Monday, November 18, 2013

Writing Genres - and IB concept keys

Hello friends,

As the end of Year 6 approaches for my students (and with it the end of their PYP), we reflected on the many genre of writing they they have read / written over these years. After they brainstormed all these, I asked each group to select a genre that they felt they knew the most about.

For this lesson I used the following resource (which our school supplied us with) but I traced back to this website where you too can download a set.

I laminated them in full size and half size for displays and group-work, as well as quarter size and grouped on a ring for individual use.

The students 'blind-drew' a concept key for their group. Using the concept that they had drawn, they discussed their genre of writing. First they came up with questions and discussed/solved these as a group
e.g. of questions for Narrative genre with the Connected key:

How are narratives connected to other writing genre (compare and contrast)?
What connections can I make between narratives I read and narratives I write?
How are the different parts of a narrative connected to each other?
How can you connect the orientation to the conclusion?
....and so on....

We had great fun sharing our ideas back to the class and it gave me great insight into the students' thinking / knowledge around writing genre / conceptual understanding.

We followed this up by allowing students freedom of choice for their final writing assessment piece, helping them to play to their writing strengths. Students could choose between Persuasive, Narrative, Explanation and Recount (personal) as these have scope to show a development of ideas. I really enjoyed marking the variety of writing that we got out of this model. One student wrote a particularly engaging piece about our calendar art lesson from the point of view of her art pencil.

Thank you for visiting,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Maths - Wondering and Noticing

Hello friends,

Annie Fetter at NCTM Ignite

For all you fellow maths teachers, here is a  little video full of great ideas. Well worth a watch. These concepts are  transdisciplinary so apply to all areas of engaging learners. Take a look.
Have a great weekend :)

Thank you for visiting,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Poetry - Reflection Poetry

A great idea for the end of the year.

Hello friends,
It is Term Four down here in New Zealand and we are all winding up the year with final assessments due soon, Term 4 reports to write and wrapping up our year in general. Two years ago I came across a poem in this School Journal (what a shame they are no longer to be published).
 This great reflection poem by Maria McMillan, jumped out straight away as a creative way to sum up our year.

And here is a close up of the words:
Aren't they great - you can just picture the learning events unfolding through the words. I decided that I would use it as a model text for my Year 4's and reflect on the year that was. Everyone published their poem digitally as I was teaching a 1:2 digital class at the time. Once we finished, I printed a copy of each poem for the kiddies to take home in their portfolios, and a copy for the wall too. This way, when my new class arrived at the start of the new year (last year), they had these awesome poems from the previous class to read and think about what lay ahead for them.

Here are a few samples from my kiddies (Dec 2011).

These kiddies were all 9  at the time.

I didn't teach this poem again last year because I was changing levels and moving up to Y6 and my new Y6's wouldn't want to know what my Y4's learned about last year. But now that I am about to complete this year, I will do them again with my 10/11 year olds. Simply dying to see what they produce and promise to post samples for you.

If you would like to have a go at writing these great poems with your students, I have written a lesson for it which includes instructions, graphic organisers and teacher models. Student handouts are in both UK/US spelling, where needed. Please visit TPT, TNB and HML(NZ) for the lesson PDF - links below.

Thank you for visiting,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Poetry - Colour Poems

Hello friends,

This next poetry unit on Colour Poetry compliments the art unit I wrote called 'Let's learn about colour'. 

This is part of a tri-series on the elements of art which also includes 'Lets learn about line' and 'Let's learn about texture'.

Colour Poetry is a fun way to explore metaphors and abstract thinking. By comparing colour to objects, actions and ideas, children extend their thinking to encompass poetic concepts.

This unit supports quality writing with graphic organisers in both US and UK spelling, that makes it easy to create quality imagery.

Each student will create a unique poem because they relate these images to their personal lives and experiences. For this reason, it can also work well when combined with portraiture art, like

'This is me' and 'Looking in the mirror'
 Writing frameworks are provided and teacher models with a poem exemplar are all there to guide you through.

 You can grab your very own copy of Colours Poetry over at
and in New Zealand

Thank you for visiting,

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Poetry - This Is Me poems

Hello Friends,

My second poetry unit, This Is Me, works really well hand-in-hand with either of the following 2 art lessons.
First, the half portraits inspired by Kathy Barbro of Art Projects for Kids Here are some of the portraits drawn by my kiddies at the start of this year.
I just love how these turned out !
The second one is the art unit This Is Me inspired by the art of Eden Gosier. I have linked my previous 2 posts in here for you to view :)

I use this unit early in the year as we all get to know each other. Its a great way to become familiar with our differences and to see how unique we all are. Also, to identify the things that we have in common.

