The class rocks!


Click on this and it will get bigger!

Well, we had a few kids away today, but I wanted to share two things.

First, we got to this part in Fish in a Tree where there is a puzzle.  The kids walked out today pondering it, and I invite you to do so with them.  It’s a classic, you may know it.  We’ll discuss tomorrow.

Studying rocks and early civilizations at the same time, it seemed like we needed some understanding of relative time.  What’s really old?  Last week, after an afternoon of looking at fossils I found just outside Kingston the weekend before, we traveled back 4.6 billion years along a timeline to the beginning of the Earth and then noted a number of events as we made our way back to the present.  Oldest rocks, first life, cockroaches, ice ages, continental drift, oceans covering North America, that sort of thing.  And also dinosaurs.  Oh, and eventually humans.  Some of the comments:

It surprised me that when dinosaurs came it did not seem very long ago. We were close to today and that’s when dinosaurs appeared it was cool and surprising.

What surprised me was that the dinosaurs were so close to human civilization, because when we think of dinos we think of them being so long ago. It also surprised me that there were no life forms for so long.   

 I think why we did this activity is so we could see where we live now what it used to be. And seeing that it went through so many different stages.   I really liked it. We got to be outside while learning. I never thought about the very start of the earth really before. I learned a lot today about our earth.

If 4.6 billion years was 12 hours ago humans would only be around for half a second.  You think the ancient Egyptians were alive a long time ago, but when you think about it it would be really close to today.

This past weekend, I found out that our local fossils are even older than I had thought: about 470 million years.  (Like, way older than dinosaurs).  Ms. Kirk shared this cool tool for getting a feel for how ocean fossils ended up in our town and schoolyard.  We spent some time at it today.  Check it out!

Field trip to Miller Museum of Geology this Wednesday!  Rain or shine–dress for waiting for the bus outside!

Dean Burry Visit






Today we had a visit from Dean Burry!  Who is Dean Burry?  He is the composer who composed Carnival of the Dinosaurs, which was the big piece performed by the Kingston Symphony when we went a month ago.  After finishing our own dinosaur project, we thought he might like to come and talk about dinosaurs and being creative and stuff like that.  And he came!  (It turns out he lives right here in Kingston–only since last June).

I like connecting with community members like this.  Most people like hanging out with young people who are interested in what they do, and it’s great for the kids to glimpse people’s passions.  Dean is clearly very experienced doing so through his work with the Canadian Opera Company, and from being a dad.  He was very generous with his time and the kids were, as usual, very engaged with great questions and comments.  He loved their dinosaurs, of course.  (If you haven’t had a chance to come and see them, they are up in the hall). Really, a bunch of people sitting around talking about dinosaurs and music is going to work out.

That’s all.  Just cool.

Home discussion: the Heavy and the Light

Hello, happy Earth Week.

I wanted to share with you at home a video that, with some hesitation, I presented to the class today.  In observing Earth Day and Week, I like to engage students with something inspiring and energizing–some sense that they can participate in caring for our planet.  The kids are usually right there with me–almost like they know this drill.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental firebrand below, has challenged me (and all of us, including the world’s leaders) to act with much greater urgency–and honesty.  She strips bare the notion that our individual choices can save the planet.  She knows we need big systemic change, and we need it yesterday.  Her message is very heavy, and I am not sure our 9 and 10 year olds were fully ready for it or for her.  But on this Earth Day, I couldn’t think of anybody who is a better voice to share.   Check her out; she pulls no punches.  But I wanted to let you know, as sometimes we hit heavy stuff in class and I don’t always know what kids carry afterward.




And on a lighter note:  Abbott and Costello.  A couple of weeks ago, during Joke Week, we watched “Who’s on First?” the single greatest comedy sketch of all time.  Brayden went home to try and find it and stumbled across another great sketch of theirs.  Today in our math class (we’re circling around to the various operations right now) he and I presented it so we could figure out how can 7 x 13 equal 28?  We watched the video twice and tried to find the mistakes–hopefully it reinforces our own mathematical thinking.


On Greek Dinosaurs and a Scholarly Symposium

Last week was our Paleontology Symposium–which has become one of my very favourite projects ever!  In the middle of a unit on Ancient Greece and the etymology of Greek in English, why (a concerned parent might reasonably ask) are we doing a project on dinosaurs?!  There’s an, ahem, evolution here I’ll try and explain.  The first question to answer, though, is why are we bothering to learn about Ancient Greek?  This is easier for me to answer.

English is a soup of languages–to an extent perhaps unique among the world’s languages.   Elements of Old English, Latin, Norse, French and Greek are present throughout.  And one of the wonderful things that English does that can be confounding to those who don’t understand it but valuable to those who do is include markers of those languages in its spellings.  We’ve been noticing this all year.  Way back, we saw how words with an initial <wh> or <kn> digraph–are marking their Old English origins.

