Little Warped House


Warped HouseI had an interaction with my 9-year old daughter this morning regarding her cardboard house.  She wanted to go outside and check on it because we left it in the rain the other night.  It is now all dry, but warped and ripped in some places.

“It’s wrecked!” my daughter exclaims.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“It’s all broken and the door is almost falling off!”

As quickly as she disappointedly says this she abandons the house and says she’s going to ride on her scooter.  I can’t help but look at this little house, after all the hours spent colouring it with her friends and assembling it with the help of her dad, and see it as something more.

The warped house stands there alone in the yard very similar to The Land of Misfit Toys in the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It is suddenly not good enough to be played with.  Or is it?

This makes me think of the classroom and how many times students do a piece of art work and then crumple it up because they don’t deem it as being good enough, or they begin but give up because of fear they don’t feel they can meet the high standards they have set in their own minds.  This could also be a math assignment or even playing a game in the gym during Health. Of course, the students do not consciously think this but act as if they do not care.   I believe they DO care.  I believe there is such a high concern of not being good enough academically, socially, physically, etc. that students will sometimes choose flight as their response to a challenge or difficulty.

Having a growth mindset is so important to be able to tackle hiccups as they occur.  I know this, but at times struggle with HOW to reach those students who turn inward and shut down when they begin to feel discouraged or give up altogether.  These are also those “teachable moments” regarding perseverance, resilience and not yet that teachers need to seize.

With my daughter and the warped house, I know she is an anxious girl and at times she chooses avoidance as a way of coping with her disappointment.  I will give her the time she needs and then when she is back we will look at that house together through a different lens.

Through guidance, support, and gentle encouragement who knows what will become of this cardboard house.  I am looking forward to the discussion.

Sharing is Caring

The last day before spring break our Kindergarten class had a day of sharing.  One of the students was very excited in the morning to show me a book he brought to school and wanted me to read it to the class.  It was about a bear who liked to share things with his friends and how it made him feel.  While at the carpet, I told the students about the book that Samuel wanted to share with the class, and that I have something I would like to share with them as well.  I brought out a plate of cut up fruit that I prepared that morning, and as they munched on the fruit I read the story.


After the story & the fruit we brainstormed different ways that we can share things with each other.  Do things we share have to be tangible?  How about a smile?  An idea?  We had a wonderful discussion about this at the carpet.

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The students then shared their ideas in the form of pictures.  It was so neat to see the different ways 5-year olds view and explain sharing.  🙂

Double Duty!

While I was sitting at my desk after school looking through my students’ duotangs I came across this one: IMG_20141118_141032 (1024x768)


It put a smile to my face and confirmed to me, even after feeling exhausted and constantly wondering how I can improve my lessons to engage the students, that my students ARE engaged.  It is a very fulfilling feeling for a teacher, especially after those days where one feels could have gone a lot more smoothly!

I job share teaching in both a Kindergarten classroom, and a Grade 5 classroom this year.  I am responsible for teaching the science in both and it is very interesting for me to see the differences between the two age groups.

In Kindergarten we have been exploring materials – what they are made up of, and the different attributes they possess.  Children learn best in science by DOING.  When I started to fill various containers with water for a kindergarten science experiment my EA looked a bit worried. “Things are going to get messy”, he smiled and said.  Yes, yes they are! 🙂

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After discussing at the carpet why some things float and others don’t (weight & shape) each group received various items to test whether they could float.  They took turns experimenting with each object (and getting a little wet in the process) and then circled their responses on a sheet I created.

The following week we focused on texture of various materials.  The kindergarteners had an opportunity to move around finding different items in the room that felt smooth and rough.  Back at their table groups, they received various samples of materials and began to sort them.  It was interesting, because for the sample of carpet some students compared the two sides where the underside was actually much rougher than the soft side!  Good observation Ks! 🙂

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For the Grade 5 group,  we have been working on Forces & Simple Machines.  In the experiment pictured below the students got into groups and were testing what affected the movement of an object (slope, weight, friction).  Thankfully no soup cans exploded, but some sure went rolling far!!  It was interesting listening to them explain to me what was happening as I circulated the room, and to read their written responses afterwards.

