August 22, 2014

A Look at Split Grade Social Studies - Grade 5/6

I've been hearing from many teachers lately concerned about how to keep their sanity while trying to handle the new 2013 Ontario Social Studies Curriculum in a split grade, and as I have rarely taught a straight grade, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the topic.


                    Grade 5/6:  People and Environments

The Grade 5/6 split is one that can be particularly troubling for teachers, as at first glance the units can seem so unrelated, but I think if we take a closer look, the expectations are actually quite similar.  Today I'm going to explore the People and Environments strand:
  • Grade 5:  The Role of Government and Responsible Citizenship
  • Grade 6:  Canada's Interactions with the Global Economy

Basically the Grade 5 unit has students look at current social & environment issues within the country from various perspectives, examining and evaluating the actions taken by various levels of government to address these issues, and explore their own responsibilities as citizens as they create action plans to address these issues.

The Grade 6 unit has students explore current social, political, economic, and environmental issues withing the global community, examining and evaluating the actions taken by Canadian federal, provincial/territorial & local governments as well as NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) to address these issues and explore Canada's participation in different international accords, organizations, and programs.

Can you see the commonalities here? 
  • The Grade 5's are basically looking at social & environmental issues within our country, seeing how various levels of government handle these issues, and then go on to explore how they themselves can influence how decisions are made through their own activism.
  • The Grade 6's are also looking at social & environmental issues (and adding on political & economic issues), but this time within the entire world, and seeing how Canadian governments, governments from other countries, and NGOs handle these issues.  Instead of creating their own action plans, they go on to explore Canada's international presence within various organizations.
In a Grade 5/6 split I see the potential here to perhaps keep the focus on social and environmental issues, such as child poverty or the protection & availability of clean water within Canada as well as within the world.

What do you think?  Does this seem reasonable?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!


August 14, 2014

Back to School Art Folder

After a very long hiatus, I have decided to restart my blog, and will hopefully be more diligent about posting regularly!

When I was reorganizing my teaching resources this summer, I came across the activity I like to do for the very first art class of the year - my Back to School Art Folder. The folder itself is a fun way to review the "elements of shape", and it is then used to store student work throughout the year.

5 Basic Elements of Shape

I first discuss with the class the 5 basic elements of shape:

  1. The Straight Line Family:  Members of this family can be solid lines, dotted lines, horizontal, vertical, or diagonal - they just need to be straight lines!
  2. The Circle Family: Members of this family have lines that come around and meet each other, but the inside of the shape is not coloured in.
  3. The Dot Family:  Members of this family are exactly like the circle family, but are coloured in!
  4. The Curve Line Family: These lines are wavy rather than straight, and the two ends do not meet each other.
  5. The Angle Family:  Any 2 lines that come together to form a point are members of this family.
All 5 families combine together to make the shapes we see in our world.


Next I distribute a large sheet of bristol board to each student, and students fold it in half "hamburger" style. Students then get out a pencil, eraser and ruler.

After reviewing the difference between "edges" and "corners', ask students to listen carefully to the following instructions, and to create the lines and shapes as given:


  1. One straight line from one corner to the other opposite corner.
  2. One dot.
  3. One curved line starting at one edge and ending in a dot somewhere on the page.
  4. One broken line starting at one edge and ending at another edge.
  5. Five circles.
  6. One pointed line starting at one edge and ending at another edge.
  7. One curved line starting at one edge and ending at another edge.
  8. One straight line starting at one edge and ending at another edge.
  9. A zigzag line from one edge to another.
  10. One dot.
  11. A curved line starting at one edge and ending on the same edge, passing through the dot from #10!
I then distribute Sharpie markers and have students trace over their pencil marks. They then spend the rest of the period (well, often two periods) using markers or crayons to colour in their folder. I encourage them to use only 3 colours, and to ensure that one colour doesn't border itself! 

Students LOVE this activity, and enjoy seeing how everyone's designs are different. 

I wonder what art activities you start your year with?
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