Remembrance Day

Hello folks at home.  Our class ran the school’s Remembrance Assembly yesterday, after working to prepare for the past week.  I confess I was a bit stressed about it–having assumed the mantle after years of Ms. Greavett’s assemblies, a week of daunting technical issues left me unsure it was going to come together.  (Thanks, Ms. Byers for helping sort through those).

But the pieces–and most importantly, the students–came together.  For the majority of you who were unable to attend, you would have been proud.  Our “hosts” read their pieces with poise and clarity.  Our tribute readers presented their pieces equally well, over stirring music and images.   Our tech crew bang on with their cues.  I thought our “In Flanders Fields” was stirring–captured the feeling and meaning of the words in a way I sometimes feel gets lost.  (It turns out, we can memorize verse, and boy does it make a difference!)  Our wreath, and ushers and Mrs. Hennesey’s class song of peace, all lovely.  The words “Rouse” and “MacPherson” were pronounced correctly (because those who had found them stumbly took the time to nail them).  I think the class felt quite rightly proud of what they’d done.  I hope today has more meaning and resonance for them as a result.

More Math…or is it?

I forgot in the last post to share the math we did yesterday!  We are going to see Fatty Legs on Wednesday.  The problem:  there are four classes that all need to get to the Grand Theatre for the same time, all taking Kingston Transit.  But each bus can only handle one class.  So how are we going to get everyone there on time?  The latest we can be going into The Grand is 10:15.

That was just about all I told the kids.  Oh, and no transfers–I hate doing transfers!  They therefore had to generate the questions and the solutions.  (Zoe was astute about recognizing that Google Maps’ walking estimate didn’t account for the pace of a group of 25).

Here’s what they looked like working away at this:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Don’t they look happy?  And here’s what they came up with, more solutions than we even needed! this math?  

Open Math

First off, I have to apologize (I guess) for the infrequency of posts this term so far.  I’ve been REALLY BUSY!  But I am keen to keep at this, and hope to have the kids up and running as contributors in the next month.  (There, I’ve now said that so I have to try and make it true).

I wanted to share a couple of bits of math work we’ve been up to.  We do a bunch of arithmetic type of math around here–times tables, and multiplication methods and so on.  Stuff that you would probably find familiar.  As much as possible, we are trying to remain open to the possibility of different methodology and even different answers.  (Where the question is clearly 2 x 67, we’re happier with different methodologies than different answers, but it sure is interesting to see kids argue through their differing answers and learn something about how they got there).  So, in several “open” problems recently, we had some pretty fascinating discussions.

The first, you may have seen:  a caterpillar crawling out of a jar, up three centimetres and sliding down two each day.  You can hopefully make out from the work below, that there was some serious disagreement about the answer.  The message from some:  we need more information!  Like, how long is the caterpillar?  There were at least three defendable answers!

This was also a good entry into the quality of our mathematical communication.  If you (or I, or anyone else) don’t understand what the math shown below means that could be a place where we talk about communication.  (It is also fairly often a place where I discover a child can see a problem–correctly–in a way that I am unable to see it.  I love that).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Later, a party problem:  ten people at a party, everyone shakes hands just once with everyone else.  One answer, but many routes to that answer.  This problem had some sweet traps, like having to realize that this means nine handshakes for each person; and that one handshake means a handshake for each of those people.  Thus, we were into understanding the problem, and having to use logic.  The variety of strategies was rich.  It was particularly lovely to see that one of our most capable, super-advanced math citizens who often leaves us all with our jaws hanging open solved this one literally using a little pile of stones.   Sometimes the simplest way is the best, and making models is more than OK.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The bonus question took us a whole awesome class:  Would doubling the number of people double the answer?  Is there a way to predict?  Digging into patterns together is so important to seeing the beauty and potential of mathematics.

This week we had this problem:  

Not the most elegant problem I’ve written, to be honest.  But once we got past my over-wordiness, this was a good example of the openness of even fundamental multiplication.   All the students could see that this was a pair of multiplication questions.  Our talk about which we predicted would be largest was very interesting.  Giving the students a chance to share their thinking is so important.  (I’ll do another comparison one like this with fewer words–it was very interesting).  And then we got to see the different ways that students were able to show the multiplication.  For some, this involved a lot of counting.  A lot!  This opens questions about efficiency (and also about learning their times tables).  The strategies the students choose must first be rooted in understanding, rather than just mimicking some method I’ve shown them.  As their understanding grows, they can then see the logic of choosing the most efficient strategies.  (Which will, in the end, involve a calculator–a tool that is useless without understanding).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, openess.  This is not meant to replace accuracy or the vital role of automaticity in fundamental arithmetic (so yes, please practice times tables–your child should know what they are working on; if they don’t, tell me!).  And it is not all the math we do.  But by being open we allow everyone a door into the math we are doing, and hopefully each child also begins to see a direction for their growth and learning.