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I feel very fortunate to be able to see the learning happening in two completely different age groups each week.  I am kept very busy, that’s for sure, but the reward of coming across the doodle in front of a student’s duotang (see above) makes it all worth it! 🙂



Making Learning Visible

As a teacher who is also a mother of two children in elementary school, I believe strongly in communicating regularly with parents on what is going on in the classroom.

For years I have used the planner (or agenda) as a means of writing personal notes or communicating important upcoming projects or events.  I also look forward to parent-teacher conferences and student-led conferences where the parents are able to see what the students have been working on and ask specific questions about their child’s progress, strengths & struggles.

But what if a parent cannot make it to a conference or has shift work where the planner doesn’t always get read?

As a working parent what I appreciate is the use of technology as a means to keep connected with what my children are working on in the classroom, and to communicate directly with their teachers.  I would LOVE to touch base with my children’s teachers in person regularly, but that just isn’t realistic as a working parent.

Class web sites have become another way for parents to be connected with their child’s learning in the class.  I have used class web sites myself as a teacher, as well as blogging.  I have recently been introduced to another means of making learning visible to parents and that is with Fresh Grade.

The Surrey School District (#36) continues to impress me with how supportive it is regarding taking risks with new technologies in the classroom and innovative ways of teaching.  Fresh Grade is a fantastic tool to keep learning visible for parents – each student has a personalized portfolio created, which parents can access with a code provided.  I am very new to Fresh Grade, so there is still a lot for me to learn about it.

It is so important to me for parents to be fully engaged in their children’s learning, and to feel a part of the process.  I am excited to start using Fresh Grade with my group! 🙂

Replicating bile…

Body Systems was our focus for the second term in grade 5.  Each 1-3 weeks we focused on a specific system.  This week it was the digestive system!  After going over some notes on the digestive system and and having some giggling and “yucks” about the whole process, we put on our imaginary lab coats and got down to work as scientists.

Our focus in this experiment is to analyse what happens to fats in the small intestine.  After handing out all required supplies, the students’ first step was to place 5 drops of olive oil into each test tube with a dropper (the oil is the fat).  Then, they added water to each test tube so that each was half full.  The students began to notice what happened to the olive oil in each test tube right away.

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Next, they used a clean dropped and added 5 drops of lemon juice to the first test tube, and with another dropper add 5 drops of  liquid detergent (I used blue – easier to see) to the second test tube.  They didn’t add anything to the third test tube (left it with only oil & water).

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Now the interesting part!  The students were to seal the top of the test tubes with the palm of their hands and vigorously shake for about a minute.  The variety of shaking was academy award-winning!  Some students even started to sing!  Definitely a creative class! 😉

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They returned the tubes to their holders, washed their hands and then waited.  After 5 minutes the students compared the contents in each of the tubes and recorded their results. We came together in the end and had a discussion about what we discovered.

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Does olive oil mixed with water?  How do you know?

Does olive oil mix with water if lemon juice is added?  How do you know?

Does olive oil mix with water if liquid detergent is added?  How do you know?

Which substance, lemon juice or liquid detergent, seems to act like bile and split fat into small blobs?

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Clean-up was quick and effortless with everyone pitching in and I enjoyed reading over all their discoveries after our class discussion.  A fun experiment to do with a group – kids LOVE experiments at any grade level!

The school I am at has test tubes, but no test tube holders.   I searched around various stores for holders and had a hard time locating any, so I called upon my gracious friends to save any egg cartons they add over the weekend.  I flipped them upside down and made inexpensive test tube holders out of them!  Just an idea… 🙂


The weekend before I was to teach my Tuesday science class I did a little shopping.  Now if anyone knows me, I am not a big clothes shopper (yes, I do not fit the “girl” shopping stereotype very well!).  The items on my shopping list read as follows: 40 small crickets, 4 small pet carrying cases, cotton balls, and various scents/extracts.  We have a Leapord Gecko at home as a pet, so my own children were not as surprised to see Mommy bring home a bunch of crickets.  My students, however, had a different reaction!


