’ll be setting up our information table on Monday to inform the whole school community too.

Drafting our letter to parents

Thinking of what we can write to persude

28 March 2011

Personal Connections (Homework) 28.3.11

This week's task is connected to our language focus on persuasive writing. Have a look at the example we created in class. 

Now it is your turn:
  1. Find and cut out an advertisement that is very persuasive.
  2. Stick it in your learning log. 
  3. Use neat labels to identify the features and the language that makes you want the advertised product. Do the colours have an effect on you too? Record your thoughts on the page.
  • Bring in other persuasive adverts to share in class.
  • Also find pictures in magazines that have colours and colour combinations that you really like or really don’t like.
Due date: Monday 4th April 

Family Maths Problem (If you have some spare time.)

It’s time to renew my Halb Tax for the train. I was sent a leaflet with the following costs:
1 year costs 165 sfr
2 years 300 sfr
3 years 400 sfr
Which is the best deal and why?

26 March 2011

The Colour Wheel

We have had a lot of fun mixing colours this week. As part of our art focus we are investigating the element of colour, so we started by making colour wheels. Students were surprised at the colours they created when mixing equal amounts of primary colours to make secondary colours. We'll mix and add the tertiary colours next week. I must say that the students also did a fine job of cleaning up the paint pots and brushes afterwards. Have a look at the links in our wiki to find out more about colour and see the lesson students followed independently. 

Please note: The students have written letters to their grandparents to ask them about the responsibilities they had when they were young. Please could you send in the address of the grandparent/s, so we can post them. Please also let us know if we need to send the letter home for translation first.

22 March 2011

How and why do we refine our writing?

We have talked a lot this year about checking our work when we think we are finished writing. No piece of writing should come near me until it's been checked carefully! This has become increasingly important as we post more and more things on our wiki for a wider audience. Today we began to put the process of refining into a more formal check list for everyone to use. Refining is one process we use when writing alongside planning, drafting, conferring and publishing. It's a priority to ensure our audience can actually understand what we mean. Please encourage your child to follow 'The Refining Three Steps' at home too.


1. Revising: Check your whole text - does it make sense? Do you need to add more information or move things around?
What does that mean?
Could you say more about the topic? Do you need to move paragraphs or sentences around so the text works better?

2. Editing: Check your sentences - do you need to add, change or cross out words? Is there a better word you can use?
What does that mean? Do you over use words like ‘nice’ and ‘fun’? Check for new words in a thesaurus. Can you add a colourful adjective to describe a place, a feeling or a thing?

3. Proofread: Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. 
What does that mean?
Capital letters, full stops, commas, question marks (?), exclamation marks (!) & tense.

As you read and write at home too, pay attention to verbs in the past, present and future tenseWe began identifying these tenses last week. One student noticed for example that when we write a recount we use the past tense. Look out for irregular verbs too like 'I think' becomes 'I thought' or 'I hear' becomes 'I heard'. 

image: uiowa.edu

21 March 2011

We want YOU to know about water!

It's been a busy day using ICT to persuade people they should know about water and learn about the problems faced by some people across the world.

Students started the day visiting our wiki and planning for the task ahead. I asked students to choose from a website, a magazine cover,  a comic strip, a newspaper page or a poster as a way to present information. You can visit our wiki and see the questions students needed to answer in order to organise their thinking for the day. Each student had to identify their 'big idea', important factual information they wanted people to learn, illustrations to support the text, colours that appealed to the viewer and  a headline to grab attention. Workshop groups were made from the choices and each group 'workshopped' with Kathy. She introduced each group to the tools they could use to present their information. Then students spent time exploring the programs and producing interesting informative and persuasive texts.

It has been interesting to see the issues and solutions students have really taken to heart from our last unit. We also learned that we had to check our facts were correct and that our text matched our 'big idea'. It really was a challenging day for the students, as there were so many different aspects to consider. However, there were lots of smiles when the finished pieces were printed out.

Our next task will be to ask if our projects have clearly conveyed the 'big idea' we began with in our minds at the start of the day. Have we achieved our purpose? Will our information persuade you to support our forthcoming fund raiser for Helvetas? More persuasive writing to come!

Magazine Cover



Magazine Cover

Magazine Cover

Comic Strip

Magazine Cover
Cartoon Strip

15 March 2011

Maths Exploration

In maths today one group worked with me on the following problem. It certainly challenged the group. We used real money to help us visualise the problem, plus a variety of number skills including multiplication and addition. We often use a mixture of operations in real life, so this inquiry reflected this. Students also saw how it was crucial to check their calculations and the information in the question. Where calculations became complicated or confused I asked students to show their thinking on paper.