Greek has a huge presence in modern English–we’ve previously touched on how words with a <ch> digraph pronounced /k/ or a <ph> pronounced /f/ are very often marking Greek (or, properly, “Hellenic”) origin.  Check out “school” or “phone” and you’ll find this is true.  We learned that before the universe, the Greeks believed there was “Chaos”.

Understanding even a couple of dozen base elements of Greek origin can unlock many hundreds of English words.  This deepens our understanding of familiar words and helps us unlock the meaning of new words we encounter.  Our trip to the Kingston Symphony a few weeks ago was timely as a launching point to delve deeper into the Greek presence in English.  Symphony, we learned comes from an element meaning “together” and another we already knew meaning “sound”.  Choreography is literally “dance drawing,” which I think rather poetic.

Some Greek base elements, copyright Real Spelling.

I provided the students with a list of Greek base elements from Real Spelling, and asked them to see if they could connect them to words they knew.  (Try it yourself with the picture to the left).  As they came into focus, students began to see that biology is the “study of life”;  that a hemisphere is “half” a “ball”; an astronaut is a “star sailor” and a photograph is a “light drawing”.   As we discussed the new word symposium, students quickly made connections to other words.  Sympathy is to “feel together”:

At this age, students will now encounter a greater number of words rooted in Greek and Latin.  Knowing these and other Greek bases will help them comprehend new words and make connections.  At least they will know to look.

Inevitably, we discover that dinosaur is “terrible lizard” and triceratops is “three horned face”.  The world of science, we learn, draws heavily on Greek and Latin to name things.  (This would have come naturally to early British naturalists, as they all read Latin and Greek).  All dinosaur names are Greek in origin.  And so, the obvious way to get us studying the Greek is to invent dinosaurs!  (See how logical this is?)


For the last few weeks our set of highly-motivated paleontologists have been preparing to unveil their latest “discoveries” at an international symposium.  You will see that this is some high-quality scientific writing, well organized into paragraphs, and polished by peer editing and revision.  To say nothing of detailed, labelled scientific diagrams.

And of course, boundless imagination!  Watch for the dinosaur that gets smaller as it ages; the dinosaur that is made of rock; the one that lives in a volcano; the one whose egg forms between its mother’s horns; that has fingers on its tail; that communicates with its fins…and so on!  As one student exclaims in their paper: “You never know where your imagination will take you!”

I hope these pictures convey how seriously they took this project:  from the reports they produced to their earnest discussions.  Please peruse their work here, but also plan to come and see it as it goes on display later this week.

But here’s the thing I am not sure I’ve ever experienced before:  After delegates had discussed their discoveries in their groups of four, I invited them to go around reading the reports of other delegates, maybe take some notes.  So up they got and it was a few moments before I realized it was almost completely silent in the room.  I hadn’t asked them to be quiet–hadn’t hollered at them or anything, I swear!–but it was so quiet!  After a few moments, I grabbed the camera again and made this little video.  Play it on full volume for the right effect:

No Chaos here! (And no wine, either, in case you were wondering.  Our “drinking together” only ran as far as juice boxes).

Why are these students working in such a quiet, focused way? Because they are scholars!  As my friend and mentor says, “Nothing motivates like understanding.”  I believe that is evident here.  In any case, it was delightful to see them take such pride in their own work as well as their peers’.  I look forward to our next symposium!  (And stay tuned for Latin!)



(that’s Latin)

Your child may have come home Friday telling you that on the very same day as our scholarly symposium, their teacher taught them how to snatch a penny off their elbow before it hit the ground.  (And that he may have broken the world record for the number of pennies snatched in one go).  The truth is that this is the truth.  It was the spontaneous follow-up to a very interesting Light investigation we did in Science just minutes before.  Hopefully, in addition to dazzling you with their improved elbow agility they also demonstrated the bending of light using their penny, a cup and some water.  If not, please send the penny back for remedial work.  Behold the dignity of the true scholar and athlete:  


A Carnival of Dinosaur Music

For goodness sakes! I am an infrequent blogger at the best of times this year, but there’s no excuse for this post being unposted–I just forgot to hit the “publish” button!  This is from several weeks ago, the students’ responses to our trip to the Kingston Symphony.  Though late, I share this now because their words are so great (we wrote these to send to the Symphony folks) and because it all ties well to the post I’m working on from this past week. 

In particular, I note how amazed the students were to hear the idea of a symphony (from Greek sym, “together” and phone “sound”) come alive.  They were agog that these actual humans could work their instruments together to duplicate the Jurassic Park theme.We were delighted by the production of composer Dean Burry’s work “A Carnival of Dinosaurs”.  We had read the poems he’d written for each dinosaur but it was wonderful to hear the music that accompanied each as he read them on the stage.  


