In Alberta, agriculture and the establishment of communities are interconnected. In lessons this week we learned that most farms in Alberta have crops or livestock or both. To grow crops, farmers need open, level fields, water, soil and sunshine. In some cold places crops still grow during the summer. This is the case in the Peace River country of northern Alberta. It is far north at 55 degrees N. latitude, but is still an important major agricultural area in our province. The average temperature, landforms, precipitation and number of frost free days relate to the types of farming that can take place around different cities and towns in Alberta. These factors have contributed to the growth of settlements. In the far northern region of Alberta around Fort McMurray or Fort Chipewyan there are few or no farms because of the soil, climate and lack of frost free days. Where crops don't grow well, farmers may raise livestock instead. This is largely the case in the Foothills region of Alberta where ranching is common.
We began a new novel study this week. Stone Fox is a novel that takes place in Wyoming in the United States. Students learned that the climate, vegetation and soil in this part of the United States is very similar to Alberta. In the story the main character Little Willy, his grandfather and dog Searchlight live on a potato farm. It is notable that potatoes are grown in Alberta too. Alberta’s potato-growing areas are mainly in southern Alberta around Taber and are among the very best in the world. The cold weather we experience in Alberta much of the year defeats a lot of the insect pests that are common in other places where potatoes are grown commercially.
This week we re-visited one of the reading comprehension strategies we studied when reading Superfudge. When students listen to or read a text, they can create pictures in their mind or make a mind movie. When readers visualize what is happening in a story they can remember more of what they read or hear. This week in class students listened to chapter one of the story and were asked to imagine in their mind what it looked like. In their visual journals they drew pictures of the story:
Next week we will visit the Shepard Landfill. Parents/guardians are reminded that swimming will commence in May! We will walk to and from Vivo.
Weekly spelling list:
In Humanities this week, some students completed their legendary stories. Others continue to work on them. All students are using Google docs to write these stories and have learned how to submit their stories to Mr. Brewer using this program. When stories are completed, Mr. Brewer will read through them and offer feedback on how they may be improved. This is the revising part of the writing process where we rework the organization and details of the stories. In class, students learned a variety of means of improving stories such as describing the setting, using red flag words and phrases to build tension, using word referents and having a definite story problem which is solved by the character(s). Typically stories build up a level of anticipation or tension until there is a climax to the story. The resolution of this tension constitutes the conclusion of the story. Mr. Brewer will read through student work in order to identify characters, plot and story problem. These are integral parts of a good story. Typically, if a story does not have these story elements, students will need to re-work the details to improve the narrative.
This week's spelling list focuses on agriculture. Agriculture is an important natural resource in Alberta. Students have completed a map of Alberta's natural regions and resources. They are developing an understanding that the location of agriculture within the province is affected by geography and climate. Ranching and beef production are common in the Foothills natural region while the Grassland and Parkland regions are where many cereals are grown. In the Boreal Forest and Canadian Shield regions viable commercial agriculture is generally not possible due to the cold and terrain.
Students completed their First Nations research and presentation this week. Then, Mr. Brewer introduced the topic of Alberta's French and British history. This represents a new chapter is the story of Alberta's history. We learned that by the 17th century, Europeans were beginning to come to the area now known as Alberta in increasing numbers seeking furs. In Friday's lesson 4E and 4F viewed the following movie by the NFB: www.nfb.ca/film/voyageurs/ While this film was made in 1964, it does give a reasonable impression of what daily life was like for voyageurs. In addition, 4F practice the song Alouette in class with Mr. Brewer. This was one of many songs that the voyageurs sang to keep pace as they paddled across Canada. Presently, Mr. Brewer is reading a book about the travels of Alexander Mackenzie. Alexander Mackenzie was a Scottish born explorer working for the Northwest Company. Here is some additional information about him: www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sir-alexander-mackenzie-explorer/ Our weekend homework assignment is all about the importance of the voyageurs to Canada's (and by extension Alberta's) history. While we tend to think of Alberta as a predominantly English speaking province, many of the earliest settlers, traders and missionaries who came here were Francophone and Métis.
Spelling quiz: Mon. April 16. Please study the words in the list above this weekend.
Homework assigned Fri. April 13. Due Mon. April 16.