While my student were outside for recess I brought in the cases of crickets from the trunk of my car and was set up by the time the bell rang.  First reaction as the students entered back into the room:  “Are those crickets Mrs. Uppal?!  Ewwwwww…crickets!!!”  It is funny how students can be horrified/unsure/smiling/excited all at the same time!

A large component of our Habitats & Communities unit has to do with experimentation, which is the main focus on the grade 5 reports this first term in my class.  The students were put into equal groups and first had a chance to watch their crickets (it is cute how naturally the students start trying to name some of them).

The question we were to answer was how crickets’ behaviour is affected by different odors.  First, we went over what an experiment looks like (question, hypothesis, data collection/method, conclusion), and then got down to work!


The first cotton ball was our control, which had no scent.  The students watched for 4 minutes & recorded what they observed.  They then took the cotton ball out, gave the crickets a 2 minute break with nothing in the case before adding the first/next scent.


We alternated scented balls in the case (4 min each) with a break in between (2 min).  You can use a variety of different scents, but the ones I chose to use were vanilla extract, peppermint extract, and lemon extract.  I wanted to have natural scents instead of chemically produced odors (such as a pine spray, for example).


We had a wonderful class discussion afterwards and we discussed our question & conclusion.  Many of the students wanted to take a cricket home afterwards, but I thought it may not be such a welcomed surprise at home, so I opted to bring them home for Charlie (our gecko) for dinner for that week instead. 😉

Learning Through Investigation

What can I say?  Students love to learn about science!  There are many different approaches educators take with regards to teaching the subject – with our class every lesson always involves kinesthetic learning with lots of differentiated instruction.  This term our theme is Habitat and Survival with a lot of focus on investigating and experimentation.

We began our exploration of the topic with a class discussion around habitat and what different living things need to survive.  In groups the students created webs.  Once the webs were complete I posted them up around the room.  The students came up with so many different ideas that I didn’t even think of!  The students were then given the opportunity to do a gallery walk to see the wonderful ideas their classmates came up with.  Each student was provided with sticky notes, which they wrote down one compliment about each web after they read them.  We discussed what informative compliments are.  For example, instead of writing “I like your web” or “it is nice”, write WHAT specifically you found interesting about the web.

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In the next segment I had the student rotate through science centres.  I love incorporating centres into a variety of subjects because it’s good way to meet the various learning needs of the students.  The students are engaged when there is variety and you key into their interests. 🙂

For one of the centres the students used Educreations (free App for iPad) to create a habitat through drawing and/or text.  The students experimented with the different features of the App and enjoyed using the microphone option to also explain what they drew & wrote.



The students researched habitats further using the World Wide Web.  They worked individually and together to find answers posed regarding different habitats.  One thing I learned for myself for this centre is to have the site bookmarked PRIOR to the students beginning this centre!  The first group typed in the long address, and after a few attempts were able to start.  It was all ready to go with the other rotations, thanks to the first group!


The other centres included learning about our new class pet, a Beta Fish (which they had an opportunity to name later).  They observed what is required for his habitat and how it may be different in the wild.  They also enjoyed the survival section which included experimenting with a mirror and noting what the Beta’s reaction was!



I like to have the students moving around whenever I can, so one of the centres involved creating a skit demonstrating the positive and negative results of making specific changes to a habitat.  All the students had an opportunity to present their skits to the rest of the groups in the end.


For assessment, I looked at the KWL charts and Exit Slips the students completed at the end of our webbing section, and for the centres it was mainly observation by me, reading over their centres booklets, and individual/group assessments provided by the students.

It was cool hearing the students talking to each other about the different centres and sharing what they learned during other times of the day.  As an educator it feels good knowing when your students have been fully engaged, and actually learned a little something as well! 😉

International Dot Day!

International Dot Day is officially Sunday, September 15 this year, but all week various teachers all over the country…no, all over the WORLD were doing various activities with their classes this past week.  Our Kindergarten/ Grade 1 class was no exception!  At the beginning of the week I read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds to our class.  It was special for me because being a K/1 class, none of the students yet had the pleasure of experiencing this wonderful book in a school setting.  It was magic.


