August 10, 2017

Grade 4/5 Ontario Social Studies - Strand A: How Do Societies Survive and Grow?

It's that time of year again when split grade teachers face the challenge of organizing their social studies programs in a way that doesn't overwhelm either themselves or their students.  I've written about how Grade 5/6 social studies can be approached, and today I'm hoping to help Grade 4/5 teachers look at Strand A of the Ontario Social Studies with a positive outlook!  

A quick reminder:  the two units are:

  • Grade 4:  Early Societies, 3000 BCE - 1500 CE
  • Grade 5:  First Nations and Europeans in New France and Early Canada

Looking at the Big Ideas in Strand A

The Heritage and Identity strand of the Ontario Social Studies Curriculum asks students to explore a variety of communities, focusing upon:

a)  connections between the past and the present
b)  interactions within and between difference communities
Looking at the "big ideas" of the curriculum can help teachers keep their focus on the most important concepts that we want students to think about long after the actual unit is finished.  I've spent some time thinking about the big ideas for Strand A, and organized them in this chart:

Looking at the big ideas this way makes planning just a bit easier!  Basically, I want students to:
a)  understand that we learn from historical ideas and viewpoints that help us make better sense of things occurring in the world around them
b)  early societies were created through the conflict and cooperation between groups of people, and between people and their environments

These big ideas also invite students to contemplate and explore the overarching question in a Grade 4/5 class:  How Do Societies Survive and Grow?
I am not worried that my students will remember the exact date that Samuel de Champlain arrived in North American for the first time.  Instead, I want them to explore and think about WHY Champlain wanted to create a settlement there HOW he and other Europeans treated the First Nations groups already living there, and WHAT conflicts and instances of cooperation occurred as early Canada developed.  While that particular group is more the focus for Grade 5s, the Grade 4s can also explore the same concepts with the Early Aztecs in Mexico, or with the feudal society in Medieval England.

Looking carefully at the "Big Ideas" and "Concepts of Social Studies Thinking" at the front of the Ontario Social Studies Curriculum always helps me clarify what my students should really be thinking about, and saves me from panicking at dealing with two sets of expectations at the same time

How do YOU approach dealing with social studies in your split grade classroom?  I'd love to hear from you!


September 18, 2016

The World's Easiest Classroom Management Tool!!

After two weeks in my Grade 5/6 classroom, it feels like everything is coming together, and I'm starting to feel confident and even more excited about the year ahead.  These two weeks have brought many changes to my class list, as I am sure is true of many of you, and tomorrow I will welcome yet another new student to our room, bringing our total to 24 (10 Grade 5s, and 14 Grade 6s).  Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the thought of another student to familiarize with our room, I'm feeling calm.  I've got this!

My Behavior Management Toolbox

As I have for many years, I have used an old "small parts" toolbox to house my most powerful classroom management tool:  my token system.  This system takes about 5 minutes to set up each year, is a snap to use, and is easily understood (and loved by my students).  What's not to love?  I have used it at a variety of grade levels from Grade 1 to Grade 5/6, and it works for all students, but particularly for my most challenging pupils.

How It Works

  • Each August I assign every student on my class list with a number, usually by alphabetical order (first names), and display a large copy of the list somewhere easily found in our classroom.  
  • Each drawer in my "toolbox" is labeled clearly from 1-29 in clear Sharpie marker.  The last drawer is labeled "A" (for "all").   
  • Inside each drawer are about 20 "tokens".  I've been using old Poker chips that my mom was about to donate to the Salvation Army.  I rescued them, using a Sharpie to clearly print numbers on them, and then to organize them in my toolbox.  In Drawer 1, there are 20 poker chips with "1" on them, Drawer 2 has 20 chips with "2" on them, and so on.  The "A" drawer contains 20 chips with "A" on them.  Once you've done this, you've got your behaviour toolbox ready for the rest of your careeer!!!
  • Each student now has a drawer in the toolbox with his/her number on it, and the tokens inside the drawers are just sitting there waiting to be taken out when a student earns them.
  • Beside the toolbox I have a small "Tokens" container (you can see the small green bin witting to the right of the toolbox in the photo above.
  • Every time I catch a student getting right to work, following directions, kindly helping a classmate, etc., I take a "token" out of his/her drawer and drop it into the Token container.  This usually results in almost every student becoming intensely interested in their work, as they've heard the token being dropped into the container.  I rarely have to verbally remind students to get to work, as the token does that for me!!
  • If the entire class is on task, I put an "A" token in the container.
  • On Friday afternoons, my "Leader of the Day" closes his/her eyes, reaches into the Token container, and one by one pulls out 5 tokens.  The students to whom those tokens belong have now earned a reward of their own choosing, such as "Switch seats with another student" or "Have your name put on the school marquee". 
  • If an "A" token is drawn, that entitles the entire class to a group reward, such as extra outdoor time or a "toy & tech day".  Students LOVE it when an "A" token is drawn; I've even made one of the options for a personal reward to be "Put 5 A tokens in the container for next week's draw".
  • After the draw is complete, the Leader of the Day returns all tokens to their proper drawers, ready to be put into action the following week.  DONE!!
I have the various rewards on business card-sized cardstock, and keep them in a small business card holder.  Students choose a card from the holder, write their name on the back, and I also sign it.  A student can hold on to these cards (or have me hold on to them) until he/she is ready to redeem it.
Close up of Behavior Toolbox