Dear Kingston Symphony, thank you for letting us come, listen and watch the show. I found the show really fun and interesting. My favourite song from The Circus Of Dinosaurs was the Finale song because I thought that the bird sounds were really cool! I was wondering what instruments you used to make the bird sounds. I noticed that the Maiasaura song was pretty calm where as the other ones were more adventure like or active. I was surprised when in the Parasaurolophus song some of the Brass instruments made the honk sound, I found it funny. I also enjoyed the Jurassic Park Theme because it made me think of watching Jurassic Park movies with my Dad.

From, Wylder


Dear kingston symphony when i saw your performance i was amazed by how much musicians were their playing the violins and the tuba’s when the themes were coming into play and when that happend I loved it and I want to play a tuba when I grow up also I  always wanted to become one of the 70 people. I noticed that the footprint one was a lot longer and I loved it. (Brayden)

Dear Dean Burry i like your dinosaur carnival because when people play it with instruments you really hear how the dinosaurs stomp like at the symphony.Whenever the drums were hit it would sound like the dinosaur is stomping VERY loud.And when the flutes were playing it sounded like a warning that the dinosaur is giving us to stay away.  And the trumpets were warning that the dinosaur isoming. And the pipes sound like a warning that it will hurt you if you go near it. The violin it makes the dinosaur sound scarier same as the cello. And it looks like the conductor is hitting the dinosaur.


ASHI BUDDHDEV  Kingston Orchestra  

Thankyou for inviting us to the Symphony. I really enjoyed all the cool music you guys were playing. I was surprised by how focused all of you were,you were playing really nice loud high notes and small quiet soft notes. I noticed all most string instruments were at the front and tubas and other instruments were at the back. I wonder how long it took to practice all of the music,it was a lot. For me it was kind of hard to see the other instruments at the back so my suggestion is next time  make a way where we can see all of the instruments. My favourite part was when the kids came and started dancing and the T rex part. Because it is my favourite dinosaur. I enjoyed your Performance this morning,Thanks.


IRENE CHOI Dear kingston orchestra symphony,

I enjoy all of the orchestra but most things that I enjoy the violin because it sounds really good and when I was 1 grade I learn the violin for two years.(but actually I forgot almost everything to do with violin.^.^” )I was surprised about conductor because  I was wondering conductor how could conductor do moving a stick with seeing sheet favourite music is

Something that we moving body. Thankyou for inviting our class there. I was fun and I was wondering how orchestre is doing so I was fun to learn how orchestre is going on. I have really fun there because I was first time to see the orchestra in canada than you show me orchestra. Thank you for inviting me and show me orchestra.thank you

               Sincerely Irene choi

Dear Kingston symphony It was a pleasure to be at the show. I really enjoyed  everything including the jurassic park theme and the carnival of the dinosaurs. Evan mitchell how long does it take to learn to be a conductor you must be born with it. To the symphony players you are born with a talent for music that you will always have. I love how focused you are when you play. And the detail you put in the music so no matter what you do never give up. Last but not least is the one and only dean burry your carnival of dinosaurs is magnificent my favorite poem was the t rex it must of took years to write each poem in particular you can do anything you are stronger then a t rex, sharper then a maiasaura and louder then a diplodocus. And don’t be afraid to be you no matter what anyone thinks of you.         

                       Sincerely lily deschamps.

Dear kingston symphony,

Thank you for inviting us to your limestone education symphony. I  liked the music a lot, and wished it could go on forever! My favorite part was the ending, it was really fast, then it got slower and softer then it got super loud ,then the violinists did another part then it ended. I was surprised because I thought that it was going to end when everyone got super fast but soft but instead of ending like I anticipated it got louder and slower. I noticed that the people playing the french horns, symbols and bassoon were closer to the back and the string instruments were closer to the front. The double bass   wasn’t in the front or in the back it was sort of in the middle.

How many pages does an average musician get of music in a symphony?

                                                           sincerely, Imani Dube


Dear kingston symphony,

Thankyou for the amazing , beautiful and interesting music, but I do have one suggestion. You should raise up the brass ,percussion and woodwind instruments on a stand because I really want to see my favorite instrument the french horn.     

My most favorite song was the velociraptor because it was very true and the symphony really impersonated the velociraptor .

You are the best and only symphony I have been at.

Sincerely Olive girard

Dear kingston symphony

Thankyou for having me there I had a great time.

My favourite piece of music was the part about the velociraptor .

It was cool. I was surprised by the cymbals–they were extremely loud!

I noticed that you were all wearing black. The music was fantastic.

My suggestion is that the people in the back were up high so we could see them.

The Jurassic park theme songs sounded JUST like in the movie.

I really enjoyed all the music.

by : kylah


Dear Kingston Symphony,

I honestly loved all your music for the dinosaurs. It was very hard to choose which one I liked the most but if I did it would be the Footprints because I think it has an instrument that I play, I don’t really know the name of it but it’s in the shape of a frog and you play it with a small rod looking thing.