Upcoming:  It is high time I did a post about Orthography.  The stuff your children already know about words that I didn’t know by this point in Grade 5 (or, frankly, at age 40) is pretty encouraging.  Stay tuned, there may be one or two things for them to teach you as well!

Lemoine Point, finally!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We did it:  one day later and 15 degrees warmer!  A sunny, lovely day.  I am currently working on Biodiversity with the Grade Sixes, while Mrs. Wilson covers Organ Systems with the Grade Fives, so we split into those groupings for most of the day.  My Sixes explored the variety of habitiats and organisms at Lemoine Point.  We are delighted by just how many critters we did see.  In one of our activities, pairs were given a loop of rope and had to create a “Micro Park”, making an argument for why a mall shouldn’t be built on that spot.  What is special here that deserves protecting?  The responses were varied and compelling.  Lucky us, it’s all protected at Lemoine Point.   Ticks are a real issue!  Please check your child just to be sure!

Here are some of the student observations from the day (more to follow):

I went to lemoine point today and it was so fun.  But my feet were hurting and i felt like ticks were on me.But the trees and the nice grass were so cool.  But the bathroom sorta sucked and I kept saying”not worth it not worth it!”

Noah 😀

    Today at Lemoine Point, we found a salamander, two frogs, two little brown snakes, lots of malards ducks, a family of turkeys, crickets, dragonflies, three monarchs (one had broken wings😞), and a ladybug.  When we ate lunch, people were freaking out (because a wasp landed on him/her) and at the end of lunch, Jyotsana was stung by a wasp.  (I got to feed two of the turkeys too😊).

    Near the end of the trip, we played a game where we were all bears and Mr. Caldwell put popsicle sticks (that was food) in the open space and we had to get as many as we could to survive ten days.  I ended up not getting any but other people got lots.  Basicaly only one person survived.  

    I brought bird seeds but I only got to feed the turkeys…

…but I got a really close look!       


Today at lemoine point we walked really far. Our classes were split into grade 5 and 6. We walked a couple of kilometres.  The coolest animal i saw was a tiny snake that was as long as one of my fingers. We also saw a blue jay, and a bunch of turkeys. Ms. Wilson’s class went on the field trip to. In the middle we stopped to have a snack at the water and near the dog park. After that we started walking again and that is when we saw the blue jay. The trail was really beautiful and there were a lot of big trees. Then we saw the big group of turkeys. Soon we saw lucas and noah find a salamander the salamander was dark grey with black spots. When we got to the spot where the groups were going to meet the grade six group wasn’t there yet. Since they weren’t there, a lot of the kids in the grade 5 group played triangle. Triangle is a game where you pass a football and if its a bad pass or you don’t catch it you are out and the last person still in wins. When the grade sixs get there we played a game where we were bears and we had to find popsicle sticks that counted as food. Then the feild trip was over and we had to go back to school.


Oct 12 2017

Jacob. G

We went to Lemoine Point we got pot in separate groups grad 6 went with mister Caldwell grad 5 went wish miss Wilson 😀 it was really fun But we had to do a lot of walking.    D: But miss Wilson said we could take a break for 5 Minutes.  But when we got to our destination we played a game i thinc it was call Bears. It was fun.  I found a hickory nut at the end.  :D.


Today at lemoine point we saw snakes and frogs.  And there was moss.  It was soft and pretty.  We played an activity–we were hungry bears!  We saw brown snakes when we were walking out.  They were small.  It was fun!  

By sitara

Today at Lemoine Point we walked over 5km. We saw some Blue Jays. There was a dusty mushroom. We saw a totem pole. It had a bird a person and other animals. I found acorns & walnuts. There were red berries. We even saw ducks and loons. Some of us found shells. There was even a fish skull. There was a group of turkeys. They were all big. The two groups met at a spot. We saw 4 frogs and 2 big crickets. There was some small crickets too. We saw bees and wasps. Everyone was freaking out. We played a game where we were bears and had to get enough food to survive for 10 days. The bears needed a lot of nuts, plants & berries. On the by to the bus we saw Little Brown Snakes that were little and brown.


