Monthly Archives: December 2015

SOL- Tick Tock


Tick Tock

SOL- December 15, 2015

It is that frantically busy time of year when any little thing can cause a domino effect- reverberating far beyond what seems possible. This weekend was a 3-day weekend for us- Friday was the sultan of Selangor’s birthday. I still had plenty of work to do, even though reports had been written, but still I procrastinated. Sunday I joined friends at a deluxe hotel for a festive brunch. Part way through the lovely time somebody received a text- school was to be canceled Monday because the state soccer team had won the Malaysian Cup and the sultan added a day to the already long weekend to celebrate. While this sounded like a stateside “snow day” the ramifications soon became clear. The high school received an exception so that exams could go on, the middle and elementary schools would close, as directed, but a make up day would be added in the second semester. Personally, I would have rathered been at school on Monday- the week before break is always so busy with all the loose ends that need tying.

I will admit, I enjoyed the day off- I visited an amazing book sale (22 books for under $50), caught up on my marking, and replanned my last week of school for 2015, now one day shorter. This morning, power was off in our team before school, a parent meeting took place, and then the day began. Near the end of the day when my students were at specials came emails: we had a survey to do with our students before the end of day tomorrow, we had to reread and proofread our reports on Google docs (with formatting all messed up) right away, there were a few other emails that I have yet to read. Before school was over I met with the ELA coach to sketch out a new mini unit that we will use just after break. No one thing was overwhelming, but oh boy, the domino effects…

I know I can not really complain. We have four more days of school and then I will enjoy three weeks off, but today…

Learning from Mentors


SOL- December 8, 2015

Learning from Mentors

Here I sit- another week where I have failed to plan ahead and have a slice ready to go (I swear I do lots of planning and prewriting in my head, but nowhere near enough writing on the page, where it counts!). I was struggling to come up with a topic- my brain is slightly fried after finishing my own reports and revising and editing for colleagues over the last few days. So I thought back to my day.

A highlight of my days these last few weeks has been our Mock Caldecott unit. It is not an official part of our Language Arts curriculum, but just something I squeeze in during November and December the last few years. This year (as I have mentioned in previous posts) I took my list from @MrSchuReads and @ColbySharp. Sharing these books with my students has been a labor of love- it has been so rewarding to see their appreciation of the books, their growing knowledge, and the level of discussions we have. Today we shared #20 out of the 22 we will share, A Fine Dessert. When I read the book we talked a bit about the controversy about the book and its representation of slavery. The students talked about the history of slavery in their home countries and how glad they were that they did not face this in their lives today. It struck me that I was glad that I knew about the questions the book had raised because without that knowledge I may have missed that point and we all would have missed the resulting dialogue. I love that I learn from colleagues  near and far (thank you, Twitter), which led me to think of mentors. This school year has been one where I have thought about mentors a lot- mostly because some of us at school are piloting the Reading and Writing Units of Study from TCRWP, so I am looking at mentor texts with fresh eyes.

Mentors for me in literacy include (but are not limited to):

People I work with now:

Heather- our ELA coach- she has so much to offer us in terms of ideas and experience and she is so very patient and open

Gina- the EAL support teacher for grade 3- I am so very lucky to work with her- she has the skill needed to work with our English language learners and support them in just the right way to help them grow- is full of ideas and adds so much to the classroom dynamic

People I have worked with in the past:

Lisa- a champion of reader/writer workshop and someone who always was ready to go to the next level- I miss our daily contact

People I mostly know online:

The Nerdy Book Club community (really the first “place” I knew that PLN really meant something

Two Writing Teachers blog- I get great ideas here almost every day

TCRWP (and their Facebook pages)- So much wisdom here

My building block mentors: Ellin Keane, Stephanie Harvey, Anne Goudvis, Fountas and Pinnell, Ralph Fletcher, Tanny McGregor, Jennifer Serravallo and so many more!

The authors and illustrators who share their stories. I am so lucky to have these assistant teachers every day. We talk about them as if we know them all personally. I love using their work as mentors for the third grade readers and writers in our class.

It is so amazing to have all of these mentors in class with me each day. really feel like they are teaching right along with me. They have helped to form me as a teacher and I only hope to pass on a bit of the wisdom they have sent my way.

Today I am very grateful that although sometimes I can feel very alone, I know these mentors are with me as I teach.

The Wonder of Worms!


SOL- December 1, 2015

The Wonder of Worms

We are wrapping up our science unit on Ecosystems before the upcoming break and today was a day we had eagerly anticipated- we were getting worms!

We have talked abut ecosystems and learned about the interdependence of the components of ecosystems. We have visited the rain forest and seen nature up close. We have observed plants and experimented with taking away one of their needs to see how they coped. But today, we got worms.

Last week we knew we had to prepare, so we started shredding newspaper and cardboard (yes, the worms will eat this to start composting). On Monday we were excited and ready, but got word at the last minute that it was postponed for a day. Finally Tuesday arrived and when the students saw me they asked, “Are the worms here?”

I explained that I was not the ones bringing the worms, but that Ms. Nisha was due to arrive shortly and after Morning Meeting we would go to the science lab to wait for her.  While we waited we read Wiggling Worms at Work to give the students some background knowledge.

When Ms. Nisha arrived the students were so excited. We teachers worked with her last year, so knew what to expect, but she had definitely improved her already strong presentation. She talked to the students about the need for sustainability and explained what that meant. Our school  really promotes this, so the students were fairly knowledgeable.

She then showed them her model of what they would see if they were underground and talked about the worm bin ecosystem.

IMG_8388Then we were ready to meet our new friends. Many students wanted to hold the worms and it was quite fun to see them wriggling around.


IMG_8419Then we built their “bed” by putting in some torn cardboard and shredded newspaper, which was then sprayed with water. Next Ms. Nisha took out about 50-60 red worms from her worm bin to share with us. A few food scraps and an explanation of surface area for eating and the worms were fed. Finally,  we took a good look again and our worms were in their new bin (we requested that the inner bin be see through so that we can pull it out and do some observations).


The students were so excited and had learned quite a lot. They were eagerly discussing who could babysit them over future school holidays and the recesses they would want to miss just to watch the worms. I love that these students get to have experiences like this and know that they will be problem solvers now and in the future as they become more aware of choices they can make to live more sustainably.