This week, most students did their First Nations oral presentations in front of the class. Oral language is the foundation of literacy. Through listening and speaking, students communicate thoughts, feelings, experiences, information and opinions, and learn to understand themselves and others. When students introduced their First Nations group to the class the audience listened and at the end of the presentation they were encouraged to ask questions. Both listening and speaking enable students to explore ideas and concepts, as well as to understand and organize their experiences and knowledge. They use oral language to learn, solve problems and reach goals. To become reflective, lifelong learners, students need to develop fluency and confidence in their oral language abilities. While many students were nervous about doing a presentation for their peers, the experience was invaluable.
Reading homework: The Fur Trade - Assigned Fri. April 6. Due Mon. April 9:
There are 46 First Nations in Alberta. We have been learning about the culture of First Nations people in our province. Our project work has allowed students to be active in developing research strategies.
This week students worked collaboratively to organize and present their information. They created posters that they will show to the class. The posters form the basis for their presentations. Listening to the opinions and ideas of others, working collaboratively towards a goal and demonstrating an ability to compromise and find roles within groups were skills students worked on. For the presentations that will take place following the March break, each individual within the research group will report on a different aspect of the First Nation they have been researching. When the students present before the class each person will have a role. Students have come up with unique and novel ways to present their information such as incorporating videos, using music, gestures and referring back to the poster. The process has not always been easy, but it is part of the process of developing skills of cooperation, conflict resolution and consensus building that will benefit students as they move through their education and in the future when they have their own careers.
A number of groups were able to film themselves presenting (i.e. a practice presentation). After presenting they viewed the videos and rated their performance on the scale seen below:
It is hoped that by viewing themselves, students can pinpoint areas where they did well and likewise where they feel they could improve. They were encouraged to watch themselves and be critical about how well they could be heard, whether or not they were facing the audience, using gestures and if there were miscues or instances of indecision. Students have created scripts that include a beginning, middle and end. Many students are keen to present in front of the class even if they are nervous about their performance. By watching themselves, and reflecting on their performance when they were not in front of the class (and presumably a little more relaxed), it is hoped that they will be able to present to everyone in a confident manner.
I was very pleased to meet the majority of parents / guardians of the children I teach at Parent/Teacher conferences on March 22 ~ March 23. Over the break I would encourage students to read 20 minutes per night. Setting aside a specific time for reading is a often a good way to encourage development of reading skills.
Here are some tips for parents reading aloud with children:
In Social Studies, students learned about natural resources this week. In Alberta we have different types of energy reserves such as wind power, coal, oil sands, natural gas, solar power and even power generated by manure. We discussed how the Alberta oil sands are an integral part of the economy of our province. Students reflected on the benefits of this resource as well as the controversies surrounding its ongoing development. We learned that much of the infrastructure around extracting and upgrading bitumen is located near Fort McMurray in northeast Alberta. Alberta's forests and especially our agricultural resources are important too. Alberta has 22.5 percent of Canada's land suitable for agriculture. This is more land than any other province except for Saskatchewan. More than 20 million hectares of land are used for farming and ranching in Alberta and many Albertans work on farms or in jobs related directly to agriculture. Among the crops grown in Alberta are wheat, canola, potatoes and sugar beets.
Spelling quiz - Mon. March 19. Spelling words appear below:
Homework: Assigned Tues. March 13. Due: Fri. March 16. On a piece of lined paper, please list Alberta's natural resources. Below are two items that may assist in creating this list. Students are likewise encouraged to ask parents/guardians about the types of natural resources known to them in the province. Agriculture, forestry and mineral/fossil fuel extraction are major economic activities in the province:
On Monday of this week students had a spelling test. The focus of the weekly spelling word list was identifying and knowing the meaning of some frequently used suffixes. Through this study, students further developed their ability to apply knowledge of root words, and suffixes to understand complex words in context. As part of our weekly word work students write sentences using these words. On Tuesday when students got their tests back they edited and revised their sentences through feedback given by the teacher. They concentrated on meaning as well as use of punctuation, capitals, subject-verb agreement and proper verb tenses. Many students have made great strides in writing more complex sentences with fewer errors.
Throughout the week students were given time to complete the first portion of their First Nations project work. In this portion of the project work students have been locating information to answer research questions. They have used a variety of sources, such as maps, websites and the textbook. In small groups of four students they have been working collaboratively to communicate ideas and information in a posters. Students have been selecting appropriate visuals, to add interest to their posters and to engage their intended audience of peers. The due date for the posters was extended from Thursday to Friday.