There were a lot of questions that were generated by the students during the story, as well as afterwards.  Many of the students loved sharing the different places they have seen dots, how we can make dots interesting, the different kinds of dots there are and how they can be created, and, most importantly, how every dot is special.

Afterwards, the kids were excited to get to work creating their own dot.  Some students started drawing their dots right away using various colours, various designs, or quickly choosing their favourite colours.  Some other students took their time  thinking about how they wanted to create their special dots.  The process was amazing to see – just like the dots they were creating, each of their approaches were very unique as well.



We had a Gallery Walk in the classroom once all the dots were completed and positive comments were made about each and every dot.  🙂  This was a special day for me as an educator not only because it was the first Dot Day I participated in, but because it was also the first full day I had with our class.  Happy International Dot Day everyone!




Aboriginal Week

It is Aboriginal Week at Bear Creek Elementary this week.  There are a variety of guest speakers, storytellers, activities such as learning Slahal (traditional guessing game), making bannock, and other educational experiences focused on aboriginal culture planned throughout the week.

Bear Creek Elementary is situated on Katzie Territory and we are very fortunate to have  support for our school with regards to resources focusing on aboriginal culture, as well as staff who are experienced themselves, either personally or professionally, with aboriginal culture.    Two such staff members are Joanne Fischer and Len Pierre, who are full of knowledge and put together an amazing week of discovery for us all.

On Monday after the students had a chance to socialize, enjoy their centre time, and sharing we distributed their spelling lists.  The students are on an individualized spelling program, and have words that are applicable to their own individual learning needs. This week I also thought it was important to incorporate a variety of words that will become meaningful for them throughout this week – aboriginal terms.

After recess we viewed two amazing carvings completed by Clarence Mills as Len explained the process and the meaning behind them.


Then, our class was fortunate to experience drumming & singing by the talented Mavis & Donovan, both also from Katzie Territory.


Our class has more exciting experiences waiting for them to discover the rest of the week: Jingle Dress Dance by Victoria Vaillancourt, Storytelling by Robbie Bandura, and to view a variety of aboriginal displays.  Elders will be visiting Bear Creek Elementary as well wearing their traditional regalia to share about their community and background.  The week will end with a closing assembly and Hoop Dance Presentation.

This is a fabulous opportunity for students and staff to experience different aspects of a culture many of our students are already a part of.  I also feel that it is important to incorporate the many amazing aspects of aboriginal culture into our lessons and classrooms daily.  For my lessons there are a lot of tactile/hands-on activities, and regular opportunities to share thoughts and learning orally.

Happy National Aboriginal Day (Canada) on Friday, June 21.  Let’s keep the awareness going.

Home Again!

Although I have been in & out of the classroom over the past seven weeks, I have not taught a full lesson in at least three.  My partner and I had a student teacher with us and she has done a terrific job within the past seven weeks.  It has been an interesting process for me to watch how she has grown from the beginning of her practicum to the end.

This is the last week of her practicum and the first week I was teaching my beloved science again to our wonderful group of learners.  Boy did it feel good!  Not only do I love teaching the subject, I missed having that direct interaction with our group after all this time!

We did an experiment with “Feely Balloons” where the students were divided up into groups and were provided with 5 balloons with mystery substances inside.  They had to develop strategies by using 4 out of 5 of their senses (not taste!) to determine what was in the balloons.  It was amazing watching them as they went through the process and all the insights they shared with me and each other.  They also recorded their observations on a chart.20130604_105839 (480x640)

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Next, they were then given the actual substances in clear jars and matched up the jar with the balloon.20130604_112626 (480x640)


Finally, it was the big reveal!  I cut open each of the balloons in front of the class with the students cheering when the contents were revealed.  Quite the excitement about rice in a balloon! But, I realized I felt a lot like my wonderful students. After my first science lesson with them after seven weeks,  it felt so good to be home. 🙂