Lunch Time Problem
How much will lunch cost for the following number of students?

2 students
Apples 1.50 fr each

Milk  0.50 fr for  a 0.25 litre carton

4 fr per pack

Total cost

This problem really made us think about decimal fractions too and our real life knowledge of the Swiss money system. Some students spotted number patterns they could use as the student total increased by one. Then the difficult bit came when the problem leapt from 5 students to 7. Could we still use repeated addition? As we worked on the problem students realised it was easy to calculate the cost of the sandwiches as we were able to use our multiplication facts, but the multiplication of decimal fractions was trickier. We really had to understand what happens when you have groups of 50 Rappen to either add or multiply. This then led into a big discussion about increasing numbers ten times when we reached the problem with 10 students. We knew 10 x 4=40, but did we really understand what happened when we increased a decimal fraction ten times: 10 x 1.50=15. We looked at lots of examples of increasing numbers by 10, as well as creating ten groups with coins. 

My other maths group continued creating groups using sticks and making arrays with cubes. This group also learned through their mistakes today. They made some errors as they recorded facts from e.g. the four times table, while building the pattern with lolly sticks and then recording the multiplication number sentences. I got the students together and we discussed ways we can check we’re on track. We had to think like mathematicians. We recorded all the 2 times table facts together but I included deliberate mistakes. Students spotted them, so we looked at the correct pattern and noted that all the products were even and that all numbers ended in the digits 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8 making a repeating pattern. We then looked at the 3 times table and discovered a pattern too:
1 x 3 = 3 odd times odd equals odd
2 x 3 = 6 even times odd equals even
3 x 3 = 9 odd times odd equals odd
4 x 3 = 12 even times odd equals even
and so on. We also checked this out for the four times table and noted all the products were even with a repeating pattern of 0, 4, 8, 2, 6 as end digits. Students realised a calculation like 7x4 could never equal 27 as that's an odd number. Students said the fives were easy and I asked why. They chanted the numbers, but I asked more, what did they notice about the actual digits? We recorded the calculations and saw that there was a repeating pattern of 0 and 5. All these things help us with our accuracy and help us understand how numbers work. This lesson also made a link between the mathematics strands of number and pattern.

14 March 2011

Personal Connections (Homework) 14.3.11

It's a maths fortnight!
  • Start playing the multiplication and division triangles, adapt the game to suit your skill level. Ideas include sorting the facts into ones you know and ones you don't.
  • Visit our Maths Masters blog and explore the multiplication and division websites. Be realistic, start with lower numbers and become efficient with these first.

Family Maths Problem
Lego Ninja figures cost 14.95 CHF each. Can I buy 2,3 or 4 if I have 40 CHF? Prove how many you can buy. Bring in your calculations. Use a calculator as needed.

Handwriting sheet
Words for my two spelling groups

This task is for two weeks. End date: Monday 28th March

Remember to be looking out for and collecting real life multiplication and division situations. I read that jogging for 15 minutes three times a week is very beneficial for health. So that would mean I would need to jog for 45 minutes each week (3 x 15=45).

10 March 2011


This was very interesting to observe today. I asked students to make groups of lolly sticks to help them develop the concept of grouping in multiplication. Students could decide if they wanted to make triangles, each with three sides or squares with four and so on. It was fascinating to watch one group record the list of factors and products starting with 0 x 4 up to 10 x 4 and then decide to see what happens if they carried on. They were surprised to find they reached 100. At this point, again taking the initiative they decided, ‘Let’s check this. Did we make a mistake anywhere?’ Off they went to find a calculator and tapped in 25 x 4. Sure enough, they were correct.  They also looked at their written number sentences and identified a number pattern in the products. What a great example of inquiry coming from their desire to explore and test out a mathematical pattern.  It was interesting to see other students search for patterns and find how repeated addition could help them check the next number. 

Learning Log Spectacular

We found out about our likes and dislikes through our learning logs. They were fantastic! We played a game, took part in a quiz, looked at charts, listened to lists, followed diagrams.............Here are the photos of each presentation. 

08 March 2011

What do we know and understand about multiplication and division?

Mathematics has now moved on to multiplication and division. (Although please don't stop practising those number bonds to 20 in spare moments!) Today I asked the students to follow a routine called Think, Puzzle and Explore. Students recorded what they thought they knew about multiplication and division. Next they wrote down the puzzles they had about it and finally what they would like to explore further. A good assessment informs my teaching and this one left me very well informed! Division seems to be a real mystery to most children! So, as I explained to the class, that will be our aim, we'll demystify division while connecting it to multiplication.