On Thursday we began to discuss natural resources in Alberta. A major focus of Social Studies is learning to appreciate the variety and abundance of natural resources in Alberta. Students learned that we have both renewable and non-renewable resources that are important to Alberta's economy. We began to talk about oil production in Alberta and the importance of agriculture. Students began a mapping assignment based on the map of natural resources that appears below:
In Humanities, students worked on story writing, word work and their research project about First Nations. Based on student feedback Mr. Brewer created a rubric for the project work:
The highlighted areas in the rubric above were the focus for this week's work. Students collaborated with others in their group to achieve the group goal of designing posters featuring their research about First Nations. They began by producing rough plans of how they thought the posters ought to look (i.e. layout). They used brainstorming, to organize and carry out this aspect of the project work. They based their plans at least in part on posters they had seen made by students in previous years that were used as exemplars. The rubric allowed them to use established criteria to determine their progress and the areas where they could improve (e.g. make the title larger and more colourful so it can be seen more easily). Next week students will evaluate usefulness, relevance and completeness of their gathered information. They will address information gaps (e.g. if the research told a lot of information about clothing, but neglected to explain about shelter) As we progress through this work, we will focus more and more on presentation techniques. A more detailed version of this rubric, that Mr. Brewer will using when evaluating the work appears below:
Students continued to write their legendary stories too. They agreed that stories ought to have a beginning, middle and end and that there should be a climax in action. They thought mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling) ought to be important as well. Setting, use of interesting words, and longer sentences that include red flag words and phrases were likewise features of the story that students agreed mattered for the legend to be of very good quality. To avoid repeating the same words over and over again it was agreed that students should use 'word referents' as well. Mr. Brewer will use this student feedback to create a rubric such as the one for the First Nations project.
The focus of word work this week was on the use of suffixes. One of our reading goals is to expand vocabulary. A strategy that we identified for doing this is to determine the meaning of words using prefixes and suffixes. Students used the words in context by writing their definitions and finding synonyms. They alphabetized the words and wrote sentences using these words:
Homework: Reading paragraphs. Assigned on March 2, 2018. Due March 5, 2018.
Spelling test: Mon. March 5.
One focus this week in Humanities was on beginning our First Nations research projects. Earlier students learned online about designated First Nations in Alberta like the Kainai, Nakoda or Dene. The information was recorded on Google docs. In forthcoming classes, students will work together collaboratively to extend this understanding. They will discuss with others how best to present their research and will identify various ways that information can be recorded and presented visually. This will culminate in a presentation. Students watched a presentation done for a T.V. show in class. The presentation was made by two brothers who are around the same age as the students in 4E and 4F. These children made a product pitch to a panel of adults. 4E and 4F students were surprised that children so young could do such a competent job. They commented on how confident the two boys were and how well they understood their topic (hot chocolate). We all agreed that the ingredients to a good presentation are that the presenter should:
Our second area of focus this week was on writing. Students learned that writing a paragraph is like a hamburger. A good paragraph should have a topic sentence (top bun), supporting sentences (condiments and fillings) and a concluding sentence (bottom bun):
We all agreed that a hamburger that is lacking in one or more of these things wouldn't be a delicious hamburger regardless of the type of hamburger (could be a veggie burger or a chicken burger too!). The supporting sentences must have information relating to the subject sentence. The conclusion sentence re-states the topic, but doesn't offer new information. For practice, students wrote a 100 word paragraph about the long weekend.
Learners in 4E and 4F are being encouraged to use paragraphs when writing their legendary stories. Building on previous lessons, we know stories can use red flag words or phrases, word referents, and this week we talked about how good stories have a beginning, middle and end. A climax in a story is when all the action in the story builds up to a certain point. This is also known popularly as a cliffhanger. It's the point in the story where the tension or action reaches its highest part. Sometimes, the climax is a "crisis" point in the plot. Students read a sample story about finding a treasure. In this story they identified the beginning, climax, solution and use of a red flag word. Students used the strategy of visualization when listening to this story too. The author was very descriptive about the setting. He/she talked about a tropical island with swaying palm trees, warm water and beautiful, lush tropical greenery. When we write our legendary stories we will try to include details about the setting that will make it seem real by including lots of good adjectives:
Amazing how a story could transport us to a time and place that is very different from February in Calgary! Mr. Brewer is looking forward to reading stories that are imaginative and fascinating.