I’m wondering if Diplodocus is said Dip-low-dock-us or how you pronounced it Dip-lodo-cuss but it was awesome anyway.

I really liked how you actually got Dean Burry to say his poem instead of somebody else and If I could do it when I was there I would’ve gotten his autograph. Most of the puns in the poem song thing where funny put maybe in the song part you could have done the parasaurolophus part  a tad bit quieter.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again I really loved the show and I’m fascinated by all the instruments, especially the bass violin. It was very well put together

Sincerely, Lenore

Dear Kingston Symphony, I enjoyed the music a lot, thanks.

I especially enjoyed the jurassic park music alot and the poem. My favourite dino in the poem was the Diplodocus. I also really liked parasaurolophus, it was really funny. At the start I thought someone had messed up. But after it kept happening I realized you were doing on purpose to make it sound like a toot.

I was really surprised that you would add that in.  

It would have been funny if you did the noises with another dino.

I noticed that all the string instruments were in the front of the stage then it was the wood winds then the trumpets and stuff like that…why?  

I also noticed that all the big stuff was at the back…why?

Maybe you could put the wood winds, brass and percussion up on the steps. So then we could see all the instruments, because one of my favourite instruments is the flute but i couldn’t see them. Thanks again for letting us come!!!!!   

                                         sincerely annie mastorakos

AVA MCGEEDear  Kingston Orchestra, I enjoyed seeing all of the dinosaurs. I was surprised how many instruments there were. I noticed that you were all dressed in black and that the conductor would point at you when it was your turn to start playing your instruments. I wonder how long it took you to learn all of those songs. My favourite piece of music was the Jurassic Park song. I liked that one because I LOVE all of the Jurassic Park movies and out of all the songs in those movies that was my favourite song.  I loved all of the songs they were very beautiful. THANK YOU FOR INVITING US TO THE CONCERT!!!!!

                                                       Sincerely Ava

Dear kingston symphony,

I only really liked the first part because I knew it.  The others were too quiet or too loud. I wonder why the conductor has to tell them what to do when they have the sheet of paper in front of them.  I wonder why he moves his arms fast and slow at different times. It was nice meeting the man with the cello after. He was cool. DYLAN

Dear kingston symphony your music is the best. the best part was the jurassic park music, it sounded soooooooooo good!  And it sounded realistic too and it was short. And thank you for having us there and the instruments that was cool!

By MYLES!  When is our next field trip?

ISLA SANDERS Dear Kingston Symphony.

I enjoyed the music.

And i really enjoyed the music from Jurassic park.

My favorite dinos were the Parasaurolophus ,Elamosaurus and the Maiasaura.

I especially enjoyed the Parasaurolophus it was very funny because every 10 seconds the trombone would make a toot sound. I noticed that all of the violins were together and all of the flutes were together and so on .

Maybe next time you could put the drums, Xylophone, french horn , tuba, and the other ones up a level so that we could see them better.

Thankyou for having this great opportunity.!!!!      

Sincerely Isla Sanders


Dear Kingston Symphony,

I wasn’t there but I liked Jurassic Park When we were listening in class .

I liked it  because I like the Jurassic  Park movie.

From zander

MADDY THOMPSON Dear kingston symphony, Thanks for inviting us to watch you guys play I thought you guys did really good and it was really cool. I really liked the carnival of the dinosaurs my favourite dinosaur was the parasaurolophus because i thought it was funny and i really liked the T rex because T rexes are my favourite dinosaur because they have small hands and i think thats cute. I think that Dean Burry did really good at writing the carnival of the dinosaurs I noticed that all of the musicians were wearing black and Evan Mitchell was wearing balck too. I thought that Evan Mitchell was really good at conducting the musicians and he was really good at acting like they messed up on the parasaurolophus but it’s supposed to be like that.
SAMER AL MADANi  Dear  Kingston symphony

I like the songs and I like what is the conductor  in his hand and I like the song stegosaurus when he started slowly he started fasterjI wonder why he showing hem

What to do in his hand I wonder how they can move his faster


Dear Dean Burry. you are very funny. And I enjoyed everything about it .

MOHAMMAD HASANDear Kingston symphony,  

I loved seeing the dinosaurs!  I liked the music and I liked to  go  home on the school  bus. I enjoy the  scary T-Rex song.


Dear symphony,

I Love Your music!  Could you send Centennial Public School (Mr Caldwell’s class) to come again?  Me and my friends love your music.


NICHOLAS NOURY kingston symphony I like when you did the Jurassic Park Theme song and when you your doing  Jurassic Park Theme song it was really accurate. I noticed that you are all in black.


February 21st was fun

I enjoyed the day.  Not necessarily more than others, but basically it was a fun day.  Here are some clues as to why I at least thought so.  Your child can explain (and conceivably disagree, though I had few complaints).

