One of my professional goal for this year is to manage to teach grammar in a real life context.

I have started by asking the children to read book titles and categorize them. We also looked at punctuation. Next steps? Any idea, good book, blog, website?


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Reading and Literature Circles

Inspired by Nic’s post, I thought I would write about reading as well.

We don’t follow a reading program, and believe that students should be free to choose their books. As part of this, students engage in a literature circle with their peers. I have not had much experience with this, as I never had class sets (or group sets) of books before, but I do know that when students engage together in reading, they usually are more passionate.

Recently I have been letting the students “get on” with their literature circle books, I let them take control of where they are going. The groups meet three times a week in the mornings and usually just read together. They have started to use the reading strategies we used together in class, such as Wondering out loud and Stop and Think.

In guided reading, I tend to read out loud, and so far most of the books were picture books. The last book we read though was The Twits, a student choice. And we started talking about characters, out of the blue. And without prompts, the next time the literature circles met, they talked characters too. In order to help them structure their exploration of characters, I suggested using mind-maps, which seemed quite successful.

It’s amazing how well students respond to strategies they find meaningful. It’s great to see them transferring the skills across the disciplines, using wondering out loud strategies in Math and as part of their unit of inquiry.

The First Steps resource has been useful to me, I have been trying to make use of some of the suggested strategies in there.

What do you do for reading? Do you have a literature circle approach?

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Reading and Inquiry

One of my professional goals this year is to effectively implement the resource First Steps into the programme of inquiry.  I think it is a great resource, but, as I discussed in my appraisal meeting the other day, I think it would be easy to pay lip service to reading in a busy programme, and not use the resource to it’s potential.

So, this last few weeks I have tried the following…

At the moment our unit of inquiry is Where We Are in Place and Time, with the central idea: Present civilisations are built upon the experiences of civilisations from the past.

The reading strategies we are focusing on are skimming and scanning, and previously we looked at self-questioning.

As we started a guided inquiry into Ancient Greece, I modelled skimming.  On the smartboard (SB) I had pages taken from a non-fiction text about Ancient Greece.  I looked quickly through the pages, thinking out loud as I went, and looked at the headings to find out what parts of Ancient Greece I could learn about.  Still on the SB then brainstormed the aspects of Ancient Greece.  I then gave the children a brainstorming pages, and a number of books on Ancient Greece.  The books had a wide variety of information, and since I have children with reading ages varying between 5 -12 years, the texts were varied in their difficulty.  The children then practiced skimming through the pages.  Some of the children worked independently, while others went through the process with me in a small group.

At this point, the children highlighted 1-3 aspects they wanted to research further.  (I guided some more or less able children to choose 1 or 3 so as to extend or not overburden them).

My next step was to go back to the SB.  The children helped me brainstorm specific questions I could ask about my chosen aspect (clothing).  We came up with several options, discussing whether they were too big to cover, or too closed to be useful.  Finally we decided my questions would be “What clothing did men and women each wear in Ancient Greece? And how are these the same or different to modern clothing?”

From here, the children brainstormed questions for their own Greek inquiry.  They critiqued each others questions, looking for open ended, specific questions.

This post is getting long now, so I will tell you about how we included scanning… next time. 😉

In the meantime, do you have any thoughts about how you have meaningfully integrated reading, and reading strategies into your classroom?


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Call for help! We want to talk to you!

Grade 3 are looking to speak to people who have been directly effected by disaster/natural phenomena situations, or responded in aid to those situations.

The students are inquiring into: Humans RESPOND and ADAPT to the continual changing nature of the earth, and are particularly looking at

Human responses to the Earth’s changes

right now.

We have been talking about how people respond in “disaster situations” as both directly effected people and as helper. We brainstormed ideas today (after I set the classroom up as a disaster zone) of how we could respond, and have already spoken to someone from a voluntary group in Italy called Protetzione Civile, who responded to the earthquake in Abruzzo.

The students are developing some questions, but generally just want to see what makes people act as as outsider (what makes us take action) and how people feel and deal with situations like that.

We would preferably skype with you, but if that is not possible, we would love some email contact with you.

Please comment if you can help us!!!


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Evidence of learning

What does understanding of this central idea look like?

“Humans respond and adapt to the continual changing nature of the Earth”

Key Concepts: Change, form, causation
Related Concepts: Adaptation, movement

Lines of Inquiry:

  • How the Earth changes and continues to change
  • Why the Earth changes
  • Human’s responses to the Earth’s changes
  • How the different components of the Earth are interrelated

The summative assessment is an open-ended performance task: Students propose and explain a way in which humans could respond and adapt to the continual changing nature of the Earth in an area that has been effected by change.


This unit is taught in Grades 3 and 4 / 7-9 year-olds!




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Trans-disciplinary Skills Development

The International Baccalaurate defines the five essential elements of the Primary Years Programme as:

  • knowledge
  • skills
  • concepts
  • attitudes
  • action

Every unit of inquiry addresses those elements, as well as the Learner Profile attributes. When it comes to those, attitudes and skills, meaningful links can be made.

But this post is focusing on transdisciplinary skills development and what this could look like.

In Grade 3 we are focusing on Research and Thinking Skills. The skill I want to write about is the skills to formulate questions, which is essential for so many things, but in this case for research and inquiry.

This is how we are asking and formulating questions:

  • Wallwisher – the students can post questions at all times on the computer OR on the real-life WonderWall (they have been advising each other on how to make the questions “better”)
  • Thinking Aloud Reading Strategies – During shared reading, we stop and share our wondering
  • Stop and Think Reading Strategies (those also address the development of thinking skills esp. comprehension) – Again a strategy where we can formulate questions to help with understanding
  • The Big 6 information and technology skill development approach helped us to formulate our task and to focus on questions we should know answers to as experts in a particular field

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Inquiring into Language

As part of our unit of inquiry The Changing Planet (Humans respond and adapt to the continual changing nature of the earth) we are also exploring the language focus To explain.

The pre-assessment was a short, written task, where students had to explain their favorite game (after talking about what it means to explain something!). Yesterday the class was using our information literature for the unit of inquiry, not to look at content, but to look further at language.

Equipped with the prompts

– What is the purpose of the text?

– How is it written? (Now I think I should have linked more to the concept FORM here and probably asked What is it like? We did this during the lesson though)

– What words/language are being used?

– What else did you notice?

… the students went off in groups to explore the texts.

The initial plan was to have all of the groups look at all these aspects, but I rectified that during the lesson, as I asked each group to focus on one.

When we got back together, the answers were phenomenal, and provided us with the key features of explanation texts.

Today we will use our findings to self-assess the pre-assessment.

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