Weekly spelling words: Feb. 26 - Suffixes
This week students had a spelling quiz on Monday. They received back quiz results on Tuesday. Students receive a mark on the test itself and on the quality of the sentences they write using weekly spelling words. The test and sentences are graded on a 1 ~ 4 scale. In a previous blog post I uploaded a picture of the rubric I use for this. Most students have spelling edits which they do when they receive back their tests. They write in their student agenda that they had to re-write 2 out of 5 sentences or 4 out of 5 sentences; however many they needed to edit for capitalization, organization, punctuation, sentence structure, grammar or syntax errors. In some instances I stipulate that they must use curricular words to write their sentences, though typically they usually have a choice about the types of words they use from their weekly list. Over the course of the year we have been working together to write longer, more detailed and complex sentences. Many students have improved markedly in this ability since September 2017. Most students were able to write the 'ee' words from last week's list like 'keen' or 'seen' though the more challenging word 'guarantee' which follows both an 'ee' spelling pattern, but also contains the unusual 'ua' vowel combo was quite challenging to many students.
In their legendary stories, students have been working to improve the quality of their writing by trying out new ideas. They have been introduced to the idea of using 'red flag words' to indicate suspenseful elements in the story writing. This week we learned about using word referents. These ideas were introduced to me through the work of Barbara Mariconda:
In class, we talked about how using the same word over and over again can make for a dull story. Word referents are other words that mean the same thing as the main word you are using in a story. As an example, if the legendary story's main character was a tiger, a student could say, snarling beast to describe the tiger or feline predator rather than repeating the word 'tiger' over and over again. Students often do not realize that they can also use pronouns as well rather than repeating the same words over and over again. 4F were introduced to Iris:iris.cbe.ab.ca/Account/Login Most students in class were able to upload a picture of the main character in their legendary story along with a brief description of the character. Most of them wrote the title of their stories on Iris and shared their work with me (and in some instances with Ms. Ross or Ms Asis too). Students can log into IRIS with their CBE student number and password to see the work they've already contributed.
Please have a happy & safe 5-day break from school. I look forward to seeing all my wonderful grade 4 students back on Tuesday Feb. 20. Please read for 20 min. each night over the weekend.
Spelling list: Published: Feb. 5, 2018. Test: Mon. Feb. 12, 2018. Focus: curricular words: Social Studies/Language Arts + 'ee' words:
This week in Humanities students worked on completing their preliminary research about First Nations. Each student is in a group of 4 to research a select First Nation. Students are learning about First Nations in Alberta like the Stoney Nakoda, the Dene Suline, the Kainai and the Piikani (formerly Peigan) First Nations. We did the research using our text books and Internet sources. Students are learning about the culture of First Nations and how people adapted to living in different regions of the province. The types of resources available to the Dene in the Boreal Forest region differed a lot from the types of resources used by Plains First Nations. The types of dwellings and technology were dependent on the climate and the resources available in each region. Some Dene Tha' technology is snowshoes and sleds for moving about in the deep snow in winter time. It is noteworthy that the climate and vegetation of natural regions affect the material culture. Archaeologists can find remains left behind by people. These remains are called artifacts. In discussions in class we talked about teepee rings and the use of obsidian to create arrowheads or knives. In some instances old artifacts are known as historical cultural items as they were made in the past and are still currently in use by First Nations people.
In addition to our research, we did a lot of word work this week. Our spelling list includes words related to our current study of First Nations and the common 'ee' pattern in spelling. One noteworthy exception in the list is the word 'treaty'. A treaty is an agreement between two nations. Treaties were signed by the crown and the various First Nations in Alberta. An important goal is for students to identify and apply common spelling generalizations in own writing. Students used alphabetical order by first and second letter to write out the words, illustrated, defined and even wrote out words using letters cut from magazines. This was something they hadn't done before, but plainly enjoyed.
On Friday students engaged in a hands-on design challenge. In this activity they learned about working together in groups. A vehicle was designed for a specific purpose. This is a good prelude to our First Nations research as students again will be collaboratively working towards the goal of presenting to their peers the knowledge gained from researching their First Nation. Below are some pictures from this Friday activity. Students did a short reflection piece at the end of the activity:
On Friday the majority of students received their Term I report cards. Parents and children are encouraged to reflect on the successes and think about areas for improvement in the coming term. Parents/guardians can sign the envelopes on the line next to where it says Term One. There is no need to re-seal the envelopes. Please return the envelope to school with the signature. The same envelope will be used in Term II. The report card contained within is the property of parents/guardians.