First, the egg picture:



Then, we worked on our Norse Mythology comic books, to be finished by Monday.  (ie., we’re out of class time for these, so some may be coming home to finish up over the weekend).  These are teasers; you’ll have to come in to see the finished products!

Also we worked on Fractions, which are going to be a theme this term:

And later, my good friend Mr. Mackay visited again, to do some music and movement stuff.



In the afternoon, the science of Light!

And we ended our day finishing up our Science diagrams and listening to our new Read Aloud:



Gould Lake

Hello Folks at Home,

Here, thanks to Melissa and Dave Hudson, is a big slideshow of pictures from our Gould Lake Trip.  Following that are strung-together excerpts from some of the journal entries that I think do a great job of describing the day.  (Few kids ended up writing about the trip, as there was a snow day the following Monday).  It’s been a few weeks since, but enjoy!  What a fabulous day we had!

Lenore:  Gould Lake was a very fun trip. I learned a lot and i’m sure almost the whole class learned something new, For example I learned how to track animals by using the prints in the snow. I will do my best to tell you everything I can remember.

The bus was awesome! Well not when Lily was complaining how hot she was and how she said “I’m going to die”. There was music on the bus, pretty good music too. I was expecting Despacito or Baby shark to come on, Thank goodness it didn’t. There was a heater right next to Lily, and Myles really wanted to sit where the heater was so they switched seats when we stopped at a school or something. Like I said awesome bus.

Imani:    On our way to Gould lake we saw deer which as pretty cool because i had never seen a single deer in my life. I was surprised to see deer in peoples backyards.

When we got to Gould lake Lindsay was already waiting for us. When we were all out of the bus Lindsay took us to the start of the trail which is were Shawn met us. We did rules had a snack then Shawn told us about what we  were going to be doing and that we would not always be on the trail.

Annie:  Once everyone was of the bus Mrs. Byers class went the opposite way. Our guides were Lindsay and Shawn. we went to a little area  were we had a little snack. We also got into a circle and Lindsay talked about safety. Then Shawn took us on a small hike because we just did a loop and ended up where we started, It was funny.

Lenore:  I kept looking at the trees low enough to make a roof over the ground with their branches to see animals or something weird. Glancing at the woods was a rush enough but going in it would just be creepy, don’t you think?.

When it was time to go in the woods I felt weird, creeped out but ready. I charged into the woods, tripped on root and almost fell. I looked up at the sky, almost all of it was lined by the top of Pine and Oak trees, it felt sort of comforting. The longer we walked in the woods the more it felt like it would never stop, Like an endless pit and instead of falling we were walking, like zombies through the woods (or it’s just me being over dramatic).

Eric:  Then we started hiking through the forest. We were walking on a trail with lots of ash trees that had a lot of thorns on them. We stopped walking and Shawn–Shawn is another person who works at Gould lake– started talking.  He asked, ”Why do you think the ash trees are prickly?” Someone said it was so animals couldn’t eat them. Then shawn asked “what animals might the ash trees be useful to?” Someone said, “A bunny.” Shawn said, “Bunnies would be able to get through the ash trees without getting a thorn in their fur because the thorns are not on the bottom of the ash trees so they can hide from predators”.

Olive:    Shawn went into them and started talking about  thorny ash trees and who would live in them. We guessed it right away.  it was the rabbit or Hare because it was so low. When you went down while you couldn’t see any of The Thorns so they could just bounce around and around all of the trunks.         

Imani:  Shortly after we left we came across a hill. Shawn said we could slide down if we wanted. First was Isla, and I went next. The way down was longer than i expected. When we got down Shawn told us to line up in front of him.

Annie:  A few steps later we came to a hill he told us “at this hill we can slide down it but you can only go down it on your bum no running and sliding on your knees”. So he went down the hill. Next was Isla then Imani then it was my turn. I slid down the hill behind me was Finlay. Once I was at the bottom and looked up and they were still going down and Olive was right behind Finlay. Then there was a whole clump of people.

Olive:  Shawn said “there a big hill up ahead you may slide on your bottom to get  down or walk down on the side of the hill but please don’t run and slide down on your knees”. There was five people in front  of me.  On my turn I went super duper fast and I bumped into the person in front of me which was Finlay and then I pushed her to make her go faster and it made a whole clump of people. When we got down we started walking there were still people coming down the hill so we had to wait a little bit. (oo I didn’t tell you we were walking in a single file line, sorry)

Lenore:  Not long after we stopped at a tree. This tree was an oak tree and it looked thick and wicked, It had lighter wood at the bottom of it because it didn’t get much sunlight there. Shawn talked about how “it’s so big because this place used to be a wide open area”. I thought this tree was interesting so I decided to give it a name, the most epic name ever….Dave!.