    This week at thursday, October 11, 2017 Mr. Caldwell’s class and Ms. Wilson’s class went to a conservation park for a science field trip. The conservation park’s name was Lemoine Point. Each grade 6’s had a partner and a clipboard with a sheet of paper. We listed things we saw at the park on the paper.

    We saw lots of different kinds of animals like birds, mammals, reptiles or amphibians, and even invertebrates (bugs). We saw ducks, loons, chipmunks, squirrels, salamanders, and other animals.

    We also had a little fun research. Each group had a loop of string. We had to find a space worth saving. When we found one we put the string around the space. My group’s space was a hole in a tree. We thought it was worth saving because it was a shelter for the animals. It would be the bunnies, chipmunks, and other rodents that could use it for shelter. It was also kind of deep so it was a very safe place for preys to hide in.

Geoilli (*u*)


Craig P T, 10/12/17

Hello. My name is Craig! which you know that’s in the top left corner of the page. Anyways, I’m writing a story about my experience at Lemoine’s Point… LET’S START!

Paragraph 1

Today, I woke up in a sunny day. My eyes were very tired. I heard my grandma yelling,


I checked the time and it was 8:10…

Paragraph 2

Wait let’s stop right there. My grandma always wanted to bother me to wake up.

She also wakes me up at 7:30 and she would panic and say,

“CRAIG, IT’S 8:50 even though when it’s not!”

Funny right? Well if it’s not funny, then just read the next one instead…


Paragraph 3

I  got to school on time around 9:01 am.

I went to the bus with my classmates, and I was with Edan.

It took kinda forever to get there. 10 minutes later, we arrived at Lemoine’s Point.

Our second teacher from another class is Ms.Wilson.

We separated each other in a group, and started to learn habitats including plants and other animals like ducks etc.

Edan and I, we were quick at spotting some living creatures and plants.

What was cool was he had entire camo suit on him, including food, binoculars, etc.

The thing is I was kinda sleepy inside the bus…

Paragraph 4. Did you know?

Did you know that I used to go here with my mom during summer and fall? So the paths and trails were all familiar to me today. It’s one of my favorite area.


Overall, I appreciated to see the leaves falling, the paths straight, trees moving and the calming effect of the wind on my face. It reminded me how great God’s creation was.

When we got back to school, I was sleeping on my desk and took off my leather jacket and making it as a pillow. I wasn’t listening the whole time because of the long trip that we had…

That’s all folks!


     Hi!  Today at Lemoine Point, we saw a lot of animals and they were all really, really cute😊😃!  These are some of the animal that I saw.  The first animal we saw was a Bluejay, and it was landing on a oak tree, and it was very startled when it saw all of  the faces looking at it so, not many people got to see it.  The next thing we found was a Monarch Butterfly and it was flying all over the place. I was very excited about the next animal we saw, and it was the first chipmunk of the day!!  Right after that we saw another Bluejay in the distance.

    The animal that popped out to me was the Wild Turkey, at first I thought it was a duck but as we got closer, almost everybody thought it was a turkey that just got out of the barn but, Ms.Wilson said that it was a wild turkey.  

The last animals that we saw was a Salamander and Snake and, last was a

monarch  that broke it’s wing but on the way we lost it☹.                                  

Hey my name is Adham .  Today at lemoine point , we saw lots of things like snakes, wasps ,bees ,frogs ,salamanders and a spider ,we played a game we were bears and we should get colours they are food ,we should get enough food to survive.. I also played.  I got a stick and  wrote some mathematical equations

.What was special  about lemoine point was that everything was beautiful and natural and quiet.  

Lemoine point

When we got to lemoine point we split into 2 groups a grade 6 group with mr. caldwell and a grade 5 group with ms. wilson. and once we were ready we took of our first stop was at this marshy place by the water and we stopped. to see if we could hear any animals we heard a couple birds then we took off.

We walked over to the water and met some birds when hannah called them over with her duck caller and beside the water was a hole bunch  of milkweed. and all of the fuzz inside the milkweed was blowing everywhere i found a milkweed plant that had a really nice design. the seeds were overlapping each other which made it look really nice.