I love this system as it is so easy to set up each year; all I have to do is create a new class list so that each student has his/her own number, and I'm good to go!  This past summer I had one of my old students helping me get ready for the school year (she was getting volunteer hours for this to count towards the 40 hour requirement for high school), and she spray-painted the toolbox to match the bins I was using, so that involved one extra (but easy) step.

 A friend suggested that I upload my plan to my TPT  store, including the actual cards that I've created to put in the "Rewards" holder, so I've taken on that challenge, and the whole set is now available for you, should you be interested.  I'd love to hear from others who have their own easy-to-implement classroom management systems!
My toolbox & token bin can be seen on the top shelf at the very left of this set of shelves.
Check out the full product, with tons of behavior reward cards, here:  Behavior Management Toolbox

July 30, 2016

Bell Work Freebie...and a Chance for a $10 TPT Gift Card!

August is quickly approaching, and with it the slow realization that I actually need to start thinking about September! I'll be teaching a Grade 5/6 split for the first time in my career, and it dawned on me that I had no suitable bell work for this particular grade.   It was time to get to work!

September Grade 5/6 Bell Work
For many years I've had my students do "bell work", in the form of answering one prompt each morning while I take care of attendance, reading notes from parents, etc.  Most of the tasks are directly curriculum related, while others are on the creative side.  I mix things up daily:  one day they might be working on a probability task, the next day on analogies, and the third day responding to a persuasive writing prompt.  I've found that this approach prevents boredom, both for me and my students!  It was time to gather my resources and get some bell work ready for my new students. 

I had already created bell work for Grades 2, 3/4, 5, and 6, so I decided to take out the Grade 5 and 6 bell work and see which prompts I felt would work well for both grades, both in terms of curriculum expectations AND interest level.  I always make September's work fairly easy, so that everyone is able to handle the tasks independently, and then increase the challenges as the year goes by.  I took the same approach as I put together a year's work of Grade 5/6 bell work.

Each month's bell work fits on one double-sided sheet of paper; I usually print on coloured paper just to make it stand out more inside a student's desk, should it come loose from his/her notebook.  I copy ALL 10 months the month before school starts, and file them by month.  I keep the original sheets in page protectors within the file folders as well.

When students enter the classroom on the very first morning of the school year, I have them find their desk and put their backpacks, lunches, etc under it.  I have already put a lined bell work notebook on their desks, along with the September bell work sheet, two sharpened pencils and an eraser.  I ask them to write the date at the top of the first blank page of their notebooks, and put a "1" to the left of the margin at the left hand side of the page.  (Sometimes I'm even organized enough to have this displayed on the Smartboard as well!)  I then have them read the first prompt and answer in their notebooks.  I want them to know from the very first minute of the year that work will be the priority in our class.  Only once I've taken up the work will I start dealing with the nuts and bolts of how we will run our classroom!  From then on students know that this is how every day will start, and I don't need to remind them what to do (well, maybe sometimes:)!  

A Freebie & A Draw!!

If you'd like to try this bell work in your own classroom, click the image to the left and download this freebie from my store!  I'd love to hear how it works for you.

Free to a Good Home:  A $10 TPT Gift Card!

While you're on the TPT website, you may find other great things you'd love for your classroom. Respond below, telling me your favourite wishlisted item from Coach's Corner, and you'll be entered in the draw for a $10 TPT gift card. I'll announce the winner the morning of Tuesday, August 2nd.  Good luck! ****UPDATE**** Marianne, you are the lucky winner (I've responded to you below)!  Please contact me at: so I can send along your gift card!

July 6, 2016

Planboard for Ontario Teachers

As I've been preparing for the coming school year, I began thinking about using a digital "daybook" to keep my lesson plans in order and easily accessible through the internet.  After a few inquiries among colleagues and friends, I was directed to Planboard, a FREE online daybook resource, courtesy of the Ontario Teachers Federation.  (Teachers from other parts of Canada will want to check with their school district or teachers' associations/unions to see if they have access to this site; I know that curriculums from some other provinces were among Planbook's options.)