Finlay:   Shawn told us about birch bark. Birch bark can get a kind of fungus on it.  When the tree dies and the bark falls off the fungus can get on the outside of the birch bark. Shawn said if you  cut the fungus off the bark and cut it in half then light it on fire. put it in a bag full of a type of clay then the fire will be there for a couple of days and you could have your very own fire starter.

Addy:  A little while later we came across what we thought were bunny tracks but Shawn told us They could be squirrel tracks and then we figured out the squirrel had come down a tree across to where he thought his nut was, dug a hole found his nut ran across and ran up a tree. Then Shawn told us that the squirrel had two long feet and two little feet, the little feet where the feet in front and the long feet were the feet in the back, but the back feet normally show  which way the squirrel was going because if the squirrel was going to the left his front feet are normally pointed to the right! Shawn also told us that squirrels were like bunnies they were Hoppers which means they hop they don’t run and they don’t spring.

Lenore:  Tracks are cool. I’ve never really liked or thought about tracks until during, and after the trip. So after the first stop about 20 or 15 minutes later we came across squirrel tracks. I think it was Lindsay who talked about the tracks, she said that whatever made the tracks was “A hopper”. We suspected that it was a bunny but than she pointed out that “It was digging, so it might be a squirrel”. At that point my legs hurt and probably everybody else’s did so we didn’t really put anymore attention into it.   

Addy:  We kept walking then we stopped and Shawn showed us a marsh And it was frozen. He told us that we should only go out on frozen water when we knew it was safe  it might not be safe to walk on because we could drown if something went wrong. But Shawn said that it was safe so we walked out on it. And then we made a big circle in the middle of the marsh. Lindsay went into the middle of the circle and told us how to make a fire  She said first you need two big sticks to put on the ice parallel to each other. Then she said you needed a pan and so we put pan on the two big sticks. Then we made our fire on top of the pan. First we took our birch bark and put it on the pan then we put little tiny sticks that would catch on easily we kept putting bigger and thicker sticks until Shawn came around and lit our sticks on fire so we got to eat.

Finlay:  Lindsay said grab two big sticks so your pan is not on the ice.  Then you should grab some sticks that are like hairs.  Once you’ve done that put the birchbark on.  But before you put your food  on the fire you have to wait for the birchbark to turn into white ash because the smoke in the Birch bark is not very good to eat.  She said you have to grab pencil-sized sticks marker size sticks and sticks that are as big as your thumb.  If the sticks are bigger than the pan then you have to break the sticks.

Cassie:  Fire:  to make the fire you have to put sticks and birch bark. We went to the woods to get sticks. We made the fire on a icy lake. The birch bark was on the bottom and sticks on the top.

Leianah:  We built our fire on the lake.  Brayden collected wood for the fire.   Nicholas kept the fire going with the wood Brayden brought back.  At the fire i cooked the potatoes and Cassie cooked the hotdogs for our group.

Addy:  Mr. Caldwell came around with potatoes and put them in the sides of our fire. Then we all got one hot dog and I put mine on my stick it took a while for it to cook over the fire because my hot dog broke in half, I had to stick it on a funny way. After my hotdog was cooked I put it in a bun but when I was opening up the bun I opened it the wrong way so I had to make a hot dog sandwich.Then I had two more hot dogs when I was finally full of hot dogs I ate my potato. It was really good, I put some butter on it and it tasted even better.

Cassie:  I didn’t eat the baked potatoes because I was full of hot dogs.  I only had one hot dog and I only cooked 2 for Brayden and me.

Addy:   Then Mr. Caldwell gave us marshmallows. I wanted more marshmallows so I asked him for more and he gave me more. my first marshmallow I burnt the skin off and then I cooked it more and ate the whole marshmallow and I had a few other marshmallows. They were very yummy.

Lenore:  Lunch was GOOD (maybe because I like food). Nick had hot chocolate but I couldn’t get any because I had nothing to put it in so I just sat on the ground and ate the snow. My lunch was epic, no healthy food though, so heck.

Lenore’s backpack (containing her glasses) heroically found by Shawn the following Monday.

Finlay:  When we were all done we had to clean up our mess and then hike all the way back to the bus.  On are way there Shawn told us that if you see blue looking water it is just the deers’ pee because they eat these berries if they have no food left to eat that look like blueberries.

Leianah:  I got hurt twice during the field trip.  The first time was on one of the prickle bushes cuz I got scratched on the hand.   I also got hurt on the fire when I was cooking because I burnt myself on my hand. Instead of putting it in water cuz there’s no water I put it in the snow to make it feel a little bit better.


The Norse Invasion

I have taught Early Civilizations many times, and it never quite flows the same way–there’s a lot to cover!  In looking at how early societies functioned and how they were influenced by their environment, I really like to get at them through their stories.  These myths are so eternal and often so present in our modern culture, it gives us “cultural currency” to know them.  So, in addition to the Indigenous stories and cultures of this region, we will look at the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Maya, the Chinese, maybe more.