This Is Me poems provides an extensive framework that students fill in easily, as its all about themselves. By extending their ideas and exploring synonyms, they edit and improve the images through a 1-3-6 conferencing model. Finally, they select and reject lines to form and publish their unique poems. I have used this model for several years now and always with great success, which is why I wanted to share this idea. Hope you enjoy using it too :)

This 33 page unit can be projected up and shared with your students as you work through the steps to write great and personal poetry. A teacher model poem is included, one I wrote as a model about my daughter a few years ago, when I first taught this to my class. You can download your copy at TPT, or TNB (internationally) or HML in New Zealand.
Project the steps up on a data projector for your students to follow easily and write your own poem, alongside them, to model the process. This 28 page unit is available from - See more at:
Project the steps up on a data projector for your students to follow easily and write your own poem, alongside them, to model the process. This 28 page unit is available from TPT and TNB (internationally) and HML in New Zealand. - See more at:

Thank you for visiting,

Poetry - Emotion Poems

Hello friends,

Poetry is one of my favourite writing genres to teach. But how to get kiddies to write good poetry? And something new and different from the same old, same old.
My secret is this.
When you find a poem you like, analyse it. What has the author done? There is always a pattern that is identifiable.
Over the years I have had great success by using this method and I am always impressed by the strength and variety that my students deliver.

Poetry is a great way to start the year because it really looks closely at language choices. Also its a  fun way to close out the year as well.

I have started compiling my poetry strategies into units that make it easy-peasy.

Emotion Poems is my first unit.  This is one type of poetry I have used when discussing feelings and emotions with my students. Its a great way to help children understand that its OK to talk about our feelings, to own them and to understand them, because you broach the topic through writing. To understand that we all have feelings and we may not feel the same about things or experiences, is helpful.

Emotion poems identify an emotion with a colour and then analyse it through the senses, using similes. All steps are clearly laid out and student graphic organisers have been created to make it easier for younger students. Of course UK and US spelling has been accommodated where needed on these. Project the steps up on a data projector for your students to follow easily and write your own poem, alongside them, to model the process. This 28 page unit is available from TPT and TNB (internationally) and HML in New Zealand.

Thank you for visiting,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Art - This Is Me Art Unit

Hello friends,
I hope you have enjoyed following our Calendar Art unit, which I called 'This Is Me,' as it developed over last term.

I have now compiled all the photographs and instructions into my latest, comprehensive, step-by-step teacher resource. It includes a teacher model, student steps and links to the artist model - Eden Gosier, whose work I based it on.

I have sent all our orders off to the calendar company and look forward to seeing the final products.

You can buy your copy of the art unit at any of my stores as listed below :)

Thank you for visiting,

Friday, September 20, 2013

Art - Calendar Art Update #6

Hi everyone,

I haven't forgotten about the calendar art but it has been a very interesting week in my little corner of the world. Apart from a very busy time preparing my kiddies for their IB Learning Exhibition, I have had a mammoth task of catching up on mountains of writing conferences after being away ill last week. A lot of it is done late into the night with the use of student Google Drive accounts. While technology might make tasks easier and clearer, and open the walls of the classroom, it can also make for more of it and longer hours, late into the night for both students and teachers.

We spent a little bit of our time on our calendars, just to have a change from editing, conferencing and publishing, so here are a couple of progress photos for you to enjoy :)

 I love how each kiddie's personality is coming through :)

Thank you for visiting,

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Out of this world Art

School Art Shows
Recently I had the pleasure of being invited back to my previous school to view their biannual student art exhibit.

One class display stood out particularly as it was work from a Y4 class of 8-9 year old. I can't post any images out of respect for that teacher but suffice to say - it stopped people in their tracks. A2 sized spray painted galaxies.

However  I have found the motivation on Youtube and linked them in here for you. Simply too good not to share. I wish my year group were looking at the solar system so that I could try this. However that unit belongs to the year group below me so will see if they're brave enough to attempt it.
Otherwise it will be definitely on the agenda next year :) Enjoy the videos

Wow - right!?

Thank you for visiting,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Art - School Calendar Time #5

Digital fun with photos

Oh dear the dreaded flu bug has struck and the doctor has booked me off til next week. I am itching to get back to our awesome artwork but that will simply have to wait now until Monday.

In the meantime I wanted to share a digital option for playing around with photo images. This was something we did for calendar art, 2 years ago. Here is a sample:

 The kiddies (Y4) went out and about the school and took photos of each other during one of our photography units (see links below). They were require to meet certain criteria and this resulted in great variety and creativity. The students uploaded their favourite image to a site called PICNIC which  no longer exists, for modification, finally saving to their desktop. They then overlaid this modified photo on a scan of tessellating patterns that they had created in Maths.

But luckily there are many other free sites for photo editing and this year I had a play with beFunky to achieve the washed-out look for the portraits. Click the image for the link.

Here are my samples with 3 different options.
Charcoal option

Cartoonizer option

Sketcher option

As you can see, they all remove the detail and you can control the extent of that too. For kiddies who find it difficult to ignore the detail and only select the main elements from their photo, this option may help them even more that the photocopier option.
The new image can be saved to your desktop for printing.

In the meantime I have continued with the patterns on my teacher model. Here is a peek:

Links to the Digital Photography Teaching Unit referred to in this post are below.
Internationally available at:
and in New Zealand:

Have a great week everybody :)

Thank you for visiting,