Dinosaur Discoveries!

As I now take a break from writing report cards, here is a chance to take a break from reading them!

You hopefully saw a post from a few weeks back about our exploration of Greek base elements in which we found English words such as astronautchoreography, xylophone and rhinoceros–remember?  This grew into an imaginative writing project that the students really loved.  The assignment:  take that same list of Greek bases and “discover” (ie. “invent”) a dinosaur.  As you will see below, imaginations ran wild.  Most students combined two or three bases into manageable creature-names such as <pneumopyrosaur>–“fire breathing lizard”–<hexacephalosaurus>–“six-headed lizard”–or “lithodermosaur“,  the “rock-skinned lizard”.    Others were, well, somewhat more ambitious.  Good luck pronouncing “titanohexapodorhodopterodynamosoph” or other titanic tongue-twisters!  Like a massive dessert buffet, there were just too many juicy Greek bases to only choose two or three!

Our writers richly demonstrated their understanding of the Greek bases, as well as a deep understanding of the lives of these ancient lizards.  They also revealed their sense of humour and generally pretty weird imaginations.  Many, many amazing physical and behavioural characteristics were described, including upside-down flying, deep kindness and healing powers, gold bodies, hot and cold running water, and of course a wide array of hideous weaponry for repelling or wiping out other dinosaurs.  Here is a sample below, but these are currently on exhibit in our hallway so do come on by to read them up close!  Hey, make your own!!

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The Secret of Love

Alright, it’s Valentine’s Day–a day to think about love and all its mystery.  A perfect day to consider the burning question, “Why don’t we just spell it <luv>?”  Wouldn’t that be simpler?  And what’s with the silent <e>?  What is its purpose?   Go ahead and think about it.  What about <luv> doesn’t seem right to you?  Feel free to ask your Grade Five Valentine if they can explain.

Why, why, why, why?  Nothing makes me happier than a bunch of students (scientists) who ask “Why?”  I was delighted that even the couple of students who knew the rules that dictate the spelling of <love> were furiously asking “Why?!”–“Why can’t we have a word end in <v>?”  “Why can’t we have a <u> next to <v>?”  So great to see them pushing for explanation instead of being content with memorization.  See for yourself what we hit upon:





On being a bonehead and other revelations

In case your child didn’t show you this or explain it, today we continued our look at poetry and Greek by examing the fabulous names associated with dinosaurs.  Students should be able to tell you about the structure and meaning of this dinosaur’s name,  as well as explain the meaning of this poem.

Below that is a list of some base elements from Greek that are used to form a wide variety of English words.  We began the challenge of seeing if we could find some.  Several students were quick to spot <hipp + o + potam + us>–“river horse”; Khaled and Carlos built <tele + scope> (later this week we will get to try out a <steth + o + scope>); Olivia and Presley and others had long lists developing–they figured out that <din + o + saur> means “terrible lizard”; and we discussed the relationship between pterodactyls and helicopters–can you see what they share?  (Thankfully it wasn’t the skies).   My favourite was Addison’s discovery that <astronaut> means “star sailor”–isn’t that beautiful?

I think our neighbours’ president might be a xenophobe!  See if you can find a few more and send them in.  We’ll take them up next day.  A fun little project will follow later this week.


















Click on the sheet to enlarge:Copyright Real Spelling

Design and discovery in mathematics

Quick break from report card writing to post about our math this week.

Remember to click on these to see them better. As I await delivery of my new glasses, I am noticing this more. 🙂

We continue to reinforce the fact that there is often more than one way to a solution, while also discussing the fact that some solutions are more efficient than others.  Efficiency is a goal, but getting an accurate solution is the bigger goal (and understanding the biggest goal of all).  For instance, when we received those order forms for the Kingston Frontenacs, we talked about how much money the school would get if 100 tickets were sold.  I hope a glance at the student thinking I’ve recorded here gives you a glimpse of the different routes that are possible to this solution.  Is there anything inherently superior to seeing that 7 x 5 will get you there as fast as 3.5 x 100?

We’ve been mucking about with fractions for the past few weeks.  This is a perennial challenge for many students (and teachers)–I’m not sure why, but it is.  I had been working on various tasks with groups at different stages of understanding, but felt like we needed a break from this focussed and fairly abstract stuff.  Also, I felt like we needed to return to a task where different math concepts converge.  So this week I gave everybody the same task: to design a schoolyard.  I am delighted with all the learning that flowed from this.

I knew that this was going to present different challenges for different kids, but also that the tasks–and the arithmetic involved–would be solved in various ways.  We hadn’t even talked about the concept of area (though I knew they should have encountered it in Grade 4).  I explained the task and then spent the next two days just letting them work away at it, meeting with different pairs to discuss the concepts they needed to work on.

On the third day, we discussed the first task: calculating the total area of the schoolyard without counting every square.  This is really a discussion about multiplication.  By exploring different understandings and strategies, we touched on the concept of arrays–the repeating rows and columns.  For some students, the important step was identifying that there was a repeated addition of 20 (which could be simplified as 2).  For other students, who grasped the multiplication, the important step was seeing a formula emerge or be confirmed:  that we can multiply length times width to get area.  They then got to test and apply this in subsequent steps.

Other concepts that came up included whether half has to be rectangle, or whether you can in fact have “half” the schoolyard covered in grass without having all in one continuous space.  And one I didn’t anticipate (and at first said “No” to until I thought about the challenge students were giving themselves):  Can our “grass” area also have “woods” on it?  In other words can we overlap our “half” and our “quarter” and still fulfill the task?  Hmmm.  (And, Presley, what will happen to our grass if we fill it with trees?)  Two different groups then had to figure out why one design ended up with a lot more “extra” space than the other.

Our fourth day began with a lesson about the relationship between fractions.   Fascinating things came up.  Students could see that if we divide a shape in half and then half again, we have quarters.  They could see that 1/4 is four equal pieces.  But when I only divided one of the halves, leaving only three pieces, there was a delicious uncertainty and confusion.   Were these pieces they had just called quarters ” still” quarters”?

The absolutely vital concept we had stumbled upon is that the denominator–4–means not just that we have four pieces.  It fundamentally means that we would need four pieces of this size to make the whole.  I pulled a quarter (25 cents) out of my pocket.They knew this didn’t mean I had cut a dollar into four pieces, but rather that four of these pieces had the value of a dollar.  And what happens when we keep dividing our “halves” in half?

This was such a rich conversation. But it reminds me of why fractions can be so challenging:  there is a lot of language wrapped in fractions and this can seem confusing. “One sixteenth is half of one eighth.  You need half as many eighths as sixteenths to make one whole.”  Phew!  These concepts need to be worked and explored again and again.  Seems like it’s probably time for some cooking!

I am hopeless at filming and capturing students discussion and work, and we didn’t have time this week to ask them to record themselves.  But hopefully these pictures give a glimpse of the creative thinking that occurred:

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Note:  What did I leave out of our “Schoolyard Design” assignment?  Well, the school.  Kyle was quick to point this out; others seemed remarkably untroubled by this omission.