For some reason, I have never taught the Norse!  Chronologically, it is actually backwards to begin with them.  But something about the age of the students and the time of year made the Norse seem like a good place to launch:  cold, dark and very, very weird.  I have delighted with how charmed the kids are by these strange old tales!  I hope you have been hearing about them.  I also hope it isn’t giving anyone nightmares!

The above illustration (gather; discuss) developed over the course of reading the creation myths of the Norse together, largely from the wonderful old D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths (1967).  These stories are full of rich, challenging language–words like uncouth, nimble, cunning, as well as the marvelous names from the Norse such as Yggdrasil or Angerboda.  And of course, we are discovering that these long-ago people richly left their mark on the English language.

irk (v.) early 15c., irken, “to trouble (someone), disturb, hinder, annoy;” earlier “be lax, slow, or unwilling (in doing something); be displeased or discontented” (early 14c.); “be weary of, be disgusted with” (c. 1400); of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old Norse yrka “to work” (see work (v.)). (Etmyonline)

I assume you have also heard “The Challenge of Thor” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).  I am so glad to have stumbled across this beauty.  Though I have been at pains to stress that these are not words to live by (in today’s gentler, non-Norse times), it does capture something of the fierce bravado the Norse valued highly.   The following imperfect little video doesn’t quite capture the cheerful ferocity of our presentation at last week’s assembly, or the floor vibrations that should accompany the poem, but I am sure you will see the enthusiasm.  (You are encouraged to ask for private performances at home). 

Next:  we begin to turn these stories into the comic books they were made to be!

Then, stay tuned for the Greeks.  I never thought I’d say it, but I don’t know how they will live up.

The Challenge of Thor

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


I AM the God Thor,

I am the War God,

I am the Thunderer!

Here in my Northland,

My fastness and fortress,

Reign I forever!


Here amid icebergs

Rule I the nations;

This is my hammer,

Miölner the mighty;

Giants and sorcerers

Cannot withstand it!


These are the gauntlets

Wherewith I wield it,

And hurl it afar off;

This is my girdle;

Whenever I brace it,

Strength is redoubled!


The light thou beholdest

Stream through the heavens,

In flashes of crimson,

Is but my red beard

Blown by the night-wind,

Affrighting the nations!


Jove is my brother;

Mine eyes are the lightning;

The wheels of my chariot

Roll in the thunder,

The blows of my hammer

Ring in the earthquake!


Force rules the world still,

Has ruled it, shall rule it;

Meekness is weakness,

Strength is triumphant,

Over the whole earth

Still is it Thor’s-Day!


The Sound of Science

Wow!  My ears are still ringing after today’s science investigations of Sound!  We’d looked at how sound can travel through air and solids, and today we looked at how vibrations affect tone.  With four different sound centres, the air was certainly busy!  I’m going home to sit in silence.  But ask your kids to tell you about it.

Solstice Reflections

Sitting here in the silent vacuum of a classroom 15 minutes after the kids have cleared out, feeling tired, thankful and humbled.  Thankful for the sweet, deeply thoughtful gifts families thought to bestow on me (and Ms. Sarah Hogan, our utterly wonderful E.A.).  Humbled by the notes the children wrote, and the trust I am afforded in their growth.  And thankful again for this truly lovely class!  Thank you for them.

Our gift was blueberry pancakes yesterday; it seemed appropriate on a cozy Pyjama Day.  A number of kids had never tried blueberry pancakes, and did.  So that’s a small triumph, each new thing a bit of bravery we can use somewhere else.  (And, they’re blueberry pancakes!)

It’s been a busy time in our class!  (And I, having a busy time outside of class, have not been blogging much).  Here’s a bit of a recap:

Province Projects

Oh my goodness, these were such a success! The kids worked so hard (most of the time) and put such heart into them.  They are still displayed,now in the hall–please come and see them all if you haven’t been able to.  I reflected that the last time I did a version of this project, we did it in the Spring.  Those students had had a lot more practice with “research” and writing.  For this class, the project was the process of learning the skills.  I feel like we learned a lot beyond the specifics of the provinces, and that is of course the point–learning we can carry to other situations.

You will have hopefully seen a copy of the rubric and comments I produced for the projects.  I would like you to know that I struggled a lot with a question of pedagogy:  do I put a mark on the project (We’ve been reading a book called There’s a Boy in the Girls Bathroom in which marks and “gold stars” figure heavily).  In the end, I could not bring myself to do it.  As will always be true, the finished projects represent a huge range in ability.  But the range in achievement is not nearly as great.  Kids who struggle with writing or reading or organization worked just as hard as those for whom these come easier.  In some cases, harder.  And because I was really looking at three areas of assessment–the writing, the presentation, and the understanding of the content–it seemed weird to lump that into a single mark.