WOW!  I don't think I've ever been so excited about a new education-related resource in my life!

With this online daybook, I can:

  1. Assign each subject a different colour.

  • Create a weekly schedule.

  • Input full lesson plans.

  • Attach files (ie. a Smart Notebook or Powerpoint file) within the lesson plan.

  • Embed videos directly into the lesson plan, so that I don't need to click a hyperlink to get where I want.

The video will play right within your day plan!  Or you could just insert a link and watch from there.

  • Move any lesson plan to a new spot, on those occasions when a surprise assembly or other unforeseen event prevents me from teaching it!
  • Attach Ontario curriculum expectations to the lesson plan.

  • Share my day plan with a supply teacher, colleague, or administrator.
  • Access lesson plans from other educators.  (I haven't tried this yet!)
Here's what the mornings look like for the first week in September:  

I was worried that it would be too confusing or complex for me to use, but it was very easy to set up.  First I assigned colours to subjects, then scheduled the subjects in a weekly master timetable, and then started planning.  OTF offers occasional webinars, such as Moving Forward with Online Planboard for teachers looking for extra support with this (and other) digital resources.

I'm looking forward to being able to do almost all of my planning from home now, instead of coming into the school during the weekend!  Saving time ALWAYS makes me happy, and I hope that it does the same for you.

What online education-related resources have YOU found that are saving you valuable time?  I'd love to hear them!

May 14, 2016

Fort McMurray Relief Fund Sale!

As most Canadians (and many people throughout the world) know, Fort McMurray, Alberta has experienced one of the worst fires ever in our wonderful country.  Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes, leaving everything behind them.

In order to help provide some relief for these displaced citizens, the Canadian Red Cross has been collecting money from across the country, and the Canadian government will be matching these funds.  I"m happy to report that a group of Canadian TPT Teacher-Authors will be donating all proceeds from their sales on Monday, May 16th, 2016.  

I hope that you will consider either donating to the Canadian Red Cross fund directly, or purchasing a resource from one or more of the Canadian TPT teacher-authors shown below.

Fort McMurray Freebie

Your students may be interested to learn more about the community of Fort McMurray, particularly if you are studying the Ontario Grade 6 social studies strand Communities in Canada, Past and Present. Click HERE to download this FREE two-page text about the background of this city!  Keep in mind that it was written before the fire began!

Please take a moment to check out these other Canadian sellers who are donating their proceeds from their sales on Monday to the Canadian Red Cross.  All resources from my own TPT store, Coach's Corner, will be at a 10% discount that day!

April 21, 2016

Historical Significance Criteria

In conversation with a friend last week, she mentioned that she was frustrated teaching Grade 7 history because there seemed to be so many "events" to cover, and so little time.  How could her students learn so many dates, names, and events?  She didn't have endless time to devote to helping her students learn about each item in the list of curriculum expectations.  Hmmm - my mind went immediately to the "Concepts of Disciplinary Thinking" highlighted in the 2013 Ontario Social Studies Curriculum, in particular to "Historical Significance".

I asked her whether she wanted her students to memorize a list of events, or to be able to determine the significance of a particular event.  Which is the bigger academic skill, that a student can carry forward into other grades?  That's an easy question for me:  I want them to be able to look at an event and think about the importance or significance of that event by itself, or in comparison to another event. For example, which was more significant:  the War of 1812, or the Rebellions of 1837-1838?  Students can use criteria to help them with this evaluation.

Historical Significance Criteria

Relevance:  Ask your students to think about who needs to know about a particular person, place, or event.  Is it relevant to just a few people or isolated community, or to a whole country or beyond?  An event that only a particular province or state needs to consider may be more significant than one that needs to be known by an entire country.  

Impact:  Can your students also think about how long an person, place, or event affected history?  A community event that affected people only for a year could be considered to be more significant that an event whose effect could still be felt 30 years later.

Consequences:  Can your students think about the seriousness of an event?  An event that caused a loss of local jobs (such as a factory closure) is likely less significant than one that caused serious physical harm to that same community (such as the water contamination of the public water system).  

This is what I want for my students - the ability to think like a historian and consider things like perspective, significance, cause & consequence...and all those other great things that help them become critical thinkers!

If you're interested in downloading a FREE version of the Historical Significance chart shown above, please click here:  Freebie Historical Significance Poster


September 3, 2014

A 2nd Look at Grade 5/6 Social Studies

 I hope everyone has had a great beginning to the school year, and are getting a chance to enjoy the beautiful weather we've had today.  