Then we finally got to the woods and we walked of the path for a bit and we used magnifying glasses and searched for some bugs and salamanders. we found a lot of salamanders under only one log we also found some pretty big mushrooms too.

Then we went into some tall grass with our magnifying glasses and got down low in the grass looking for bugs. and when i asked Mr.caldwell why there was random holes in the grass he said because mice live in there. and when he said that i was out of there.

Then we went and had lunch some people were playing football. after lunch we played a game where you are a bear and you have to crawl on four feet. which was ok and the point of the game was to collect the popsicles sticks from the ground.     ( the popsicle sticks were food in the game)

And we had to collect the most .after we collected all of the popsicles we met back in the circle with our sticks. and they had colors on them and if you got a certain amount of that colour u would survive i was the one with the most food. so i survived after that we got our bags and got on the bus and left.

I got the back and had to sit with Mr. Caldwell lol : )



O.K., Homework

First: we did it!  5 triangles with only five lines!  Here is a picture in case you hadn’t figured it out yet.  It was good to hear from students that some of them had puzzled away with family members on this–I hope nobody lost any sleep!


There isn’t much evidence that tons of homework helps most anyone get better at most things, and after a long day stuck at school I’d like to think students are playing outside, having family time such as playing board games or helping to prepare dinner, or pursuing their own interests.

However…The homework I will assign will often be:

  • “Ask me about…” or “Please discuss…” kinds of messages that are meant to stimulate conversation.  This is also what the blog is about.  Your asking your child to discuss or explain what’s going on at school is a way for them to deepen their understanding (teaching is also learning!), to help you understand so that you can help out, or to generate new questions to bring back.  It is my hope to link school and home as much as possible.
  • Orthography investigations like the <sign> matrix this week.  These are meant to link you to the nature of the work we’re doing as “word scientists.”  (More on this next week).
  • Times tables!  Yes, those old favourites!  While we will be doing lots of open-ended math exploration this year, students must improve their automaticity with their number facts, including the multiplication tables.  We simply cannot do enough of this at school, so it really must become a part of the home routine.  Try this at home:  “Pass the potatoes please, Mom.”  “Certainly my dear, but first–what is 3 x 7?”  Do not withhold food from your children for math reasons, but you get the idea: insert this practice wherever you can.   The internet has given us some funner ways to work at these.  In the menus at left there are links under “Mathematics” to some decent online practice sites.  But drilling from the table in their agenda is just fine also.

If you have any thoughts, questions or ideas about any of this, let me know (in the comments below or in a note or visit).  Have a great weekend–see you at the Demolition Derby!

Today’s Math Challenge!

After working on some number patterns and tables I threw out the following challenge:

My friend Dan says it’s possible to make 5 triangles with only 5 straight lines.  Try it!

A very busy period of fiddling and figuring and some very fired up thinking then occurred!   Some fine outside the box thinking included:  using the edges of the paper; overlapping the triangles; using a circle.  We discussed.  I shared that there was at least one solution where all 5 triangles were separate.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the end of the period, several students found such a solution, but most were still thinkering away.  See if you can figure it out together tonight!

Our Thinkers are Working!

Sorry if you are getting notified about this post a second time.

Hello folks!  The First Week has happened, and what a time we have had!  Thank you for sending your sparkling children each day.  The level of engagement and enthusiasm has been high– unhindered by the water dripping through our ceiling or spraying down the hallway (don’t worry, everything is under control now)!

As a trained professional, I had a few goals for the week:   First, I wanted to establish that we are going to be challenged!  The very first thing we did together was read one of my favourite poems, by Emily Dickinson.  Even though I began by warning (exclaiming!) that poems can be like puzzles, the first couple of read-throughs brought slightly outraged exclamations of “This doesn’t make any sense!”  It was an opportunity to see that by working together, and keeping our minds open, we could find the sense.  And, as it happens, the poem’s message about the power of minds and imagination was a good one to start the year with.

Click on this image to make it bigger!

Second, I wanted to begin establishing the idea of community, including the understanding that communities are diverse and that we have to find ways of understanding and supporting these differences.  Of course, these kids have been around, so they know exactly what the teacher wants to hear during these conversations, but–bless their hearts–they don’t seem at all cynical.  Opportunities this week to work together in various groupings, to tackle challenges, to journal and share and introduce their peers, have all been beginnings.  Among the activities that maybe made its way home was the story of The Three Brothers (beter, Bopdy and Davip), the first of a series of activities we’ll do about how our brains and learning needs can differ.

