Here are some highlights from the end of 2013 in my Grade 3 class (teachers, feel free to borrow for your own use next year):
Writing: As we continued to work on writing a well-developed paragraph, the kids were invited to choose a type of travel and write about why it's the best. Topics ranged from horseback to limousine to ATV, with tons of great examples. These guys are fantastic at staying on topic and many are able to give detailed arguments (including a great use of humour). Every year I find conventions (especially spelling) are the biggest challenge, but since we're lucky enough to have a class set of laptops (i.e. Spellcheck), work is much improved.
Social Studies: In November and December the kids explored Early Settlements in Upper Canada.
One website that's fantastic - interactive and related to the Ontario Curriculum - is Pioneer Life In Upper Canada. The first couple of years I used this site, I incorporated the worksheets, but I find that the kids actually retain more when we just sit at the carpet and follow along with the site on the Smartboard.
As a read-aloud to correspond with this unit, I read the kids Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan - a quick read, and it's always a bonus when there's a movie to go with it!
The kids' final assignment for this unit was a poster comparing Early Settlers times to Modern Times under four categories of their choosing (clothing, homes, schools, food, etc.). This is always a very popular assignment, and I'm able to use it for Social Studies, Writing and Learning Skills marks.
Here's are a couple of samples:
Remembrance Day: Each year our school holds an assembly to commemorate this day, and this time around our primary division (under the guidance of our musically talented Special Education Resource Teacher) performed a beautiful song called "I Dream of The Day" (the link takes you to lyrics and music). I played the song over and over for the kids while they were eating or working on art, and by the time we started rehearsals they had it memorized.
Walk Through Bethlehem: Since we're talking about performances, this year we strayed from the traditional concert format, and instead turned our school into Bethlehem. Older students were Roman Guards who led groups of parents and visitors through the school, making stops in classrooms along the way to their final stop at the Nativity. In our Grade 3 room, they got to take a peek at the shepherds hanging out in their field, who were then greeted by the angel announcing Christ's birth. Moved by the Spirit, they burst into song - "Let's Go, Let's Go - The Shepherds' Song". No offense to the enthusiastic gentleman performing here on Youtube, but it looked MUCH cuter performed by 20 eight year olds in shepherd costumes:
Writing: We did two pieces of Christmas writing - another paragraph, this time about a Christmas tradition (how heartwarming to read these and learn about all of the special traditions that take place in my students' homes) and a piece of fiction with a Christmas theme. A consultant from the School Board once visited my class and taught me (and the students) a great graphic organizer type of trick for retelling (or, as I have adapted it, planning) fiction.
Beginning: Triangle - representing characters, setting, problem
Middle: Square - representing approximately four events in the middle of the story
End - circle - representing the need to wrap it up and solve problem from the beginning
It certainly helps to have this organizer in mind at EQAO (provincial standardized testing) time, when the students are always asked to write a piece of fiction.
Read-Aloud: The Family Under The Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. This is a sweet story about a "hobo" in Paris who, against his better judgment, becomes entangled with a family of homeless children. I had to do a little on-the-spot tweaking of some of the scenes regarding Father Christmas, because...well, just because.
Art: As you may remember, we had a fantastic Christmas craft morning, with fake fireplace burning on the Smartboard and carols playing through the surround-sound system (don't you love technology in the classroom!)
I also used another as-seen-on-Pinterest idea, where the kids made Christmas carolers something like this (link to the original Pinterest pin is below the picture):
Although really, they turned out nothing like this. But as I told the kids, when most of the students have not completed the assignment properly, that means the teacher must not have explained it well enough. Live and learn!
Miscellaneous: The kids drew names for "Secret Santa" in the month of December, and some really got into it. On the last day of school, they brought a wrapped gift of $5 value for their chosen classmate, and we had a fun time unwrapping and guessing just who each student's Secret Santa was. I've done this (or something similar) six times, and never has a student been forgotten.
The last thing I do before sending the kids home for the holidays is gather at the carpet to read the birth stories from the Gospels, and then a couple of my favourite Christmas picture books, including this one, which I received from a student a couple of years ago (great teacher gift for next year, btw...you've started your shopping, right?):
Well, that's it for 2013! Looking forward to so much more in 2014!