Last week I shared my thoughts concerning how it is possible to teach the People and Environments strand of the revised 2013 Ontario Social Studies Curriculum in a combined Grade 5/6 class, and today I'll be turning my attention to how the Heritage and Identity strand might be approached.  Two weeks ago a teacher emailed me looking for a way to handle this strand in her class, and in looking closely at the two units, here is how I responded:

Strand A:  Heritage & Identity
  • Grade 5:  First Nations & Europeans in New France & Early Canada
  • Grade 6:  Communities in Canada, Past & Present
While these 2 units initially look like they don't have much in common, once you look at the examples attached to the specific expectations, there are tons of similarities, as New France can be thought of as having several small communities:  First Nations (various FN communities:  Haudenosaunee, Wendat...), English & French.  When you are looking in Grade 6 at how various communities interact with each other, New France is a perfect example of conflict and cooperation.  

Here are some examples from the curriculum, where I've used the specific expectations from Grade 6 and showed content from Grade 5 can help meet those expectations:
  • A12.  Evaluate some of the contributions that various ethnic and/or religious groups have made to Canadian identity: discuss the contributions of First Nations to Canadian art; discuss "Who are the founding nations of Canada?  For whom is the concept of "founding nations" troubling?  Why?"
  • A1.3  Explain how various groups have contributed to the goal of inclusiveness in Canada: How have First Nations contributed to the goal of inclusiveness in in Canada?
  • A2.1  Formulate questions to guide investigations into different perspectives on the historical and/or contemporary experience of 2 or more distinct communities in Canada:  What are the different perspectives of the reserve system in Canada from the perspectives of First Nations, European settlers, & the federal government?  
  • A2.2  gather & organize information from a variety of primary & secondary sources that present different perspectives on the historical and/or contemporary experiences of two or more communities in Canada:  What type of information can you gather from the petitions & letters of First Nations, Metis, & Inuit people about their experience & perspectives on being relocated to reserves and/or new settlements?
  • A2.3  Anaylse & construct print & digital maps as part of their investigation into different perspectives on the historical and/or contemporary experience of communities in Canada:  Analyse a flow map showing the relocation of First Nations groups after the arrival of European settlers.
  • A2.4  Interpret & analyse information & evidence relevant to their investigations:  How can you use a cause-and-effect organizer to help you determine the difference in perspectives of different First Nations groups to European settlers?
  • A2.5:  Evaluate evidence & draw conclusions about perspectives on the historical and/or contemporary communities in Canada:  How did First Nations groups & European settlers differ in their outlook on issues such as land ownership, gender roles, spirituality...?
  • A3.1  Identify the main reasons why different peoples came to Canada?  What reasons did various people have for immigrating to New France?  
  • 3.2  Describe some key economic, political, cultural, & social aspects of life in settler communities, and identify significant ways in which settlers' places of origin influenced their ways of life in Canada:  How did French & English concepts of land ownership affect how land was handled in New France?  What role did the Church play in New France & Early Canada?  You can also discuss:  food preferences, language, education, concepts of loyalty & spirituality...lots to discuss here!
  • A3.3:  Identify various types of communities that have contributed to the development of Canada:  How did the founding peoples - First Nations, Inuit, & Metis, French & British - contributed to Canada?
  • A3.4:  Describe significant events or developments in the history of 2 or more communities in Canada & how these events affected the communities' development and/or identity:  What impact did the fur trade have on various First Nations groups (ie. Wendat vs Haudenosaunee)?
  • 3.5  Describe interactions between communities in Canada, including between newcomers and groups that were already in the country:   trade among precontact First Nations; cooperation between First Nations and the French & British in the fur trade.
  • A3.6  Identify key differences, including social, cultural, and/or economic differences between 2 or more historical and/or contemporary communities in Canada:  What were some differences in gender roles, land ownership, spirituality, etc between First Nations and French settlers in early Canada?
  • A3.8  Identify & describe fundamental elements of Canadian identity  What are some instances of the Canadian government NOT respecting the human rights of a group of people? - treaty rights!
As you can see, there are tons of commonalities between the two grade levels!  The concept of "communities" can be explored by both grades, with the Grade 5's focused on communities within New France and the Grade 6's focused on both contemporary and historical communities in Canada, of which New France can be one!  
I've already spent a great deal of time exploring the Grade 5 unit from this strand, and have even created a TPT resource to support this curriculum.  I am also working on my Communities in Canada resource, and perhaps I'll eventually create a split grade version as well!

So how are you thinking of approaching this strand in your Grade 5/6 class? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

If you're interested in exploring my First Nations unit, just click on the following link!

First Nations and Europeans in New France and Early Canada Bundle