And so…

Sometimes I actually do not know what is going to happen with an activity (which is sometimes the point).  The First Day of School seemed a good time for one of these.  I provided each of three groups a package of symbols and asked them to act like archaeologist/detectives.  Can you find some meaning in these symbols, and do you think you can put them in a logical order?  This worked more beautifully than I could have hoped for.  Students were very quick to grasp and embrace the dual roles that mathematics guru Jo Boaler calls The Skeptic and The Convincer.  Rich conversations, multiple theories, and vigorous arguments followed!  On the second day, each group shared their working hypotheses as well as their reasoning.  I particularly loved the idea that this might be a coded alphabet, based upon the observation that there were–completely by accident on my part–26 symbols!  As one of our young scholars discovered, this is actually the numerical system of the ancient Maya, and the key to finally grasping all the symbols was seeing that this was a base 20 system (as opposed to our own base 10 system).  We had a splendid time messing about with this afterward, in which we found ourselves reviewing our own number system and having to do some nifty calculating to understand the Mayan system.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yes, click on this image also to make it bigger!

Thursday, we had another numberish challenge (also courtesy of Jo Boaler).  If, as we all agreed, 5 twos is 10, can 5 twos also be 24?  Or 15?  After some playing about with that, students were given the task (independent or collaborative, most chose the latter) of seeing if they could find ways to make 4 Fours equal each of the numbers up to 20.  Again, the thinking was rich and the conversation lively–bringing in various operations, as well as the interesting concept of Order of Operations.  Homework:  (Parents, I hear your mouths watering with excitement).  Let’s see how many more of these we can fill in by the end of September!  Go!

And finally, a perfect wrap-up to the week’s investigations was our discussion of Spelling.  Or…Not Spelling.  Or…well, Word Science.  Well, in fact, just Science.  We are headed into a year-long (life-long) exploration of the English writing system that I will share in more detail later.  The following are all the concepts the students generated in response to the central question, What do Scientists Do?  Honestly, every one of these ideas came from them.

Can we really do “Spelling” this way?  Yup.  But really, I hope that this collection of ideas will guide our inquiry all year, in all subject areas (including Science).

As long as our Thinkers are turned on (and I think they are)!


P.S.   If you are here, the Blog is working!  I promise that not all the posts will be this long!  I will post weekly–sometimes more, sometimes less.  Sometimes it will be a quick shot of information; sometimes it will be more descriptive as above; sometimes it will be the students’ voices and words and video.  Along the way, I welcome your thoughts and questions and comments:  we’re in this together!






Morriseau and Janvier

All term, we have explored the relationship between the First Peoples of Canada and the Europeans who founded New France, the fur trade and ultimately Upper and Lower Canada.  A challenge for me is to avoid representing our Indigenous People as “historical”–ensuring that we understand they are an enduring part of our modern society, without having to badly teach another 200 hundred years of complex history.  The Pow Wow was an excellent opportunity to see ancient culture in modern context.  Another is The Arts.  (See “A Tribe Called Red” two posts back).

We haven’t had so much time for this, but a little while ago we looked at Norval Morriseau.  To balance an appreciation for his incredible art while also avoiding just “copying”, I spoke about Morriseau’s inspiration and process, and how he painted quickly, almost in a trance, often working on multiple paintings at one time.  Then I put on some soothing naturey music and said, Go!  Paint!!  As usual, it was pretty interesting to see them get into it and the results were predictably rough, but energetic.  Here we were interested in process over product.


Today, we were introduced to the amazing and original work of Alex Janvier, a Dene/Saulteaux painter from Northern Alberta.  (In March, I went to a huge exhibition of Janvier’s work, which I was totally unfamiliar with, at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa).  We watched an interview with him, and then explored images of his paintings, which are abstract and unique.  We talked about his experience in Residential School from the age of 8.  We talked about his discovery of art, and his influence by European artists such as Paul Klee and Kandinsky.

I put out watercolour paper, compasses, rulers, crayons, pencil crayons, and paint.  Then, I put on woodsy music and off we they went.  This time, process was important, but not speed–a balance between free-flowing line and careful application of shape and colour.  I don’t know that the students are really channeling Janvier or nature doing this, but the results were original and cool.  Good way to spend a bunch of our last Friday together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.