My main worry was that the moment kids got a piece of paper with an “A” or a “C” on it, the mood of mutual celebration and appreciation and general success would evaporate.  All that would be seen would be the mark. So instead, I opted to give the rubrics with levels checked in various areas, as indicators of where the achievement was and where the future learning remains.   I checked in with the class as a whole and with some individual students, but this is a conversation I am still having with myself and would be happy to hear from parents about.

The other thing we did was I asked the students to fill in a survey about their experience and learning, and any feedback they had.  Interestingly, the thing that most came up was “more time”.  We had a great conversation about how people use time, including “more” time and I shared my personal experience(s) of time wasting as well as my teacher experience of what happened if projects were given six weeks instead of three.  (Identical quality).   I very much appreciated their thoughtfulness.


Our biggest focus in the last while has been fractions, which of course are wrapped up in multiplication and division and a lot of other mathematicalness.  But through fractions, we have been doing math that doesn’t look like math I did as a kid, and probably not like you (much younger than me) did either.   They love 3-Act Math problems that they work together to solve as they get more and more information.   Number talks, where we sit together and work on mental math strategies.  And so on.

The themes that run through all of our activities are flexibility in which we see that many problems can be solved in more than one way; representation in which we learn to show our thinking (often in more than one way); communication, which is what it sounds like–the capacity to explain our thinking; and fluency, building our capacity to do arithmetic easily so we can apply it to complex problems.  All of these things can be practised in various real-life ways at home.  But fluency is the one thing that is hardest to practise enough at school.  Times tables and mental arithmetic practice at home is very helpful!


We’d been messing about with sketching in 3-D, and then our lovely Queen’s placement student Ms. Mouncey helped take that to 3-D painting.  This led to some sweet, highly-civilized Friday afternoons of  painting and listening to classical music.  A tradition worth continuing in the new year.


know that not all the kids like playing the ukeleles.  Many find it hard.  I have told them all from the beginning that being hard is partly the point.  Doing hard stuff is how we grow.  If you can fight your way to a G7 chord on the uke (or take a chest pass in basketball or whatever) maybe you can do anything.  Trying is the main expectation.  I’m thinking about new strategies for making more kids feel comfortable with that.  I’m also (warily) rolling around the idea of “take-home” ukes so that kids could have more practice time.

I am terrible at getting pictures or recording the kids when we are playing.   If you were able to come in last week and hear us play, great!  Yesterday we took our ukes on the road for a few impromptu holiday uke concerts in other classes.  It was fun.   Some kids just sang because that’s all they could manage.  Thanks to them.


Orthography is worth about twelve posts on its own, all overdue.  Suffice it to say that we study words.  Their meaning, how they are built, the stories that explain them, their connections to one another, their pronunciation.  It helps.  We are word scientists, and we are good.  Collectively and individually we have made discoveries about words that you have never known; answered things you probably always wondered (or complained) about.  We know why <know> and <knot> have–not a “silent k” but a <kn> digraph–denoting its Old English origin.  We know why <have> (and Olive) are spelled with a final non-syllabic <e>.   We can look at words like <denominator> or <numerator> and take them apart, which helps us understand them better.

In recent weeks, we discovered that words can have a base that is “bound”.   One such base is <hap>, that connects words such as <happy> and <happen>.  We have since found bound bases in words such as <erupt> and <interrupt> or <produce> and <introduce>.

I believe to my core that doing this work supports our understanding and our reading ability, and makes us stronger learners generally.

Yesterday, we looked briefly at the word <solstice>.  We found the likely base <sol> also found in <solar> and saw the connection the French word <soleil>.  What we did not do is spend time hypothesizing word sums for the structure of that word.  Feel free to play about with that over Christmas dinner!  I’ll just say that there are surprises and a lot of learning hiding in that word.

Please feel free to challenge my assertion that English spelling is highly ordered and sensible!  Please send us questions!  Start by doing the analysis together with your child, see what they can observe and hypothesize.  In January, we’ll have individual “word projects”, just to flex and stretch our skills!


  • On Friday, January 11th, the St Lawrence College Women’s Basketball team is playing the Georgian College Grizzlies in the new St. Lawrence gym at 6:00.  Our wonderful St. Lawrence placement student, Kylie Moyer, who just finished in our class two weeks ago, is a key member of that team.  She has arranged for our class and families to get in for free!  Just say you’re from Centennial!  I’ll send a reminder in the first week.
  • We’ll be doing a whack of Science in January.   I am still deciding what.
  • We’ll also be working our way into an extended study of Early Civilizations–probably beginning with The Greeks.
  • We’re booked to go to Gould Lake on January 18th!  Details as soon as we return–we’ll hike or snowshoe and cook out.  (I have a new hatchet I’m dying to try!) Pray for lots of snow!  Plan to come.

If you read all that, thanks for making the time!  Have a great holiday!  See you in 2019!