We started by looking at a very simple problem. I have eight students in class and I want to split or share them into two equal groups. How many will I have in each group? The students quickly responded with four and we did it with our name sticks to prove it. We wrote up the number sentence and then looked at how two lots of four or 2 x 4 could also help us solve the problem. Proof of the connection between multiplication and division and that we can understand division! We also discovered one person shared into two parts makes a half. There's lots more exploration of the concept to come.

With so many students out sick yesterday, I adapted my original plans. I asked the students to find a way to answer this question: What is a responsible person? One group of students worked on designing a poster and the other group built a puppet theatre. 

Today the groups shared their ideas. I thought the poster idea worked well with it showing responsible children around the world which was cleverly connected to children's rights too. The puppet show used humour to make it clear what responsible behaviour should look like when having friends over and when being asked to tidy your bedroom. From this we discovered how to build the word irresponsible from the word responsible by adding a prefix. We've also gone on to discuss what responsibilities are suitable for a 7-9 year old and what we consider unsuitable. 

The puppet show up close
Today is International Women's Day. We looked at some images of women through history as well as looking at the fact that around the world 1 in 4 girls do not have access to full time education. We'll be talking more about equality as our unit develops. 

Here's some background information about this special day. International Women's Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March 1911. Today, 100 years later, International Women's Day, March 8th is set as the global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is a national holiday. (Thank you to the D family for helping raise our awareness.)

image: americanbedu.com

07 March 2011

Personal Connections (Homework) 7.3.11

This week I would like you to create a learning log about your responsibilities. In the log you should make clear:
1. What your responsibilities are
2. Why you have these responsibilities
3. What happens if you do not follow through with these responsibilities (consequences).

In addition:
  • Spellings for my two groups
  • Reading at least 10 minutes a day
If you have time, try this maths problem out at home as a family:
  • If you have to read for at least 10 minutes each evening from Monday to Friday, how many minutes will you read each week?
  • What if you read for 15 minutes? How about 20 minutes?
  • Challenge: How much time would you spend reading in a year? 
  • Use a calculator as necessary.
  • Record and prove your thinking to share in class.
If you have been sick, you are welcome to extend the date. Just let me know.
Due date: Monday 14th March

Start looking out for and collecting real life multiplication and division situations. For example, I heard on the show Deadly 60 that White Tailed Eagles have eyesight that is eight times more powerful than human beings. You will be needing ideas for a future log. 

04 March 2011

Taking Action

By the close of our water unit we had discovered the inequality in access to water. DZ asked, 'So what can we do?' A great question, now that we have learned all of this, what action can we actually take?

We investigated further by visiting the Helvetas Exhibition 'Wasser für Alle'. (Check out our school Flickr site for photos.) As we reflected on the trip through our Wiki the students decided that they would like to raise more awareness of how important is was for all children to have access to clean and safe water, as well as e.g. try out the PET bottle way of cleaning water. We think clean water is a right for all. So, what action would we like to take as a consequence of our learning? Students would like to use different ways to educate people about the problems facing some children. Some students suggested comics, websites and magazines. Look at the poster K made at home completely unprompted.

We found out how Helvetas encourages communities to take responsibility for the projects they support by having the expectation that projects are jointly funded with money from Switzerland and from the communities they help. As we talked we realised that practically to make a lasting difference we need to help financially.

This is just the beginning of a big discussion we'll be having in class. It's not about rushing out and having a bake sale next week! We need to go through the process of deciding how our campaign will develop. We'll start gathering ideas and use our persuasive writing skills to encourage others to support us.

As part of our new unit of inquiry into Rights and Responsibilties we asked 'What do children want and what do children need?' We created our own display with our ideas posted on sticky notes. The students particularly highlighted the need for water, food, shelter, education, love and attention. Next we will discuss if these needs are rights for all children. Here are the steps we went through in pictures.
Step 1
Draw around K
Step 2
The finished outline
Step 3
Adding our sticky notes of wants and needs
Sharing with the class why we chose each idea
Step 4
Our completed wants and needs poster hanging up in class
Plus: Playing a variety of number games in mathematics, individual maths assessments, visiting Cham library, reflecting on our watercolour art skills, presenting our learning logs, sharing our science experiments, writing on our wiki, making an avatar for our wiki, reading groups, handwriting, spelling groups, looking at more new unit books........